Our very own Lisa Clayton has just posted two amazing wins back-to-back. Key West and Charleston!
Lisa and Bruce and their boat were featured in a recent article in Sailing World after their amazing series of wins at Key West. Here is the story:
Key West gave Bruce a rude welcome. Having spent some time knocking around the cans on Chesapeake Bay, the jolly restaurateur from Annapolis, Md., brought his Beneteau 10M L’Outrage to Key West Race Week for the first time in 1997.
Like many skippers, Gardner gathered his team for a Sunday practice session before the start of racing the following day. They sailed from their berth on Stock Island to the Key West Bight to pick up a member of the crew, then turned around, and set the spinnaker for the run out to the practice area. “We came to an area where the waves were all confused,” Gardner recalls. “I overcompensated, and the boat started rocking. The spinnaker pole dug into a wave, and the pressure of the pole against the mast broke the mast.” L’Outrage limped back toward shore, the crew defeated before the racing had even begun. “On the way in, I was like, ‘God, we’ve come all this way. We can’t give up now,’” says Gardner. “We resolved then and there to do everything humanly possible to make the first start.” There were no spars available on the island, so they called a rigger in Gainesville. “We got the guy on the phone—he was on the couch watching football—and convinced him to go check his shed for a mast section,” says Gardner. The rigger located a mast section that would fit, and Gardner sent a few crew members—college sailors from St. Mary’s—on the 1,000-mile round trip. “I gave the kids the keys to my Explorer and told them to step on it,” he says. Gardner and the remaining crew then headed over to Robbie’s Boatyard, where they pulled an all-nighter replacing the damaged rigging and cutting out the broken mast section. By the time the St. Mary’s kids arrived with the mast section at 7 a.m.
Monday morning, the team was ready to rivet it into place. A boatyard employee hopped on the crane, and the crew quickly stepped the mast. “We tuned the rig on the way out to the racecourse and made the first race by 30 minutes,” says Gardner. “We didn’t do that well in the regatta [12th place in the 17-boat PHRF 6 division], but we had fun. The challenge of doing better was what brought me back.” Quantum Key West 2012 marked the regatta’s 25th anniversary and the 13th time Gardner and L’Outrage have returned to the scene of their inauspicious debut. Over the years, Gardner has crafted a Race Week routine that fosters a fun-loving, communal spirit amongst his crew and pays dividends on the racecourse. The key to the team’s success is that everyone contributes equally; there are no rock stars. “When you get to the dock, bring beer and leave your ego,” says the skipper whose smile never fades from his chubby, sunburned cheeks. “When we get down to the boat, I don’t have to ask somebody to pump the bilge. It just gets done.” When it comes to making an expensive undertaking such as Key West work, there’s an unwritten contract between Gardner and his crew. “We all know what we’re signing up for,” says mainsail trimmer Warren Richter.
“We’re going to be eating most of our meals at the house. We don’t expect a pile of team gear. This year, we each got a shirt and a hat. I’d rather have Bruce spend his money on new sails and keep the boat going fast.” In addition, crew members do what they can to keep costs down. Longtime friend Thom “Tommy Two Beers” Bowen drives the rig down from Annapolis at a discounted rate. Trimmer Scott Gitchell brings his scuba gear and goes for a pre-race dip each day to polish the bottom. Besides handling pit duties, Gardner’s partner, Lisa Clayton, manages logistics. And except for professional tactician Ken Saylor, who manages the North Sails loft in Hampton Roads, Va., every member of the crew pays to play.
“We all chip in,” says McKee. “We understand that if it were up to Bruce to pay for everything, we wouldn’t be here.” Gardner may not lavish his crew, but he treats them like family and never fails to show his appreciation. He shows the same affection toward L’Outrage, which he refers to as “the old girl.” With its clean entry and flat bottom, the Finot/Faus design was ahead of its time when it rolled out of the factory in 1983, and Gardner has tricked out the 34-footer with a larger sail plan and a more ergonomic cockpit.
The boat’s bottom and foils receive constant attention, and new sails arrive whenever the budget allows. L’Outrage crew members take their racing a lot more seriously than they take one another. Everyone has a nickname. Gardner is “Big Papa.” Because of his collection of khaki shorts embroidered with tiny whales and other nautical fare, bowman Paul Ford is “Pretty Boy.” The responsible one, trimmer Kevin McKee, is “Grandpa.” Trimmer Stuart Forrest, who hails from across the pond, is “The Englishman.” They don’t claim to be creative.
