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Sail Scene New England

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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. www.blockislandraceweek.com

New England sailors duel off Annapolis

Brilliant weather conditions and 10 to 15 steady knots of wind was finally delivered off Annapolis April 29 to wrap up the Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Regatta in style after enduring two days of postponed racing.

Paul Van Ravenswaay of Annapolis, Md., on Millennium Falcon was named the regatta’s overall winner among the 270 boats entered and received a Sunsail charter during the 2007 Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Regatta Championship, in the British Virgin Islands, where he will compete against the overall winners from each stop on the nine-regatta NOOD circuit. Van Ravenswaay finished 2 points over Tony Parker of Annapolis on Bangor Packet to win the 16-boat J/24 class.

With four races in the first two days and only two races left to break the tie in the Etchells class, Rob Hitchcock of Dorchester, Mass., and Raymond Harrington of Bomoseen, Vt., needed every ounce of luck and skill for both races. After Harrington finished sixth in the first race, he fell behind Hitchcock by three points in the 17-boat class. Things went his way in the last race; he finished in second place and Hitchcock slipped back to seventh place to give Harrington the class win. Joseph Bainton of Stamford, Conn., put the pressure on the rest of the top five boats, finishing fourth in the first race, and then winning the last to take third overall.

Last year’s overall champion, Greg Fisher of Annapolis repeated his winning ways and won the 37-boat J/22 class over Pete McChesney of Annapolis by three points.

John Stefancik of Severna Park, Md., won both of the final day’s races and swept the six-boat S2 9.1 class on his Hurricane Kelley. The top two boats in the Cal 25 class continued to duke it out among themselves with Jimmy Praley of Annapolis on Upchuck winning by tiebreaker with Timoth Bloomfield of Sherwood Forest, Md., on White Cap.

Excitement continued in the S2 7.9 class where after the first race, Bob Fleck’s Horizon of Alexandria, Va., led David Flechsig’s Rooster Tail of Port Charlotte, Fla., by one point even though Fleck won the race. Fleck won the last race giving it the class overall win.

As in most of the classes, the top two Melges 24s were tied for the lead going into the final races. In the end, it came down to the final race. Chris Larson of Annapolis, sailing on Panic Attack, finished yards ahead of the competition and was planning to compete in the class’s world championship.

Big Kahuna, the J/30 owned by Larry Christy of Annapolis, placed second in the last two races, to take the class win by two points over Smiles, owned by John McArthur of Stratford, Conn. Local sailor Grealy Putnam’s Better Mousetrap finished in third.

With only one race tallied before Sunday, the J/105 class turned in two races and Peter Schellie’s Freedom of Annapolis did well in the last race, finishing third, and won the 45-boat class over Marty Hublitz’s Veloce from McLean, Va.

In a tremendous comeback, Jim Richardson of Boston and his Barking Mad won both races to move up to second overall in the nine-boat Mumm 30 class. After recovering from a premature start that left him in seventh overall, they excelled in the strong 15-knot wind to win both races and finish second overall, one point behind Black Seal, owned by Kevin Young of Windmere, Ohio.

In the Melges 32 class — racing for its East Coast Championship — Michael Carroll and Martin Kullman’s New Wave of Tampa, Fla., turned in a consistent day with a 2-1 and finished first overall, just three points ahead of Ramrod, owned by Rodrick Jabin of Annapolis. In third place in the 13-boat class was Star, owned by Jeff Ecklund of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The Melges 24, Underdog, owned by Peter Wenzler of Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., was selected as the Sperry Top-Sider Boat of the Day and each crewmember will receive a pair of performance Sperry Top-Sider shoes.

Racers return to Buzzards Bay

The 35th annual Buzzards Bay Regatta will take place at the New Bedford Yacht Club’s Padanaram facility in South Dartmouth, Mass., Aug. 3, 4 and 5.

The Web site, www.buzzardsbayregatta.com, is accepting online registration with PayPal and regatta information.

The regatta is the largest mixed boat regatta in the Northeast, according to organizers, regularly attracting more than 400 boats and 1,200 sailors. Large PHRF boats, multihulls and one-designs in 17 classes will race three, sometimes four, times each day over the three-day regatta. This year’s regatta has also been chosen to host both the Etchells Atlantic Coast Championship and the International 505 East Coast Championship.

