Monday, May 13, 2019

Shifty, Very Grey Annapolis NOOD Regatta

J/70s sailing Annapolis NOOD
(Annapolis, MD)- After three days of racing at the Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta Annapolis, 190 teams endured light to moderate and shifty cool winds on the Chesapeake Bay and some grey skies and even drizzle for most of the regatta. It was not exactly what the recipe called for in this generally warm weather, sunny most times, regatta on the pretty Chesapeake Bay. J/Crews were out in abundance for this popular springtime event with one-design classes of J/22s, J/24s, J/70s, J/80s, J/105s, and J/111s enjoying well-run races on the Bay. Here is how it all went down off Naptown.

Day One
In the 18-boat J/105 fleet, one-design veteran Peter McChesney (Annapolis, MD) was leading the regatta before the fourth and final race of the day, but a sixth-place finish pushed him into second overall, 2 points behind Cedric Lewis and Fredrik Salvesen (Annapolis, MD). “I’ve sailed with most of my crew for 30 years,” said McChesney. “Some of us know each other from our time at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.”

A professional sailmaker and longtime one-design sailor, McChesney has won J/105 titles at past Annapolis NOOD regattas, as well as a J/105 Chesapeake Bay Championship, J/22 North American Championship and J/70 Corinthian National Championship. McChesney looks to draw on his vast racing experience to get him to the top of the leaderboard.

“We definitely left some points out there,” said McChesney. “But tomorrow, our goal will be to stay in the hunt, and if it’s close going into the last day, we’ll think about getting a little more aggressive with the boats close to us to make sure we come out on top.”

In keeping with NOOD tradition, title sponsor Helly Hansen was sponsoring two youth teams for the event. One team was comprised of local high school sailors racing in the J/80 fleet and the other is in the 30-boat J/70 fleet. Emma Snead (Annapolis, MD) skippered her team to a solid 12th-place standing after four races in the J/70s.

Doug and Amy Stryker’s J/30 TOTALED MAYHEM, of Annapolis, led their fleet after the first day of racing. “We were really happy with our first race,” said Snead. “We hadn’t practiced in the boat much because the conditions were either too light or too heavy when we tried. But I got a lot better at steering throughout the day, especially on the upwinds, which was a great feeling.”

The team’s coach, Geoff Becker, was onboard to offer advice when needed. “It was great having him out there,” said Snead. “He’s a really good coach and knows a lot about the boats, so having him was really helpful.”

Snead normally sails dinghy classes like the Club 420 and FJ for high school sailing and the larger national youth dinghy circuits. “I love one-design racing, no matter what class I’m sailing. If it wasn’t one-design, it would be a lot harder to get into sailing. Because the NOOD comes to Annapolis each year, I had the opportunity to hop on a new kind of boat with my friends and go do this amazing regatta right here in our home waters.”

Peter Wagner, owner and helmsman of the J/111 SKELETON KEY, trailered his boat from San Francisco for his third Annapolis NOOD. “We’re starting to become regulars,” said Wagner, “but we love racing in Annapolis. It’s a lot different than the conditions we get back home on San Francisco Bay, so it keeps us sharp.”

Like many of the J/111’s at the Annapolis NOOD, Wagner is using the regatta to prepare for the J/111 World Championship in Chicago in August (a light to medium air venue in the summer). “Our crew has been sailing together for a while, so everyone knows each other really well. It’s good to get the boat to different venues, especially because San Francisco is so windy.”

Wagner used a conservative race strategy to accumulate a solid first day of results. “The key was getting off the starting line clean. We were able to get out to the left side of the course, which was the place to be most of the day, except that last race, when we managed to go from first to fifth on one windshift!”
J/22s sailing Annapolis NOOD
Day Two
The competition was especially tight in the 23-boat J/22 fleet. After six races, J.R. Maxwell (Annapolis, MD) and Matt and Laurie Schubert (Annapolis, MD) were tied for first with 23 points apiece.

“I’ve known Matt since our college sailing days,” said Maxwell. “He went to the Merchant Marine Academy and I went to Tufts, so it’s great mixing it up with him years later at the NOOD. Most of our college sailing buddies have kids now, so it's a little different than the old days, but the competition is just as fierce.”

“J.R. is a phenomenal sailor,” said Schubert. “It’s really fun to be tied with him heading into the last day. There’s nine or ten boats that could win most races, so we’re really happy to be where we’re at.”

With Sunday’s forecast calling for stronger winds, there’s still plenty of racing left and Todd Hiller (Youngstown, NY) currently lurking in third place, 2 points from the top spot. “It could get sporty tomorrow,” said Schubert. “I think most of the competitors will sail their own race, but if J.R. decides to come after me, I’ll be ready for the challenge.”

