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By Jackie Monies - Eufaula, Oklahoma - USA
 

Puddleduck Racers, World Championships 2009, Allatoona, Georgia
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“How high is the water, Mama? Six foot high and rising but we can make it to the road in a homemade boat, cause that’s the only thing we got left that’ll float. It’s already over all the wheat and oats, six feet high and rising.” With apologies to Johnny Cash.

Neither rain, mud, rising water or a five hundred year flood could stop Puddle Duck Racers holding their World Championships. Lake Allatoona, Georgia was thirteen feet above flood stage, the Corps of Engineers campground was under water, the lake access was closed. The PDR racers came anyway, having faith that the water would recede and the race would go on.

Lake Allatoona

“What do Ducks care about the wind or the rain or the weather? We be having a race and everyone be there!” exhorted co-chairman, Bill Giles of Memphis, TN. And the Ducks responded. Thirteen intrepid Duckers loaded their small craft on to pickups, Harbor Freight trailers, SUV’s and tops of cars. Racers from eleven states and one foreign country made it to Georgia with their homemade boats, sailing into Puddle Duck history as the largest gathering of PDR racers ever assembled.

Michele Monies Khoury cooked for all the racers

Shawn Payment of Charleston, SC, in YOWZA! Hull #301, an elegant and speedy red and white OZ racer set further PDR history, becoming the first true OZ racer to win the United States championship. Competing in three rounds of traditional racing courses, Shawn paced the field in YOWZA! living up to both it’s name and the red and white racing stripes she sported. Shawn joined Rick Landreville, Hull #311, who set PDR history this year as the first OZ racer to win the Canadian title, also in a red and white hull.

Shawn Payment with trophy

An international crowd assembled to watch the Ducks race, campers from around the United States and foreign visitors alike marveling at the variety of PDRs represented by the racers. Children, dogs, family and amazed onlookers cheered the winners to shore.

For the Ducks this race is the highpoint of the year. Racers travel thousands of miles to compete as John Wright of Bastrop, TX said, “For fun, friends, fame and to transport Michael Storer to Allatoona.” This year’s races were truly significant historically, for they combined both Michael Storer creator of the OZ PDR racer, and David (Shorty) Routh’s attendance at the Worlds. Michael (Mik) Storer watched as one of his designs, the OZ built by Shawn Payment, won Worlds, while three others completed the races. This was the first time “true” OZ’s that were built to Mik’s plans had competed and four in competition was an epic event.

John Wright of Bastrop, TX said, “For fun, friends, fame and to transport Michael Storer to Allatoona

Michael Storer had been brought to the US for “Mik Storer’s Shoestring Tour of America” by funding provided by Duckworks magazine and the numerous contributions from the builders of his boats, as well as the Puddle Duck Racers organization. In donations that ranged from a few dollars up, the money accumulated and Mik came to America to meet his builders and fans. The Worlds in Allatoona was for the Ducks the highpoint of a cross country odyssey that has led Mik through America via plane, train, mini-van, trucks and kayaks. It was worth every penny collected as Mik has more than repaid and pre-paid his fare, with advice, design and friendship offered.

Michael Storer had been brought to the US for “Mik Storer’s Shoestring Tour of America”

Mik also sailed and competed in the World’s races in a borrowed boat, Hull #23, “Headless Duck.” Mik tied for third place with Kenny Giles, sailing hull # 213 “Uke n Sail”. Both are traditional PDR racers. “Headless Duck” was built by Michael Allison in Livermore California (SF East Bay), CA and given to Paul Helbert in Virginia. Paul through contacts in the canoeing fraternity of his son, Eli Hulbert (the Canoe Guru) arranged to have her ferried in shuttles from California to North Carolina. There he picked her up and brought her to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley where Paul re-rigged her as a balanced lug and cut a new high aspect 75 square foot sail to fit her twelve foot mast. He did some repainting, took off some unnecessary hardware and made a few minor repairs. According to Paul, the hull is a bit on the heavy side but rigid. She has a kick-up rudder and a leeboard.

Paul and Eli Hulbert

What can be said about David (Shorty) Routh, a generously large man whose love for a small boat began six years ago with a $50 boat race? Creator of the first Puddle Duck Racer, Shorty has seen his idea for the four by eight foot craft explode in six years to over three hundred and fifty built and a membership group of 1500 potential Duckers. There are now PDRS throughout America, Canada, in Europe, in South America, in Australia. A worldwide phenomenon grew from a small rectangular scow based on the Bolger Brick. Shorty not only came to cheer on the Ducks, he raced as well, finishing a respectable 5th in a borrowed boat, Hull #2 “Ugly Duckling” belonging to Bill Giles, Memphis, TN . She was built by Ken Abrahams of Lake Charles, LA.. Shorty flew in from Phoenix, AZ bringing his own sail rig that he once used to compete against “Ugly Duckling”. She is now the most venerable, oldest and most traveled PDR in the fleet.

