Friday, November 4, 2016

Menninger Top Dog @ J/105 Masters Regatta

J/105 shark tank (San Diego, CA)- This year’s International Master’s Regatta, hosted by San Diego YC from October 21st to 23rd, produced far more drama for the masters sailors than anyone might have predicted.  There were different leaders after virtually every race and, at one point on the final day, three teams were tied going into the last race- Bill Menninger, Rich du Moulin and Jon Andron!  Panic on the high seas!  In the end, it was Menninger’s team from Newport Harbor YC that took the Masters crown.

J/105 Masters winnersDay 1
Richard du Moulin led after sailing just two races on the first day.  The SDYC Race committee was only able to run two out of the four scheduled races due to extremely light winds. The wind was at 0 knots at noon which delayed the start of racing by about 2 1/2 hours.

Race one started a little before 2:30pm and five boats were OCS at the start- competitors were noticeably anxious to get going.  The right side of the course was clearly favored upwind. Richard du Moulin (Storm Trysail Club/Larchmont Yacht Club) gained a giant lead upwind which he was able to keep at every mark rounding. Chuck Nichols (SDYC) and Chuck Driscoll (SDYC) were trailing in second and third for most of the race. After du Moulin won the first race handily, Nichols secured second place and Dick Tillman (Melbourne Yacht Club) finished third.

This was du Moulin’s first Masters Regatta and the first for most of his crew. They worked well together and spent a lot of ocean miles- in fact, du Moulin raced the Transatlantic with four of them last year. “It was a great day out there for us. The Race Committee did a good job of getting two races off. We stayed as clear of people as we could and then just tried to go fast. It was a lot of fun!”

At the end of race one, the wind was at 6 knots and patchy, causing the race committee to shorten the course during the middle of the second race. In a repeat performance, du Moulin led the second race, though by a smaller margin-- only about one boat length ahead of Don Trask (St. Francis Yacht Club). Chuck Nichols finished third.

Don Trask, the founder of the regatta, has been to every Masters Regatta, starting as crew before he was old enough to skipper. Trask grew up sailing the heavy winds of San Francisco, but now lives in North Carolina where the wind conditions are light and similar to today. After racing, Trask confirmed, "It’s hard to sail in the light air. It’s always really tricky.”

J/105 Masters in San DiegoDay 2
The second day featured more wind than the first day of racing. The twelve masters sailors experienced conditions that were more typical of San Diego on Saturday afternoon in the City Front racing venue.  There was enough wind on the course to start racing shortly after noon. The wind stayed constant until about 3:00pm when it died down to about 4 knots in the middle of the last race. Despite the dying wind at the end of the day, the SDYC Race Committee was still able to hold all four scheduled races.

Jon Andron (St. Francis Yacht Club) started the day off strong and won the first race. Andron was the only skipper to start on the right side of the course and gained a lead that he was able to keep for the entirety of the race.

Andron explains some of the challenges involved in today's races. "I chose a good lane at the start. The starts are dangerous in the light, shifty wind. If you go an eighth of a knot slower, a guy will roll right over you before you get going.”

Bob Fisher sailing J/105 MastersBob Fisher (Royal Lymington Yacht Club) won the second race also by starting well and keeping that momentum going. "My strategy was getting a good start and going the right way. I want to keep plugging these bullets, having a good time, and meeting with old friends- that’s what this is all about!”  Fisher’s crew consisted of Porky (from Lymington, England), Brent Draney, John Claude, Buzz Blackett and Kame Richards.

According to Fisher, “we did have our ups and downs.  Thankfully, Porky kept up the flow of “advice” and that was important.  Kame was fresh from winning his class in the Big Boat series and was as good a spinnaker trimmer as I have ever had and communicated well.  Buzz maintained a perpetual calm on the foredeck, as did Jean Claude on the jib trim, while Brent was a brilliant organizer.