On the J/80 course, tactician John Bartlett (Annapolis, MD) was racing with longtime friend, John White, who led the 23-boat fleet after six races. “The Chesapeake Bay is really localized with breeze like this,” Bartlett said. “Sometimes you’re lucky when you’re in the right spot, and sometimes things get really tough.”

Bartlett has been calling tactics for White since the 1980s, and their friendship reaches far beyond the race course. “John is a great sailor,” Bartlett said. “His preparation is top-shelf, and he’s really good at making the boat go fast, so we always have a chance.”

Though White led his class heading into the final day, he’ll have to keep tabs on Trudy Murphy (Toronto, Ont) who catapulted herself into second place with three race wins today. “They’ve been sailing really well,” said Bartlett. “Trudy is getting off the starting line and staying clean up the course. They’ve beaten us in four out of six races, so we’ll have our hands full with them tomorrow.”

The Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta’s North Sails Rally, a one-day, one-race affair for the area’s cruiser/racers, started near the entrance of Annapolis Harbor. Sailors enjoyed a multi-leg course out to the middle of the bay and back. With light winds and strong currents, the race course, although short, required acute attention to the bay’s subtle and changeable conditions.

Dan Leonard’s J/100 FLASHPOINT won the spinnaker division easily, and in the non-spinnaker fleet, Nicholas Iliff’s J/105 MUSKRAT made quick work of the race course. Iliff’s J/105, which he’s owned since 1994, is a modified version of the popular 34-foot one-design. MUSKRAT has a deeper keel and a carbon-fiber mast than the standard J/105, and the crew prefers lighter winds.

“If it’s not too breezy, we are good,” says Iliff, who credits his crew with turning in a perfect performance, particularly his brother Tony, who trims the mainsail. “Today, we saw 10 knots, which is about the maximum breeze we like before the boat gets tender. It was a perfect day for us.”

MUSKRAT had a clean start and maintained a comfortable lead for most of the race, but when the wind went light near the finish, Iliff says there was a touch of concern onboard as trailing boats closed distance.

“It was a straight-forward race, with a close reach each way, but today, we had a bit more current than we normally do. On the way back, we had to take a tack downwind, which forced us into a bit of a hole.”

With patience, Iliff and his teammates persevered for the win in what he says is a casual start to their racing season, “It was nice, easy and straightforward, so it was just a matter of good sail trim and going fast.”
 J/80 sailing Annapolis NOOD
Day Three
Top J/80 class skipper John White (Annapolis, MD) won three of eight races over three days, finishing the Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta weekend series 21-points ahead of runner-up Daniel Wittig’s TURBO SLOTH.

It was in impressive performance given the team hadn’t sailed together since October 2018 and White’s USA 1162 never finished worse than fourth place in the 23-boat fleet. White attributed his win to the collective skill of his crew, which included his son Kevin on the bow, trimmer and team boss Debbie Gosselin in the middle, and Jonathan Bartlett as tactician.

“Jonathan was on fire this weekend and had us going the right way all the time,” White said. “We had the best boathandling of any boat out there. I would get us in trouble early on and they’d get me out of trouble. The boats are shockingly close in speed, and this weekend it was current and windshifts that made a difference, as well as going fast in a straight line.”

As winner of his class, White was chosen as the Annapolis Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta’s Caribbean Challenger. He sailed in the British Virgin Islands 10 years ago, and says he won’t need much convincing to go and represent the Annapolis Yacht Club in October. Rounding out the podium in third place was the Canadians, Trudy Murphy on her aptly named FEISTY; she was tough and, unfortunately, did not have her “mojo” going on the last day, dropping down a spot after a 4-8 tally.

For Bruce Golison (Long Beach, CA), winning the J/70 fleet was a small step on the road to a larger goal. “I’m 62-years-old and still looking to win my first world championship,” said Golison. In a class defined by boatspeed, Golison and crew have spent the past three years honing their skills in the hottest one-design fleet in the country.

“We really had to keep our heads out of the boat this weekend,” said Golison. “It was shifty out there, and on our course, we couldn’t get much current relief by going to a side. We stuck to the middle most of the time and used our speed to get us out of tough situations.”

As an experienced sailor from Southern California, Golison keeps his J/70 on the East Coast to take advantage of larger fleet sizes, but he plans to take it back to California for the summer to prepare for the world championships in Los Angeles next year. “I hope I have it in me,” said Golison. “There’s not many sports that you can still be competitive at 62, but we have great focus on our team and we’re all putting in the work. We really want this.”

