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2009 Sperry Top-Sider Annapolis NOOD Coverage

Having won the 2009 Sperry Top-Sider Annapolis NOOD, Brian Keane's J/105 Savasanah, can now relax. No more second place.

April 15, 2009

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Annapolis NOOD Schedule of Events

April 26

Savasanah Can Now Savasanah

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It’s official. The Annapolis NOOD is all said and done after one final hair-pulling light-air finale (click HERE FOR FINAL RESULTS). And an excellent regatta it was, especially for Brian Keane’s J/105 Savasana, which closed out the thing with the coveted overall trophy. The overall award, as all NOODies should know by now, gets Keane and a handful of his select crew a spot at the overall NOOD championship in the B.V.I. this fall.

Jeremiah T.D./Tim Wilkes photography| |Brian Keane’s Savasana, en route to its overall win.| Before the awards presentations got rolling tonight Keane was already rolling out of town himself, headed back to Massachusetts, but a handful of his crew were on hand to obligingly fill his trophy pitcher with Heineken Light. Tactician Michael Lague, who’s sailed with Keane for many years, summed up their win as simply as he could. “Good starts.”

“Last year we didn’t have very good starts, and we finished second,” he added. “Brian has done this regatta every year and we’ve always finished second. It’s great to finally win it.”

Nice! No longer the bridesmaid.

The crew that Keane assembled for the weekend wasn’t his normal starting line up, but this group certainly sailed like an A-team (which means that Keane must have an impressively deep bench). They started off the series with a 2-1-1, which Lague says gave them a comfortable start to the series. “The guys on Blow Boat (Rob Marsh) gave us a good challenge, and were looking at having to match race them in the last race,” says Lague, “but they were OCS, and that was then end of that.”

Hopefully we’ll get to Keane tomorrow and find out what makes his program tick.

While Savasana’s day ended without much drama, there was plenty of it on the J/24 circle, which drifted around until 2:30 to finally get a race off. Once they got a start off, the top boats were at the committee boat end, including overall leader Pete Levesque and second-placed Chris Larson. Both quickly tacked to port, heading to the right side where Larson’s tactician Moose McClintock says they felt there was more wind. Levesque stuck with Larson and the two drive deeper and deeper into the right corner. When the breeze went hard left, both were toast. Burnt toast.

Quantum Sails’ Tim Healy, meanwhile, who started near the pin, says he wanted to keep tabs on them, but had no idea where they were. With them out of sight, however, he was able to focus on his own race, finishing second, and snatching the overall lead (amazingly, in spite of the 35th he’d racked up in the first race of the series). The soft-spoken Healy, who has returned to the class after a long hiatus, says a lot of things came together to make this happen, and he was happy with the outcome.

Levesque, who was nailed with a Z-flag penalty anyway, filed for redress ashore but was denied, leaving the results as they were on the water: Healy, Will Welles (Welles is with North Sails, and both from Newport, R.I.’s Fleet 50), and Larson.

Their Worlds start in a few days, and more than a few people that I spoke with say that Healy is really fast right now. But the Worlds will have 30 more boats in attendance, many of them talented international teams (like the Argentineans who showed up late to the regatta and won today’s race by nearly a leg), so this regatta was still very much a warm up. What a good warm-up it was, though, and a great way to mark a remarkable Annapolis NOOD. Three days of sun, enough wind for seven or eight races, and an incredibly healthy one-design scene: economy be damned, these are good times in the sailing world.

April 25

Light, But Not Too Light

The Annapolis NOOD Regatta dodged a bullet today. The glass calm of the late morning, and the forecast for no wind whatsoever gave us visions of a day-long driftathon, but somehow that sea breeze did materialize on time (for most classes). There wasn’t much of it, but enough for every circle to put a few more races on the books.

The expected battle atop the J/24 class is shaping up nicely with young Pete Levesque’s crew on Mookie slipping into a 4-point lead over Chris Larson. Levesque is a team-racing master and hails from Newport, R.I.’s, J/24 Fleet 50 fleet, arguably the most talent-laden J/24 fleet in the country. I bet there’s quite a few in the fleet that never saw him coming. But there’s a lot more racing to go, so obviously, nothing’s locked yet.

