It was the largest Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta in recent years, with more than 200 boats in 17 classes competing in the unpredictable conditions of the Chesapeake Bay. Some of the country’s top sailing talent was represented on the water, but there was one crew that stood out among the crowd.
“The weekend was pretty wild,” said Conor Hayes, skipper of the J/80 “More Gostosa” and Overall Winner of the regatta. “Yesterday was great breeze, really shifty, and today was off the hook. Breeze on the whole time.”
Organizers select the overall winner based on the weekend's most competitive fleet, and Hayes said the conditions made for exciting challenges on the water for the J/80s. The Gilford, N.H., native attributed his success to the quick, precise maneuvering of his crew, which included his father Kevin Hayes, cousin Dan Jolda and friend Graham Philpot.
“We've been together for years and years, which was huge today. That’s the difference-maker when you're sailing in big conditions, where you have no margin of error for mistakes. Sometimes you have to throw pretty risky maneuvers in, but I was not at all concerned because the crew work was on point all day.”
As the Helly Hansen Annapolis NOOD’s overall winner, team “More Gostosa” will compete in the Helly Hansen NOOD Caribbean Championship Regatta, presented by Sunsail in the British Virgin Islands in October.
While Hayes has never been a winning skipper at a NOOD Regatta, the weekend proved successful for a couple of previous Overall Winners. The 2016 Helly Hansen Annapolis NOOD champion, Terry Flynn, once again won the J/22 class and in the J/70 class, Bruce Golison followed up his win at the 2016 Helly Hansen San Diego NOOD with another first-place finish. Still new to the class, this event was the “Midlife Crisis” crew’s opportunity to make strides in the direction of future championships.
“We were able to qualify here for the 2018 Worlds, and that was important to us,” said Golison. “It was a good regatta and a good learning experience, and kept us going on our way to what we want to accomplish.”