Behind Golison’s MIDLIFE CRISIS on the podium, it was Travis Odenbach’s HONEYBADGER taking the silver, while Ryan McKillen’s SURGE grabbed the bronze.

For Matt Schubert’s BAYHEAD (Annapolis, MD) in the 23-boat J/22 fleet, 4 points separated him and former college rival J.R. Maxwell’s SCOOBY (Annapolis, MD) heading into the final race. In the end, Schubert came out on top. “A bunch of people were in the mix,” said Schubert. “It seemed like a lot of them were so fixated on getting out of the current that they missed a few windshifts, so we did a good job of staying in phase and keeping in the pressure.”

Maxwell had been putting pressure on Schubert the entire series, and continued to do so to the end. “When we rounded the last mark heading up to the finish we knew we had it locked up,” said Schubert. “There was a big gap between us and the third-place boat, so we took a breath and pushed on to the finish. J.R tried to tack on top of us and steal our wind a few times, but we it wasn’t anything we couldn’t handle.”

Rounding out the podium seven points behind was Todd Hiller’s ESCAPE from Annapolis, MD.

James Sagerholm (Annapolis, MD) sailed his boat, AUNT JEAN, to five race wins in the four-boat J/35 fleet. “It was a lot closer than it looks on paper,” said Sagerholm. “We won a few of those races by less than a foot.”

A veteran of the J/35 class, Sagerholm has been racing his boat since 1985. His accomplishments include wins at many past Annapolis NOOD regattas and the J/35 North American Championships. “It’s great having this event come into town every year. There’s a bunch of J/35s in the area, so this is a good chance for us to get out and race.”

Behind the five-time winner in second was Roger Lant’s ABIENTOT, the only other boat to win a race off AUNT JEAN! Third place with nearly all podium finishes was Bruce Artman’s T-BONE.

In the J/105 fleet, Peter McChesney (Annapolis, MD) closed out the regatta with a first and a second to take the championship. “We sailed clean, played the shifts, and had an overall conservative last day,” said McChesney. “We didn’t do anything fancy. Our goal was to get two solid scores to finish it.”

The victory marks a reunion for McChesney’s crewmates, who sailed with each other for more years than they would like to admit.

“It means a lot to us to be able to come here and perform at the NOOD,” he said. “We had a lot of fun both on and off the water, and the conditions offered plenty of challenges. Our strategy was to stay out of trouble and start in the middle of the line. We have good boatspeed so we never had to do anything crazy to be in the mix. Once we started the last race clean, we knew we were going to win.”

Behind McChesney’s DOG HOUSE crew was Cedric Lewis & Fredrik Salvesen’s MIRAGE in second and Hugh Bethell’s JESTER in third position.

Winning the J/24 class of nine-boats for the “umpteenth” time was Tony Parker’s BANGOR PACKET. A regular on the J/24 circuit since 1978 (40+ years!), no one is going to teach ever popular “wiseman of the sea” Parker any new tricks! In fact, he’s often dispensing wisdom to the younger members of the class. Behind BANGOR PACKET, it was a hard fought battle for the silver that was, ultimately, determined on a tie-breaker at 27 pts each. In the end, it was Pete Kassal’s SPACEMAN SPIFF winning the countback over James Bonham’s SISU.
J/30 sailing Annapolis NOOD regatta
Continuing to extend their lead in the 13-boat J/30 class after the first two days was Doug and Amy Stryker’s TOTALED MAYHEM, closing the regatta with an emphatic scoreline of 1-1 to win by 6 pts. Taking the silver was Bob Rutsch and Mike Costello’s BEPOP, a past winner of the regatta.  And, collecting the bronze was Bruce Irvin’s SHAMROCK another six points back.

The J/111 class has near-parity on boat speed for most of the eight-boat fleet, and that dynamic showed in the results.  Even though they were leading for the first two days, Peter Wagner’s San Francisco team on SKELETON KEY had to continuously recover from being down in the fleet, aggressively tacking and gybing on shifts to claw their way back to the top of the standings.  Finishes in this class often had two or more boats overlapped crossing the finish line.  In the end, SKELETON KEY reveled in the breezier conditions on the last day and posted a 1-1 to win the class with 14 pts total.  Consistently chasing them hard was Rob Ruhlman’s SPACEMAN SPIFF, a family crew from Cleveland, OH.  They, too, loved the breezier finale, posting a 2-2 to take the silver.  The podium was rounded out by a local Annapolis team that is often at the top of the leaderboard- Jim Connelly’s SLUSH FUND.  Sailing photo credits- Paul Todd/ Outside Images.  For more Helly Hansen Annapolis NOOD Regatta sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.