From my photoboat perspective, the class that is showing the tightest racing (among its top few boats) are the J/80s. There’s only 11 of them, but every race thus far, boats have been overlapped at the finish, sometimes five or six of them side-by-side. The scores are proof: after five races there are only 13 points between the top-six boats. That’s good racing.

But that can easily happen in a small fleet. When you get into the J/22s, of which there are 37, it’s easy to rack up a few big-digit finishes, especially in the light winds we had to today. There weren’t many passing lanes going up the beat, and the middle was visibly patchy. Not easy stuff. In fact, take a look at Chris Doyle’s leading scoreline: they’ve yet win a race, and he’s got a pair of elevens, but those four other top-five finishes are helping out big time. The most consistent guy in the fleet has been Jeffrey Todd, but he’s carrying a 34 from yesterday. Not sure why, so I better find him under the party tent to get an answer.

There’s one more day on the tap, and there’s talk of good wind tomorrow. Fingers crossed. We could finish this regatta off with nine races. Not bad at all.

Time to join the party. I’m thirsty and my head is pounding from listening to an 225 2-stroke outboard all day long. Did I mention I don’t like powerboats?

April 24

From my perspective behind the wheel of the NOOD Regatta photo boat, it sure did look like a lot of fun today. While doing my best to get my charge in the middle of all the action without getting in the way, I was itching to jump onboard any boat that came close enough. The sailing was just that nice. Blue skies, warm sun, and a 10-knot southeasterly were pretty much as easy as it comes on the Chesapeake Bay.

From the photo boat perspective I get to see all sorts of fun stuff. Starts, mark roundings, collisions; we had it all today. But the downside is I never get to see a race from start to finish; it’s all pieces. So I couldn’t venture to retell what happened across four racing circles with 200-some-odd boats. (The scores prett much tell the story). But I can report one thing that stands out most in my memory of the day:

The new three-boatlength circle, especially at the weather mark, doesn’t exist. There was a lot of left in the breeze today, and in the bigger fleets (J/105, J/24, etc.,) there tended to be a lot more boats on the port layline than the starboard. The port-tack parades just streamed on in, boats tacking inside the zone, fouling other boats and carrying on as if nothing happened. No harm, no foul, I guess.

Ah well, when the sailing’s easy and it’s early in the season, it’s OK.

April 23

Easy Access, And the Good Dr.’s Tips

Annapolis and Newport might as well be sister cities. They pretty much look the same. And on the map they’re separated by a whole bunch of real estate, but with a 40-minute Southwest Airlines jump those miles evaporate. The sun was shining and the water was blue when I slipped out of my wetsuit after a pre-flight surf this morning, and as we flew into Baltimore the water was brown, but the sun was still shining, both locations basking in the eastern flank of a big, beautiful, high.

There’s something about the sun and how it gets me psyched for a regatta. It’s the expectation of warmth and the sea breezes it will draw into the upper fingers of the Chesapeake like a Guinness pour. Sea breezes have a way of equalizing the racing, too. Thrown-together teams make fewer early-season mistakes, the sort of mistakes that get amplified as smaller headsails come on deck.

If there’s one thing I can say of the Annapolis, it’s how funky it (conditions) can be this time of year; spring rains push trickle out of creeks and rivers, mixing the water table into random eddies. And if there’s anyone who can make some sense of it all, it’s the good Dr. Walker. Annapolis’ hometown professor of tides, currents, winds, and all things tactical. Before grabbing my flight to Annapolis, I asked him for a a little local low-down. Here’s what he has to say. Ignore his advice at your own risk!

Dr. Walker’s Annapolis NOOD Cheat Sheet

1. In spring in addition to the usual shifty offshore gradient winds, Annapolis has three sea breezes – a local midday primary or secondary flow (from 155′ to 170′), an ocean sea breeze that comes across the eastern shore and in early afternoon pulls the local sea breeze left to 180′ and the famous amalgamated Bay sea breeze (off Annapolis 180′-210′, depending on the gradient flow) that combines with gradient southerlies and southwesters and may not appear until late afternoon. Occasionally the right pays on every beat as each successive sea breeze increases in velocity and veers.

