It’s Thursday afternoon and Fred deNapoli has checked out of work early to get down to the Boston YC on 1 Front Street in Marblehead. It’s Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta weekend again, and he’s got some last-minute things to do on the boat before it’s too late. The pressure — albeit light — is on him and his crew on Allegro Simplicita to defend their win in the J/105 class in 2015, the one that earned them the Wilmington Trust Leader Spinnaker.
“We’d always been the bridesmaid until last,” says deNapoli, “but this fleet is good, so it’s anyone’s game, really. It’s not going to be easy.”
Team Allegro is using this week’s Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta at Marblehead Race Week to hone its boathandling for the J/105 North Americans in Larchmont (NY) in October, so it’s also a chance to sharpen the team’s focus. They’ve been a consistent core team for six years, but he’s lost one key crewmember to the NOOD Regatta’s J/70 fleet, which has blossomed to an all-time high of 28 boats, nearly half of which are Corinthian programs, which speaks to large and talented pool of amateur sailors that sail from the Bay State’s many clubs, including the preeminent one’s here in the “Neck” . . . namely Corinthian, Eastern and its youth-run Pleon YC.
Whether it’s a statement of the health of the sailing scene Marblehead, or the draw of Marblehead’s boisterous Taverns after sailing, the fleet this year is bigger and more diverse than ever. Local Laser sparkplug Tom Dailey has served as the fleet’s Town Crier, and rustled up an impressive 44-boat gathering (as well as 19 Radials), littered with talented masters and youngers alike. While the NOOD Regatta’s origins are in big-boat offshore one-designs, it has adapted with the sport’s changing landscape: all are welcome to come, race, party, and live to sail another day.
Of course, the traditional Race Week fleets remain strong, take the 32 Rhodes 19s, for example, which has returning Marblehead NOOD overall champion Jamie Holley back to defend the usual suspects: Jim Raisides and Charlie Pendelton and the Nelsons, the Pandapas and Slattery clans, all of which can pretty much sail the boat with eyes closed by now. Joseph Fava’s Dinner Out won two of three races on Thursday to assume the overall lead (only the Rhodes and IOD fleets race Thursday, with Ian Rachel Morrison’s Tango going 2-1 to lead the IODs.)
IODs in the NOOD
The woody Town Class, which you pretty much only see around these parts, is strong in numbers, and has even pulled in a few competitors from the highlands of Vermont and the lowlands of Rhode Island.
J/70s, J/24s, IODs, Viper 640s and Etchells help bolster the total regatta number to 189 boats, that will face a challenging weekend forecast of light northerlies and bumpy seas, with a traditional Saturday Southerly to keep it interesting. “Everybody will have the same challenges,” says deNapoli, “It is what it is.”
It is summer Marblehead. The harbor is packed, Maddies is pouring, and as usual, it will be wicked. Check this space when things get underway in earnest at noon on Friday.