Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Dramatic Finales @ Marblehead NOOD Regatta

J/24 winners- Seabags Women's Sailing Team
(Marblehead, MA)- The 2019 Helly Hansen National Offshore One Design Regatta at Marblehead Race Week took place this past week in Marblehead, MA, July 25 to 28. Boston Yacht Club hosted more than 150 teams across 14 fleets. J/One-Design classes included J/24s, J/70s, J/80s, and J/105s. Here are the daily reports on what took place amongst the J/crews.

Day One
Light winds and shifting currents had teams battling for top honors and a chance to earn a trip to the British Virgin Islands in late October for the NOOD Caribbean Championship sponsored by Sunsail.

Erica Beck Spencer helmed her boat SEA BAGS WOMEN’S SAILING TEAM to a pair of bullets to lead the J/24 fleet after the first day of racing. “Jess Harris and I put the team together after the 2014 Worlds in Newport, RI, where we were frustrated to only see two all-female teams competing,” says Beck Spencer (Portland, ME). “It’s been such a great journey for us, and being sponsored by Seabags makes it all possible.”

Four crew members aboard the SEA BAGS WOMEN’S SAILING TEAM are from Maine. They are in their fifth season sailing together and aim to peak at the J/24 World Championships in Miami later this year.

“There was a moment today when we realized how much we’ve learned,” says tactician Hilary Noble (Newport, RI). “We take something away from each race, which is why we love the sport and love sailing with each other.”

Bill Zartler (Houston, TX) and his crew lead the J/105 fleet with a pair of wins of their own. With a veteran team, it’s easy to come out swinging on the first day of an important event. “Our team has been sailing together on and off for 15 years in a bunch of different boats,” says Zartler. “We’re all good friends who’ve been sailing together for a long time.”

Zartler and crew are preparing for the J/105 North Americans in Marblehead in September. Sailing in the NOOD will prepare them for the unique winds and challenging current this sailing area is known for.

“Today we had light air, but it was pretty steady,” Zartler says. “There was current, but it wasn’t as bad as Annapolis [Maryland], where you get it in a bunch of different directions. The wind went right all day, but it still paid to be on the left side of the competition, so we were kind of scratching our heads about that one.”

Zartler has been sailing in the NOOD Regatta series since the early 1990s, and competed in the Annapolis NOOD in early May. “It’s great competition out here,” says Zartler. “The first three boats are just a couple of points apart so it’s going to be tight racing. Hopefully we get a little more breeze out there tomorrow.”
J/24 women's team
Day Two
Three additional fleets joined the racing to bring the total number of fleets competing to 13. With stronger winds and a rolling sea-state, competitors had to work harder to earn top finishes.

Joel Ronning (Excelsior, MN) leads the J/70 fleet on CATAPULT. This particular J/70 fleet includes three past world champions, including Peter Duncan, Jud Smith, and Ronning. “There’s a lot of good sailors out here,” says Ronning. “It isn’t the biggest fleet, but the quality of racing is outstanding. These boats are so dynamic, and our team is getting to the point where things happen automatically.”

Ronning is supported by a veteran crew that continues to strive for excellence. The CATAPULT team is using this weekend’s NOOD Regatta to train for the J/70 World Championship in Torquay, UK, in late August. “We’ve boiled down our communication onboard to the point where everyone knows what the guy next to them is thinking,” says Ronning. “Since we’ve been sailing with each other for so long, the vibe onboard is great. There’s a lot of good banter, that’s for sure.”

In today’s more challenging conditions, Ronning kept his sails powered up to get through the steep chop. Once he got his boat moving fast, he was able to focus on positioning his boat on the crowded racecourse. “Whenever we were in doubt,” says Ronning, “we put the bow down and just went faster.”

In the J/80 fleet, Sam Cushing (Newport, RI) leads Brian Gibbs (Rowley, MA) by 2 points. “This is our second year sailing together,” says Cushing. “Our whole crew sailed at the University of Rhode Island together, and after graduation we decided to partner on a boat.”

Cushing and crew have since undertaken a full restoration of their hull, which was the third boat built when production began in 1992. “It’s been quite the process putting the boat together, but we just completed most of the major repairs and now we have new sails, which has helped a lot.”

Day Three
The final day reached a dramatic conclusion across multiple fleets. With lighter winds and a strong cross-course current, the opportunity for both gains and losses presented trying circumstances for hundreds of one-design sailboat racers.

The J/70 fleet saw a stacked leaderboard, with three past world-champions in contention on the final day. After three final races, Peter Duncan emerged victorious with his team on RELATIVE OBSCURITY. “There were four or five boats that could have won this event,” says Duncan, “so we were really happy to come out on top.”

After suffering a bad result early in the regatta, Duncan and team put together an outstanding score sheet for the final two days of the event, never finishing out of the top three. “It’s awesome coming here to Marblehead,” Duncan says. “Having the NOOD as part of Marblehead Race Week is a great thing. The hospitality here is always superb, and the racing is top-notch, especially when there’s wind.”

Duncan has been sailing with crew Willem Van Waay for the last couple of seasons, but this year, he added heavy-hitters, Will Felder and Bill Hardesty to the lineup. “This was a really important regatta for us leading to the J/70 Worlds in September,” says Duncan. “There isn’t much on the J/70 schedule in August, so our goal was to get out and compete against some stiff competition. With the talent in this fleet, we were obviously able to achieve that.”

Rounding out the podium was Ronning’s CATAPULT in second and John & Molly Baxter’s VINEYARD VINES in third.

One of the most dramatic storylines of the day came out of the J/105 fleet, where Bruce Stone (San Francisco, CA) and Bill Zartler (Houston, TX) were tied going into the final race. Stone and his wife, Nicole Breault, are both match-racing veterans. However, they opted to start clean and sail fast in order to beat their competition, a strategy that ultimately paid off. Zartler ended up in foul trouble with another boat, resulting in him being disqualified from the day’s second race.

Stone’s win at the Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta at Marblehead Race Week is part of a larger rivalry between the two boats. Stone edged out Zartler at the J/105 North Americans in Harbor Springs, MI, last year, so Zartler will be looking for revenge at the North Americans in September in Marblehead. “The boys from Texas always sail well,” says Stone. “We were happy to come away with the championship this time, but we know we haven’t seen the last of those guys.”

Behind Stone’s GOOD TRADE in first, was Ken Horne’s FINAL FINAL, sneaking into the silver after Zartler’s DEJA VOODOO crew had to count a 16th in the last race.

In the J/24s, Beck Spencer’s SEA BAGS WOMEN’S SAILING TEAM took the win for the all-women’s team. Second was Martin Gallagher’s SHIFTY took the silver, while John Wells’ SHELDON J took the bronze.

Things changed around a bit in the J/80 class. Winning was Sam Cushing’s THE PARTY TREE, followed by Brian Gibbs’ BLIND FITH just one point back. Rounding out the podium in the bronze position was Jason Viseltear’s UPSETTER.  For more Helly Hansen Marblehead NOOD Regatta sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.