2. Prolonged periods of calm often ensue at midday as the secondary local sea breeze lifts dying northerlies and westerlies from the surface. The local sea breeze funnels preferentially along the surface into Bay tributaries such as the Severn River while thermal turbulence brings the last vestiges of the offshore gradient wind to the surface to leeward of promontories.

3. If an intermediate zone of calm between the gradient wind and the secondary sea breeze develops, (Two Winds Simultaneously) determine in which wind the next mark lies and head for that wind – toward the Severn River and the onshore sea breeze if the next mark is in the sea breeze and toward (to leeward of) the land and the vestiges of the offshore gradient wind if the next mark is in the gradient wind.

4. The change in the direction of the tidal current has little to do with the times provided in the current tables. It changes first inshore; the beginning of the ebb may not be evident on the moored cargo ships until 2 1/2 hours later. Current velocity is rarely greater than 0.5 knots anywhere except following prolonged, strong northerlies, when the subsequent flood is increased or prolonged, strong southerlies, when the subsequent ebb is increased.

5. The strongest current in the area is the ebb (particularly after a strong southerly) and the strongest location of the ebb is over the shallow flats that protrude into the Bay to the east of Hackett’s Point – where the flow (from 1-1.5 knots occasionally) is stronger than farther offshore in the Bay.

April 22,

The M24 Migration Continues

With a record-setting Charleston Race Week now concluded, the caravan of trailerable boats has made its way north to the Chesapeake, which means the invasion of the Melges 24s. Like the J/24 class, the 24s will host their world championship in this same venue (in October), so this is an important stop. I checked in with the International Melges 24 Class Association’s Joy Dunigan, who reminds us that the Annapolis vicinity has always been “a hot bed for Melges 24 strength and class growth.”

This year we should expect the same, she says, especially with a bunch of notable teams now signed up. She walks us through the list:

– The powerhouse husband and wife team of Peter and Kristen Lane on Brickhouse 623 and 539 from California. On board look for Brian Hutchinson, Mark Strube, Mark Ivey, Johnny Goldsberry, Scott Norris and Matt Noble. The Lane’s have been traveling with their Melges 24s for more than a year and a half – building up to the 2009 World Championship in October. In 2008, Kristen was 3rd overall.

– Simon Strauss is the reigning co-Corinthian Melges 24 National Champion.

– Othmar Mueller Von Blumencron is a past 2007 Fullpower Melges 24 Corinthian World Champion.

– USMCA Southeast District Governor Steve Kopf is a very strong contender, a past Melges 24 Gold Cup Champion and back-to-back Southeast Regional Champion in 2007-2008. Definitely one to watch this weekend in Charleston.

– Reigning Melges 24 World Champion Lorenzo Bressani at the helm for Lorenzo Santini’s ‘Uka Uka Racing’. The crew on board not be the same line-up as in Sardinia last June, however will be a tough team to beat. They won ACURA Key West 2009 by a comfortable 7-point margin.

– Former Melges 24 North American Champion Argyle Cambell is ramping up his program for the Worlds also, with the addition of Andy Burdick as tactician.

– Pieter Taselaar – just won the Miami Grand Prix in the Melges 32, has chartered a Melges 24 with Jeremy Wilmot calling tactics for the Annapolis NOOD.

This is part of Pieter’s training leading up the the Audi Sailing Series Events No. 3 (Scarlino) & 4 (Cagliari), then the M32 Worlds in Sardinia.

The Annapolis NOOD will officially kick-off the Northeast racing season, and it’s one of 30 nationally-ranked U.S. Melges 24 Championship Series events.

Man, this is going to be fun to watch, and the forecast just keeps getting better.