Starting was our weak point. But, on Race 4, it came to our aid when we were forced to tack away from the Committee Boat and went into a stronger heading breeze on the “mainland” shore.  We surged into an early lead and protected it from there to the finish- hence the bullet!  Despite the frenzied inadequacy of the wind, it was a good regatta once again.”

Bill Menninger (Newport Harbor Yacht Club) won the third race after passing Chuck Nichols (SDYC) on the downwind leg. When asked to describe his strategy, Menninger shared, "I go fast and tried to get to the right a little bit. We’re getting off the line better because there’s more wind.”

The conditions were difficult for many skippers, even for local San Diego sailors like Chuck Driscoll (SDYC). "It’s been challenging to say the least, especially using the different boats with the wheel steering, I’m used to a tiller on a J/105. The wind direction is also challenging. The second half of today went a little bit better. We got a third and then a second. So we’re happy with the way the day went.”

Richard Du Moulin (Storm Trysail Club/Larchmont Yacht Club) won the last race of the day and was, again, leading the regatta overall after the first six races.

J/105s sailing off San DiegoDay 3
After pulling themselves up from 7th to 4th place on Saturday, Bill Menninger (Newport Harbor Yacht Club) and his team posted two bullets today to climb to the top of the 12-boat fleet to win San Diego Yacht Club’s International Masters Regatta. Menninger was sailing with Scott Mason, Jon Pinckney, Steve Schupak, Robert Kinney, and Shawn Patrick.

Sunday’s conditions were unusual for San Diego, featuring cloudy and sporadically rainy skies with little wind at noon. Racing was delayed for about an hour and a half due to 100-degree wind shifts, making Race Committee unable to set a course. Eventually, the wind settled to more typical conditions and Race Committee was able to run two of the four scheduled races.

The delay in racing provided plenty of time for the skippers to reminisce with their crews about past races in their careers, a central theme of the International Masters Regatta. Chuck Nichols (SDYC), the winner of the 2013 Masters Regatta, describes the International Masters Regatta as “a bunch of old characters that come back and talk to you about sailing. It reminds you of how great they were and still are.”

Race one got underway just before 2pm, once the wind was up to five to six knots. The fleet was split at the start, but the right side of the course was clearly favored upwind. Menninger had the lead at the first weather mark and was able to keep his lead throughout the entire race as the wind picked up to about 10 knots. Jon Andron (St. Francis Yacht Club) and Don Trask (St. Francis Yacht Club) were behind Menninger and eventually finished second and third.

J/105 sailing off San Diego city waterfrontRacing was slightly delayed before the second race so that a proper course could be set in shifty conditions. Three skippers–Menninger, Richard du Moulin (Storm Trysails Club/Larchmont Yacht Club) and Jon Andron (St. Francis Yacht Club)– were in a three-way tie for first place overall going into the last race. The anticipation was visible once the race started and six boats were immediately OCS. Menninger was not among them, which helped him gain a commanding lead. Menninger was able to keep this lead and sailed across the finish line as the 2016 International Masters Regatta champion.

This is Menninger’s first time winning the International Masters Regatta and also the first win from a Newport Harbor Yacht Club skipper. Menninger will be back at SDYC next weekend for the 102nd Challenge for the Sir Thomas Lipton Cup where he will crew for Jon Pinckney on the Newport Harbor Yacht Club team.

Menninger reflected at the end of the weekend, “My overall strategy for these three days was to get better every race. My starts were not very good at the start of the regatta, but they got a lot better by the end. Sailing aside, my favorite part of the Masters Regatta is the camaraderie of the guys that you’ve raced against your whole life, or new guys that you haven’t sailed against yet.”

du Moulin, who had led the event through the first two days of the competition, posted an 8-2 today to slip to second overall, one point off the lead. du Moulin was sailing with Barrett Holby, Bill Campbell, Peter Bauer, Chris Reyling, and Gerard Girstl.  Completing the podium was Andron sailing with Shawn Bennett, Tom Ducharme, Spuds Whidden, Dave Kelly, and Allie Rowe.   Sailing photo credits- Cynthia Sinclair/ SDYC  For more International J/105 Masters Regatta information