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Sail Scene Long Island Sound

N.Y. sailor earns silver at French Sailing Week

The U.S. Yngling team of Sally Barkow of Chenequa, Wis., Debbie Capozzi of Bayport, N.Y., and Carrie Howe of Grosse Pointe, Mich., won silver April 27 at the Semaine Olympique Française de Voile — or French Sailing Week — in Hyères, France.

Barkow and her team won the final, double-point medal race, after battling with Great Britain’s team led by Sarah Ayton, who picked up the bronze. The Russian team led by Ekaterina Skudina secured their gold finish, a lead they held throughout the week.

“This is a great end to our month in Europe,” said Barkow. “We faced some tough racing. We made some mistakes throughout the week, which caused us to learn valuable lessons for when the pressure is on.”

The big breeze that the sailors had been looking forward to all week finally reared its head in the final two days providing for an exciting finale. Steady winds and significant waves during the medal races translated into a different game of racing than the rest of the week. Barkow’s team said they changed their tactical style to match race their competitors in order to gain positions.

“When the wind is steady and settled and there is some rhythm to the shifts, sailboat racing is a fun game of inches gained and lost, but that’s not what we’ve experienced for the last five days,” the team wrote in their daily newsletter. “For those without the nerve, this was fingernails-bitten-to-the-bone uncertainty.”

Barkow’s team is ranked the number one Yngling crew on the 2007 U.S. Sailing Team and was named U.S. Sailing’s 2005 Team of the Year. Barkow was also named U.S. Sailing’s 2005 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year.

An International Sailing Federation Grade 1 event, Semaine Olympique Française attracted around 900 boats from 58 countries. The event included five days of racing culminating with the final medal races, which followed the new Olympic format, lining up the top 10 teams in each class on the starting line on the final day of racing.

On April 6, for the second year in a row, the team of Barkow, Capozzi and Carrie Howe won the 2007 Princess Sofia Trophy in Palma de Mallorca, Spain.

In a competitive fleet of 36 entries, Barkow and her team battled fluky and frustrating conditions to ultimately finish in first place, ahead of the British team led by Sarah Ayton.

“I am proud of the way we handled such tricky conditions,” said Howe.

Tradition to continue on Block Island

The population of tiny Block Island will swell by more than 2,000 sailors while marinas fill with an extra 200 plus boats when the Storm Trysail Club arrives to coordinate Block Island Race Week presented by Rolex. Racing is set for June 17-22.

One of the most popular sailing weeks in America, the event has repeated itself here biennially since 1965, offering competitors impeccably managed competition on the water and famously friendly rivalry ashore. At press time, nearly half of the expected fleet had already signed up.

Nelson Weidermann (Wakefield, R.I.) has competed six times in the event with his best performance being a second in class. He skippers his J/105 Kima against other J/105s in the one-design division that was started for this class at the 1996 event.

“It is one of the bigger one-design classes,” says Weidermann. “Some of the J/105 sailors are dyed-in-the-wool, around-the-buoys sailors, but over the years, we’ve come to really enjoy the race around the island, which challenges us with all its different currents and weather.”

This year, the event serves as the first-ever Rolex US-IRC National Championship for boats certified under IRC, a relatively new rule in the U.S. for handicapping race boats of different kinds so that they can compete on equal footing.

“Having the Nationals as part of Block Island Race Week proves that the IRC rating has come of age in the U.S.,” says Steve De Voe (Stamford, Conn.), who will sail his Swan 45 Devocean in the event. “Before, handicapping had driven a lot of sailors to a single-class boat, but the IRC, for us in our 45-foot boat, is very fair and encourages us to race handicap.”

De Voe and his group of a dozen “hard-core amateurs” who have been sailing together since 2003 are typical of the teams that will be vying for the new national championship title.

Couple wins Interclub National Championship

John and Molly Baxter from the Larchmont Yacht Club won the 2007 Interclub National Championship, held at the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club on April 14-15.

The Baxter team captured the top prize by beating five-time winner Jim Bowers and Sarah Hitchcock of Winthrop. Bowers came to the nationals with the hopes of having a three-peat, having won the 2005 and 2006 championships. The Baxter team prepared well for this regatta, having raced the week before with the local fleet to check out the water and prevailing wind direction on ManhassetBay. Their due diligence seemed to pay off, as they beat their closest competitor by 32 points.

With 50 of the top frostbiters jockeying for air at the staring line, race officer Sue Miller had to invoke the “I” flag by the third race, and then after three more General Recalls, added the “Z” flag to try to get a race started. The threat of the “Z” flag worked, and by the end of the day, nine races were completed.

Back on land, thoughts turned to the looming nor’easter that was scheduled to hit western Long Island Sound early the next day. At one point it looked like there may be a window of opportunity to get one or two more races in on the final day, but when the wind on ManhassetBay spiraled to 28 knots quickly in the early morning, with predictions of even higher winds, racing was canceled for the day.

Hawley Waldman and Iris Vogel, of the Larchmont Yacht Club, won the Women’s Division. Steve Benjamin and Charlie McHugh, of the Larchmont Yacht Club, won the Masters Division. In Division B the top three finishers were Peter and Rachel Beardsley of the Larchmont Yacht Club, Chip and Alex Whipple of the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club, and Rich du Moulin and Dorothee Bergin, of the Larchmont Yacht Club.

Following the Baxters and the Bowers team overall in the championship were Chad Atkins and Byron Eichorn, of the Newport Yacht Club in third, Benjamin and McHugh in fourth and Ben and Kim Cesare of Larchmont in fifth.

“We won this event for the last two years and have won five times overall,” Bowers said. “John beat us pretty handily — they were really, really fast. We were just hanging on to get second.”

Steve and Heide Benjamin, who won the IC Dinghy Nationals three times in Wharf Rat, founded the Wharf Rat Challenge, to be awarded to the skipper who receives the highest points over the 2006-2007 frostbite season. Steve Benjamin and Charlie McHugh took the trophy this season.