Shorty Routh, creator of the Puddle Duck Racer

Second place winner Marc Blazer of Myrtle Beach, SC sailed Hull #173 “The Bloody Splinter” a pirate hull built for his nephew’s fifth birthday party. Proving that sailing ability and seamanship overcomes obstacles such as hull weight, Marc finished a close second to Shawn’s first place win in the much lighter OZ racer. Marc’s hull was built heavily, planned for transport of small children and as a fun to sail boat. He went on that afternoon to appropriately sail in the Pirate Poker Run flying a skull and crossbones and pirate sails, while sporting a tri-cornered captain’s hat and cutlass.

Second place winner Marc Blazer

“The Bloody Splinter” was built for cruising, not for racing. Marc built her for his five year old nephew who said he wanted a pirate ship for his birthday. “He meant a small toy but all I heard was ‘boat’. We had a blast sailing her in my parent’s backyard pond. She is a standard PD with 18 inch sides. Her paint is varnish over plywood that looks like an old planked ship. She also carries two rubber band powered 4 inch cannons to protect herself against other pirates. She has fore and aft flotation built in and a starboard leeboard designed to kick up when I hit something. The rudder will also kick up if hit. She carries a 69 square foot lanteen sail.”

Marc’s father, who taught him to sail, visited and watched as his son competed and won with the Bloody Splinter. Marc’s years of sailing stood him in good stead as he out-sailed and out- maneuvered PDRs built for speed and racing, as well as experimental light PDRs built specifically for the Worlds competition. Marc said after the race, “During the first race while “attempting” to round the first mark, I knew I had cut it too close and was going to drift into it. I saved my dignity and did the act that only a Ducker can do with grace. I slapped the hell out of the buoy and said, “This one is for Andrew!” You should have heard the laughter throughout the fleet.” Andrew Linn, last year’s PDR World Champion, of Salem, OR invented the slapping the buoy game at the TX 200 while sailing his PDR racer, Salem Electron.

“The Bloody Splinter”

Marc added, “It was truly an honor to sail, paddle, pirate and even cheat with the best sailing group I have ever been affiliated with. Thanks to you all for the fun!”

YOWZA! built and sailed to victory by Shawn Payment was a new OZ built this year but not specifically for Worlds. YOWZA! is a phonetically written sounding of the Chinese characters for the word “Duck.” Shawn used the Storer balanced lug sail rig and built her exactly to plans, using Storer foils for dagger board and rudder. “I diddled with my own PDR design in 2005 to increase sail, improve foils and ensure easy self-rescue. Then Storer came along and did the same thing, only better. Figured why waste additional brain power when Mik had already done all the heavy lifting. Aside from cheap ply, the boat was all OZ, much to Mik’s credit. The last real racing I did was thirty plus years ago, but I suppose it sticks with you. Mik and the South Winds Sailing Club folks gave some good pre-race tips and they served me well.”

YOWZA!

Shawn added about his winning boat, “Obviously I was pleased as punch with “YOWZA!!”s performance and couldn’t be prouder to carry the title of “PDR World Champion” for the coming year. As Gavin Atkin might say, I was a bit gob smacked by the result since I had come to Allatoona with fairly low expectations. Unlike Shorty, Mik and other PDR veterans I had only a few hours of experience in sailing in a PDR. Add to that the fact that pretty much everything from my hull, rig and sail was relatively untried and unproven. All I can say is that Flaca Vero must have been my co-pilot.”

Flaca Vero is the patron saint of Puddle Duck Racers, an angel in a royal blue and gold robe who brings inspiration and answers to those in need. Based on a real life angel, an airline stewardess who carried Tite-Bond glue to a PDR builder in El Tigre, Argentina, her lovely face and angel wings graced the 2009 Puddle Duck Trophy selected by Shawn as his first place award. A condition of entering the Worlds PDR Championship, the trophies like the boats are homemade. This year’s first place trophy was created by Marc Blazer, a trophy about which Shorty Routh said “Now that’s a trophy worth racing for!”

