Saturday, October 15, 2011

"College J/Fest"- Storm Trysail Big Boat

J/105 one-design fleet sailing Storm Trysail College RegattaThe World's Largest College Sailing Regatta?
(Larchmont, NY)- Could it be that J Class sailors have learned how to hook into a good thing, evangelize it, grow it, and have a great time to boot!?  Judging by the turnout of J sailors supporting this year's Storm Trysail Foundation's "College Big Boat" regatta, hosted in collaboration with the Larchmont Yacht Club, this event could easily be the world’s largest college regatta- 400+ collegiate sailors raced on a fleet of 47 offshore boats ranging from 35 to 44 feet-- most all of them J/Boats of varying types and sizes-- seven in IRC 40 (J/111, J/122s, J/130, J/133s), seven J/44 One-Designs, eight J/109 One-Designs and fifteen J/105 One-Designs.  Do the math.  37 J's are nearly 80% of the entire fleet!  Kudos to Jim Bishop (of J/44 GOLD DIGGER fame) and others like Barry Gold (J/122 SUNDARI) and Adam Loory for their perseverance and vision to grow this event into what it is today-- the coolest, grooviest, most awesome regatta on the collegiate sailing circuit! Chicks dig it.  Guys love it.  J-Owners can't believe they've got crew lists filled out for their 2012 sailing season, plus learned a thing or two how to make their boats go even faster!

J/44 one-design racer cruiser sailboat- sailing Storm Trysail College Big Boat RegattaThe regatta introduces college sailors to the challenge and teamwork of big boat racing and gives them a chance to race evenly-matched boats.  The purpose of the regatta is two-fold: to introduce dinghy sailors to the team work and fun of big-boat racing as well as to provide a chance for experienced big boat sailors to have a place to race. As in the past, there were five divisions: J/105s, J/109s, J/44s, IRC 35s and IRC 40s. The regatta uses one-design or closely-rated divisions so the skills of big-boat racing can be taught without burdening the uninitiated with the machinations of ratings.  The Storm Trysail Foundation, a 501 (c) 3 charitable organization, and Larchmont Yacht Club raise enough sponsorship to make this regatta totally FREE for the college sailors as well as boat owners. There is NO entry fee or damage deposit-- can you imagine any J sailor/ owner turning down that deal?  No wonder the J/Fleet continues to grow leaps and bounds for this event.

Teams are coming from Canada, the West Coast, the Midwest, Northeast and the mid-Atlantic states.  The owners of their boats sail with the teams as a safety officer and as a coach. Each boat has a second coach aboard who can be one of the boat’s regular crew-members or someone appointed by the regatta organizers. The adults are free to teach boat-handling, sail trim and safety, but the kids call their own tactics.

The regatta gives back as much as the boat owners give. It is a great way to forge a bond with their alma mater’s sailing team or the team of their children. Some boat owners have requested schools that their children are considering attending so that they can have a more fun interview. Many boat owners have used the regatta to grow their crew pool.

J/109 racer cruiser sailboat- sailing past mark setting spinnaker in Storm Trysail regattaWatching the racing, it is clear that many of the college sailors are very proficient big boat sailors. The racing is always close. In 2010, three of the five divisions had ties for first place -- after six races. The regatta’s PRO Butch Ulmer runs six four-leg windward-leeward races in a limited amount of time. His committee can reposition the windward mark, while starting and finishing different classes. Races go on in all conditions; to keep things safe for the boats and the collegiate sailors, the race committee has the ability to restrict the use of spinnakers.

For this year's event, schools came from across the country to compete in the placid waters of Long Island Sound off Larchmont, NY. Three light air races were sailed on Saturday and the race committee started two races on Sunday, but had to abandon each after the wind shifted too much. After the second abandonment the wind died away to nothing and never returned.  No one was under any grand illusions the Sound would serve up perfect sailing conditions, it's always "come si, come sa". No matter, as far as the teams were concerned the party Saturday night for all was a killer event, many forming new friendships and promising to return for yet another year of camaraderie and fun sailing.

The overall winner was Maine Maritime which won the eight-boat J/109 fleet with a perfect score of three firsts. They were leading the fourth race when it was abandoned. The other division winners were the US Naval Academy, which won two divisions: the 12-boat IRC 40 class and the seven-boat J/44 class. Tufts University won the five-boat IRC 35 class for the second year in a row and first time participant USC won the 15-boat J/105 class in a tie-breaker with last year’s overall winner, the US Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, NY.  The University of Southern California traveled all the way across the country to attend the regatta with their coach Mike Segarblum.

Maine Maritime, led by their coach- US Sailing Paralympic Gold Medallist Tommie Brown- is at the top of their game and this finish bodes well for their performance at the Student Yachting World Cup in France later this month.

Even though no races were sailed on Sunday, both college sailors and the boat owners who lent their boats had a great weekend. Connor Sestudies, the tactician for the Purdue team, summed things up well when he said, “This was a fun college regatta that was a great learning experience for me and my crew. It was a great opportunity to sail on these boats that the owners generously let us use. I'm looking forward to next year.” His teammate Matt Steiner followed up saying, "I had very little experience on big boats before this event. After this weekend, though, I'm looking forward to getting into more races. This event definitely opened my eyes to the world of big boats, and I like what I see!"

In this regatta, the boat owners don’t give their boats to a college team, instead they sail with the teams as coaches and safety officers. In some cases less experienced owners sign up to learn as much as the kids; STC assigns experienced coaches where needed. One such case was John Maltz who recently bought the J/105 SUNNYSIDE UP. This is his first year with the boat and he is beginning to climb the learning curve. He sailed with American University, where he was a student, and had experienced J/105 sailor Mike Quaglio as a coach. Within in minutes of the regatta finish, Maltz texted the regatta’s chairman Adam Loory saying, “Great regatta. Sign me up for next year. Mike was the best! Thanks.”

Thanks to the financial support of the Storm Trysail Foundation and sponsorship from Rolex, Vineyard Vines, Caithness Energy, Safe Flight Instruments, UK-Halsey Sailmakers, Coke, Heineken and Gill.  In short, due to their help and support it was another smashing success!   For more Storm Trysail Foundation College Big Boat sailing information    For more STF College Big Boat sailing results   Sailing Photo Credits- Howard McMichael.