The 17 classes that will be racing in 2007 are Club 420, Vanguard 15, Laser Standard, Laser Masters, Laser Radial, International 14, International 505, Rhodes 19, Etchells, J/24, J/80, J/105, J/109, PHRF Race, PHRF Cruise, IRC and Multihulls.

The regatta is organized by the New Bedford, Mattapoisett, Low Tide and Beverly yacht clubs, which will once again donate a significant portion of its proceeds to Community Boating of New Bedford to help engage area youngsters in sailing and other maritime activities.

Bay State boat earns honors at S.C. regatta

Tornado warnings and bridge closures made the Race Committee’s decision to abandon all racing on April 15, Day 3 of Charleston Race Week, an easy one.

“Around 8 this morning, a handful of skippers begged me to let them race today, assuring me that they could handle the breeze, which was blowing around 25 knots at that time,” said event director Brad Van Liew. “I told them that they could handle it now, but they were not going to be able to handle 11.”

Brad’s high confidence in the forecast proved justified, as the breeze steadily built to a sustained 35 knots, with gusts of over 60 knots recorded in a line squall. After the party tent collapsed on itself, the awards ceremony was moved into one of the resort’s conference rooms while the kitchen staff prepared the traditional Charleston Ocean Racing Association chili buffet.

All Class winners picked up their trophies, along with a VHF from Raymarine and a Gosling’s Dark ’n Stormy gift pack.

“We’ve got a very happy crew, and I just hope that some of our Gosling’s prize is left by the time we get on the plane. I’m not optimistic,” said Melges 24 winner Simon Strauss.

J/105 Class winner Brian Keane and Savasana won the Charleston Race Week Cup in recognition of the best performance of any one-design competitor. Keane is also a consecutive two-time winner here, and his Massachusetts crew considers this a high point of their travel schedule.

Key Biscayne sailor Steven Stollman won the Palmetto Cup, a 20-inch-tall sterling silver cup awarded to the overall PHRF champion. The cup had already been around for decades when it was requisitioned as the overall award for the first Charleston Race Week. This is Stollman’s second consecutive overall win at Charleston Race Week, with Primal Scream, a C&C 115 he’s owned for only two years.

Top junior women heading to Marblehead

The nation’s best young female sailors will descend on Marblehead, Mass., to test their sailing prowess against the best girls in the country during the 27th annual U.S. Junior Women’s Single-handed Championship for the Nancy Leiter Clagett Memorial Trophy from July 29 to Aug. 4.

Girls, age 13 to 17, from as far away as Texas and California will be racing singlehanded in Laser Radials during the five-day U.S. Sailing National Championship — hosted at the Pleon Yacht Club and sponsored by Vanguard Sailboats. Many of the girls see this event as a benchmark in sailing and many will proceed to the collegiate level and even the Olympics.

In 1937 Nancy Leiter herself was a young fleet captain of Pleon and she donated the women’s trophy for the season’s championship. This event marks the 70th anniversary of this first regatta.

Started in 1980 by Tom Clagett in honor of his late wife Nancy Leiter Clagett, the championship has played a major role in the country’s development of junior women’s sailing. From America’s Cup women sailors like Melissa Purdy, match-racing champions like Elizabeth Kratzig, and the 2006 U.S. Sailing Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Paige Railey, this event has played a key role in the development and encouragement of women in sailing. www.ussailing.org/championships/youth/usjrw/single

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 Manhasset Bay. 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 Manhasset Bay 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.

American sailors win silver in France

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.

Fastnet race set to attract diverse fleet

Entries are streaming in for the biennial Rolex Fastnet Race — the 608-mile race considered one of the world’s classic ocean races. The 2007 fleet will start on Aug. 12 from the Royal Yacht Squadron line off Cowes, then race out through the Solent continuing westward down the English Channel to Land’s End and then across the Celtic Sea, before rounding the Fastnet Rock off the south-west tip of Ireland and returning to the finish off Plymouth.

The fleet is expected to be both diverse and large, ranging from 100-foot super maxi monohulls to 60-foot multihulls to 35-foot cruiser-racers. The Royal Ocean Racing Club sought to ease some of the logistical issues by putting a cap on entries at 300 boats. In 2005 the fleet numbered 283 and the RORC race management are optimistic that this figure will be exceeded by close of entries on July 27.