Marc Blazer’s trophy featuring Flaca Vero flying high above a blue white-capped sea

Shawn’s winning first place trophy featured Flaca Vero flying high above a blue white-capped sea, holding Hull #3 Bucket Ears, Shorty Routh’s first PDR racer in her hands. She was supported by columns formed from “The Bloody Splinter”, Marc’s boat , and a traditional PDR and an OZ racer flanking. This was a trophy coveted by all who sailed that day.

Experimental PDR shapes were present in two boats built and designed by John Wright of Bastrop, TX and Dave Gray of Polysail, Port St. Lucie, FL. John Wright’s boat, the PD-Lite, Hull #42 was built on a bet with Dave Gray, to build a completed, ready-to-sail boat including all rigging and equipment without crew that weighed in at under 70 pounds. This was John’s original design, a light weight PDR with 12 inch sides, lee board, a steering oar in place of a rudder and a sail in the shape of a polytarp ellipse with a fiberglass rod perimeter. According to John, “A sail plan never before seen in the world.”

John Wright’s original design

The Z-PDR, Hull #351 was built by Dave Gray to be sailed by his son, Ryan Gray in Worlds as part of this same bet. Z-PDR was built for racing and features a one piece removable Styrofoam insert that is used for both flotation and deck support. The 12 inch high decks are slightly arched for structural strength and appearance. The hull is white with an elongated Z in electric blue on each side. Varnished mahogany lauan decks and a mahogany rudder accent the hull. The Z boat features a one-piece rudder case and tiller, both attractive and functional along with a selection of leeboards, masts and sails. For lighter air she flies a l00 square foot high-aspect balanced lug or an 85 square foot leg o‘ mutton. For stronger winds she flies either a 58 square foot battened sailboard type sail with both a sprit boom down low and a short sprit up high or she can fly a more traditional 65 square foot leg o‘ mutton. A sectioned 7 pound aluminum/bamboo mast allows for an extension from l5 to l8 foot 5 inches. Ryan sailed her to a fourth place finish.

Dave Gray with Kenny Giles (orange shirt) looking on

Paul Helbert of Tenth Legion, VA came to his first sailboat race bringing his Storer OZ racer, Kwik Kwak, Hull #283. “Kwik Kwak“ was going to be a quick throw together build, to be followed by a more carefully built later edition. According to Paul, “Somewhere along the way that plan got thrown overboard and it took almost a year with a good deal of care to finish.” Kwik Kwak started out to be a Robsnot 18, which was then modified to a OZ Mk II after Paul received his plans from Duckworks. She is a white hull with a Paulownia dagger board, 90 square foot balanced lug polytarp sail and lauan ply construction except for her bottom which is 6 mm okume. Paul stated that five different glues were used in her construction and everything possible was homemade. Paul added, “The hull, the cleats and pad eyes, the sails I made. Only the lines, blocks and rudder fittings were bought ready made. Learning and do-it-yourself has been a lifelong obsession. If you make it yourself, then you can repair it or unmake it yourself. All skills are good.”

Paul Helbert’s PDR “Kwik Kwak”

Veteran PDR builder and sailor Tim Cleary of Greenville, SC sailed the Mary E., Hull #59. A traditional white and yellow PDR, she features a Widmier side air box design, an off-center dagger board and a unique sliding seat that can be repositioned to balance the boat for different needs, such as rowing. Her sail is a Bailey design and while Tim alleges to have only owned one PDR in his life, the Mary E. is the sixth version of his original hull #59. Tim co-chaired this year’s Worlds along with Bill Giles and Scott Widmier of Atlanta, GA. Tim holds the PDR rowing record, a skill he demonstrated ably during the Pirate Poker Run when there was no wind and he broke out the oars to move smartly along.

Michelle and Brandon Khoury with Tim Cleary

Another traditional PDR “Wild Duck” Hull #143 was brought by Dave Gray, Port St. Lucie, FL to the Worlds. Owner of Polysails, Dave’s boat featured a biplane rig of two matching 52 square foot leg o’ mutton sails for a total of l04 square feet. She also can fly a traditional rig. “ She holds the 2008 record for the most sail carried at 164 square feet on three masts. Wild Duck is white with Indianapolis Colts blue trim. One side features a roman numeral VII representing her place in the series of 4 by 8 foot scows that I have built for myself or family members. She has l5.5 inch freeboard and can carry any of four leeboards I have available. A sliding seat and its support structure can be removed for sailing or rowing.”