After two days of big-breeze racing in the turquoise waters off the contiguous United States’ southernmost point, Tuesday night found Gardner busying himself in the tiny kitchen at the team’s lodgings, a nondescript, and single-story rental off the tourist map in Key West’s New Town neighborhood. Air mattresses and spray tops crowded the floors of the bunk rooms, where sailors sleep three apiece, and the Washington Capitols faced off against the New York Islanders on the TV. Gardner has operated restaurants in Cape Cod and Boston, Mass., and Washington D.C., and will soon open his latest near City Dock in Annapolis. As he fixed his signature regatta meal—rosemary-encrusted pork tenderloin, garlic potatoes, curried black beans, fresh greens—the 57-year old explained how he manages to keep Race Week expenses from getting out of hand. “Blue collar, blue collar, blue collar,” he said over a stiff rum drink. “We’re a blue-collar program.” Richter, who has raced with several programs, says the teamwork aboard L’Outrage is unlike any he’s experienced. “It’s a very team-oriented dynamic,” he says. “Everyone knows their responsibilities, but everyone also helps out with each others’ jobs.” Ford credits the supportive dynamic on board to Gardner’s calm demeanor. “Bruce is extremely laid-back,” says the bowman,who availed himself of the romantic setting of nearby Sunset Key to propose to his girlfriend: she said yes.
“The only time you ever hear from him, he’s either complimenting you or giving you words of encouragement. One thing he never does is scream.” After five races, L’Outrage entered Thursday’s competition trailing Gerry Taylor’sCape Fear 38 Tangent by 1 point in the 11-boat PHRF 2 division. “Thursday was a big day for us,” says Ford. “The conditions were light, which was challenging for us, since the boat tends to do better in heavy air. It was important for us to switch gears. Whenever we’d feel the boat slow down, we’d power up to get back in the groove.
Downwind, everybody was really sensitive to keeping the boat balanced just right.” Gardner has refined his downwind technique since the wipeout of ’97, and his driving helped L’Outrage leg out on the runs. “We tried to get on the waves and surf as much as we could,” he says. “Plus, I’m getting better at sailing by the lee. I can keep the boat right on the edge, and nobody says anything. We all understand that if the boat gets unstable, all I have to do is head up one or two degrees.” Aided by a collision between Tangent and the Soverel 33 Renegade in Race 6, which resulted in dual disqualifications, L’Outrage won all three races on Thursday. “Everything just seemed to come together so well for us,” says Clayton. “It all seemed orchestrated. Everyone had his head in the game, adjusting and tweaking. I’ve never had a day of racing quite like it.” As they headed for shore, the crew knew they’d done something special. “The mood onboard as we were motoring in was electric,” says Richter.
“We knew we’d given ourselves a shot at winning the series. To conclude Thursday’s post-race gathering at Kelly’s Caribbean Bar, emcee and Division 1 principal race officer Ken Legler prepped the crowd for the announcement of the Boat of the Day. Given their three-bullet performance, Gardner and crew assumed they were in the running for the award. Decked out in blue polo shirts, they assembled near the stage. When Legler announced the winner—Glenn Darden’s J/80 Le Tigre, which had also notched three firsts—the disappointment on the faces of the L’Outrage crew was short-lived. “They deserve the award,” said Gardner as he headed to dinner, the team’s one splurge, at the Brazilian steakhouse Braza Leña. The team wasn’t about to get hung up on daily prizes. “On Thursday night,” says Ford, “all we cared about was getting a meal in our bellies, getting a good night’s sleep, and putting our game faces on for the next day.”
L’Outrage carried a 13-point lead over second placed Tangent going into Friday’s racing, but the team didn’t let up. Gardner couldn’t help but start aggressively in Race 9, and the team rode a front-row start to another win. The regatta was in the bag, but Gardner wasn’t ready to quit. “Before the last race,” says Saylor, “I turned to Bruce and said, ‘You know, we can go in if we want. We’ve already won, and we’ll be first to the hoist.’ But Bruce was like, ‘Nope. That wouldn’t be the Corinthian thing to do. We’re sailing.’” The team took second-place in Race 10 and wrapped up the series with a 13-point lead. It wasn’t the first time Gardner won his division in Key West—’Outrage won PHRF 7 in 2000 and took PHRF 5 in 2006—but it might have been his sweetest victory. “Everything just worked so well,” says Gardner. “I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. But it didn’t. I mean, sometimes you’ll have a race like that, but a whole series? Never.” He didn’t forget to thank his 29-year old boat, either. “The old girl’s been really good to us,” he says. “I just hope she doesn’t make me wait another six years to win again.” Having resisted temptation all week—mostly—the crew let loose on Friday night, comforted by the knowledge of what Saturday morning would bring.
“When I wake up with a hangover, and my head is throbbing, I know everything’s going to be alright,” says Richter. “Because at some point, Bruce is going to holler down the hall, ‘Breakfast is ready,’ and there’s going to be a big plate of eggs, sausage, and hash browns waiting for me at the table.”
“When you get to the dock, bring beer and leave your ego,” saysL’Outrage skipper Bruce Gardner. “Everybody has a job to do, and they’re willing to do it. When we get down to the boat, I don’t have to ask somebody to pump the bilge. It just gets done.”
L'Outrage won a shelf full of trophies at Key West.