(Chester, Nova Scotia, Canada)- As can often happen way, way Down East, it’s always a bit of a “roll-of-the-dice” whether you have a week of foggy dew and no wind or a simply spectacular stretch of weather that seems to make for an endless, perfect summer! Somehow, the sailors in this year’s Chester Race Week just south of Halifax, Nova Scotia were treated to one of their best sailing weeks in recent memory.
As a consequence of being blessed by the best that Mother Nature can deliver, one of the best “social/ party” race weeks on the North American calendar went off without a hitch and with many J/Teams collecting way more than their fair share of silverware. In addition, the Canadian J/24s were simultaneously hosting their 2014 Canadian Nationals.
Starting from the first day, the week got off to a great start. According to One-Design Course Race Officer Brian Todd, sailors were treated to near-perfect conditions, “we had excellent winds, 8-11 knots, and racing was tight, and fun. My race committee team was fantastic, constantly adjusting the course to make it perfect for the sailors.” After the first day of racing, Lunenburg YC’s John Whynacht on the J/24 STICKY FINGERS took the class lead, never to relinquish it for the rest of the regatta!
For many of the J/Teams, the second day of racing was thrilling and challenging! For other fleets, too much wind and waves forced cancellation of races and for others it also meant lots of broken rigging or torn sails. PRO Liz Shaw said that while conditions were challenging, and the incidents heartbreaking to watch, the high winds made for some exciting racing. “On heavy air days like today, the adrenaline is a little higher. It’s not about who has the fastest, lightest boat, it’s about who is mentally and physically prepared to sail in tougher conditions. Sailors are pushed to their limits and you can really see their tactical brains at work. It’s pure excitement,” commented Shaw.
After the rough and tumble second day, the breeze lightened up for the third day of racing. Starting out with a wee bit of clouds, rain and no wind, the harbor postponement was finally lifted as the sun poked through and a nice breeze built for the afternoon. Most fleets managed to get in at least one race and fleets like the J/24s managed to get in two before the breeze died. For the J/24s, it was becoming apparent that Whynacht’s STICKY FINGERS was in a class of their own, posting two more top three scores.
Mother Nature again delivered in spades on the final day. Conditions were great with a nice, steady southwest seabreeze, and winds of 15-20 knots. Most courses ended up finishing in a short rain squall under black skies and rainy, blustery conditions. But, it passed quickly and blue skies returned in time for trophy presentations.
“Today was a fantastic end to a great week of sailing,” said Liz Shaw, principal race officer, Chester Race Week 2014. “The racing was incredibly close and exciting, with a number of classes decided by mere seconds on the last race. All in all, Chester Race Week was an incredible event. There were a lot of standout moments over the past few days in weather and competition, and sailors were mentally and physically pushed to their limits. Our new web-based regatta management system, YachtScoring.com, delivered results faster and more accurately than ever before.”
J/Teams reveled in the wide variety of conditions, especially the teams sailing the PHRF Distance races, random-leg courses selected before the start of each day’s race. In PHRF A1, the J/120s cleaned house, taking 1st and 2nd. Richard Calder’s BRILLIANCE and Dwayne Smithers’ ADIOS tied on points at ten apiece, with the tie-breaker going to BRILLIANCE. Fourth in class was Paul Rafuse’s J/109 WISC.
In PHRF A2 were a trio of J/35s that customarily do quite well in class. However, this year the top banana was Thane MacDonald’s J-HAWK, top J/35 but only 7th in class.
In the nearly all J/Boats PHRF A3 class, it was “local hero” Colin Mann winning with his J/92 POOH STICKS, followed by Sean McDermott’s J/105 McMAC in 2nd and Jim Snair’s J/88 PLAYMATE in 3rd. In fact, the J/88s took three of the top five spots, Dave Connolly’s J/88 CRAZY EIGHTS in 4th and Terry Mckenna’s DOG PARTY in 5th.
PHRF A4 class was also determined on a tie-breaker, with Chris MacDonald’s J/29 SCOTCH MIST IV taking class honors.
On Course Bravo were the PHRF Buoy Racing fleets. In PHRF B1, the fleet was treated to a “schooling” by the J/29 SILVER WOMAN skippered by Andrew Childs; nine bullets in 11 races gave them a 14 pt lead over fellow J/29 sailor Don Williams on PARADIGM SHIFT. Fourth and fifth, respectively, were also taken by J/29s-- Erin & Carlisle Norwood’s FAVOURITE CHILD and Paul Dexter’s PAINKILLER.
The PHRF B2 class had two J/30s sail well to take two spots on the podium. Jordan MacNeil’s J/30 FLUX was second and Jesleine Baker’s J/30 JUST ADD WATER was third.
Finally, the Canadian J/24 Nationals were won in a landslide victory by Whynacht’s STICKY FINGERS. Scoring four 1sts and four 2nds, their final tally of 19 pts meant they won by 7 pts. While local knowledge was certainly helpful for Lunenberg’s Whynacht, Toronto sailor Nick Jako also managed to post all top five scores sailing TAZ for a total of 26 pts, just enough to hold onto second. Another Halifax “local”, Greg Blunden steering ADRENALINE RUSH, snagged third. Sailing photo credits- Tim Wilkes.com For more Chester Race Week sailing information