Dave Gray’s biplane rigged “Wild Duck”

Asked why he builds and sails PDRs, Dave replied, “I enjoy the design challenges as well as the opportunity to interact with a wide range of very interesting people. I determined early on that this was a boat and a class I would like to support, both personally and as a business.” Dave added he does not boat in other designs any longer. “PDRs can fulfill most of my racing, fishing and exploration urges. Besides, I like the group and think the boat has a great future precisely because it is so versatile. A builder can design a PDR to suit his or her own particular needs and dreams.”

4th place winner Ryan Gray, Dave Gray’s son

Dave won the afternoon’s fun race, a Pirate Poker Run that involved sailing to five checkpoint boats anchored in the lake that handed out playing cards, then capturing other boats pirate style and taking cards from the captured boat. Each boat trailed a plastic bottle on a line behind their boat. Those captured by a sailor grabbing their lines forfeited a card to the pirate. Mayhem and skullduggery ensued, but Dave won fairly with a hand of four queens.

Mayhem and skullduggery

An improvised sail race with two man teams was sponsored on Sunday by Dave and Polysail where more mayhem and skullduggery occurred. It was won by Shorty Routh teamed with Shawn Payment. Shorty managed to fall overboard just ahead of the finishing second place team, thereby preventing their landing. As many other similar events had taken place in this race, no protest was filed and the first place award went to a team that beached separately.

This PDR World Championship Races was according to all who participated a stellar event. Much credit is due to the organizers, Scott Widmier, Bill Giles and Tim Cleary, as well as the South Winds Sailing Club and the Sea Scouts. Andy Kohler, Commodore of the South Winds Sailing Club, and the other members not only organized and oversaw the racing, they also hosted an on-the-shore raft up featuring German food for Oktoberfest to honor the Puddleduck Racers and their families and guests.

Bill Giles

Vice-Commodore of SWSC, Scott Widmier co-chaired the PDR Worlds in Allatoona. Scott did not race, working instead on organization and co-ordination of the event. Co-chair Bill Giles, scheduled to race, had an accident immediately prior to the race, cutting two fingers of his hand severely while working on repairs to his PDR.

Scott Widmier, co-chair of the PDR Worlds

 

The SWSC sponsors a troop of Sea Scouts made up of an outstanding group of young male and female teen sailors from numerous Scout troops in the Atlanta area. The Scouts manned boats and supervised the traditional racing of the PDRs, as well as assisting with the Pirate Poker Run fun sail. Their adult leader, Gary Holcomb took over conducting the race clinic for the event and ran the Worlds race, with the help of the sea scouts from Ship 100. SWSC member Ruth Leber ferried onlookers onto the lake for videos and photos, as well as documenting the event with her own photography for the club. So impressed were the sailors from the SWSC with the Puddleducks and the fun they had that they plan to host another Duck event in late September, 2010 with five members committed to building their own PDRs to compete in.

Sea Scouts

Plans are for a Lake Allatoona Regional PDR Race, 2010, to be held at Lake Allatoona and sponsored by the South Winds Sailing Club, according to Scott Widmier, Commodore for 2010. What greater compliment to the power of a small rectangular craft? Having fun on the water in an inexpensive boat that anyone can build and sail!

Mike Monies and Tim Cleary consider the next race

Shawn, 2009 Champion Worlds Puddleduck Racer said it best, “I think I would be hard pressed to find a more agreeable bunch of souls anywhere on the planet. I suppose that this is what tiny boats do to people. If everybody just spent a little less time stressing about the “important” things in life and a little more time figuring out how to spend a day bobbing about on the water, perhaps the world would be a happier, more well adjusted place. It certainly couldn’t hurt!”

-Here are the final race results:

1st Place-Shawn Payment in hull #301 "Yowza" 2nd Place-Marc Blazer in hull #173 "Bloody Splinter" --- Tie for 3rd Place in alphabetical order: --- 3rd Place-Kenny Giles in hull #213 "Uke n Sail"
3rd Place-Michael Storer in hull #23 un-named
4th Place-Ryan Gray in hull #351 "Z-PDR"
5th Place-Shorty Routh in hull #2 "Ugly Duckling"
6th Place-Paul Helbert in hull #283 "Kwik Kwak"
7th Place-Mike Monies in hull #341 "Born on the 4th of July"
8th Place-Tim Cleary in hull #59 "Mary E"
9th Place-John H. Wright in un-registered hull un-named
10th Place-Dave Gray in hull #143 "Wild Duck"
11th Place-Brandon Khoury in hull #342 "The Little General"
DNF-David Chamness in hull #336 "Whack Whack"

Jackie Monies “Boat Widow”

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