April 20, 2009

It’s Monday morning up here at the Sailing World offices, and my legs are sore, sore, sore from an afternoon of straight-leg hiking (OK, straight in spurts). Yesterday was the last official day of Laser Fleet 413 frostbiting, but the season really concludes this coming weekend with the big Pete Milnes Regatta. As much as I’d love to have another serving of humble pie (served up in heaping portions by the great Ed Adams), I’ll be missing out on the fun as I head south for the Sperry Top-Sider Annapolis NOOD Regatta, which kicks off with registration on Thursday afternoon. This one’s going to be fun. Real fun.

Our NOOD Regattas event manager Valerie Mey delivered her updated registration numbers this morning, which has topped off at 265 entries. This is about on par with the typically strong Annapolis turnout. But the good news is not necessarily about the numbers; it’s about the composition. Every single fleet is one-design (as opposed to other NOOD venues, which include PHRF and Level fleets), which makes this one a straight-up one-design event, just as the NOOD was intended to be when it was launched long ago.

In advance of Friday’s first races, I’ve asked around to the respective fleet captains for some insight on what we might see. Keith Mayes, reporting in from the Beneteau 36.7 fleet, tells us that last year’s Beneteau 36.7 NOOD winner Jim Keen (Foxtrot Corpen), from Solomons Island, will be back to defend his title. “He can expect tough competition from Art Silcox (KA’IO) who was the CBYRA 36.7 High Point Champion in 2008 and 2006, but this fleet is packed with talent and history shows that anyone of the boats can run up front,” says Mayes.

Mayes, himself, admits that his team on Jubilee did not fare well at last year’s NOOD, but had success at other events in 2008, so he will be looking to improve and keep pressure on Keen and Silcox. Pete Firey (Pegasus), Jeff Caruso (Shock Wave) and Jim Kershaw (Team Aegis) will be looking for consistency–all have fast boats and good crews, he adds. And the fleet will also be keeping tabs on the newcomer, Bruce Kissal, on board First Look, to see how he and his crew from Herrington Harbour are getting a handle on the new ride.

Tink Chambers, of Stagg Yachts Inc., reminds us that the Farr 30 class debuts in the mid Atlantic under its new name at the Annapolis NOOD with a fleet of seven boats. “With a local fleet growing and four of those boats joined by others from Chicago, Wayne, Pa., and Toledo, Ohio, we expect to see close exciting racing,” says Chambers. “The fresh name, and new constitution that changes the way regional fleets are managed are both having a re-energizing effect on this class. We are encouraged to see out-of-town boats traveling to compete at this great event and eagerly await seeing who will be the first to collect a Sperry Top-Sider NOOD winner’s trophy under the new Farr 30 name.”

Chuck Coyer, checking in from the Etchells fleet, tells us there are “four boats that have a slight edge over the rest of us mere mortals.” The list includes Allan Terhune (who is on a role this winter with wins in the Flying Scot and Thistle Midwinters). “Robert Wray will have Scott Nixon (Quantum Sails) and Mike Wolfs, which makes him another in the gifted and talented group,” he adds. “Gary Jobson hasn’t divulged the identity of his water walker yet, but the betting is on Jud Smith.

“The rest of us are capable of making any of them have to sail well to do well. With some luck about half of us could be in the top three or even win. There shouldn’t be much separation in this fleet. If the courses are less than 1 mile, then it’s really even for every race. On the longer legged courses the faster boats and sailors will have more of an advantage.”

Tomorrow we’ll hear from the Melges 24, and Alberg 30 classes, as well as the C&C 115s, which have an impressive 10-boat turnout, including a unique team from North of the Border.

Plus, on Wednesday, I’ll pass on local legend Stuart Walker’s five tips to dealing with the Chesapeake Bay. No one knows it like the Good Doctor.

P.S. How’s this for a NWS forecast? For That Big H that’ll likely sit overhead will wreak light-air havoc or deliver three days of easy sea breeze sailing. Too early to say.

Thursday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 62.
Thursday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 44.
Friday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 76.
Friday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 53.
Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 78.
Saturday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 55.
Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 77.

-Dave Reed

April 15, 2009

Keen observers can tell that the Sperry Top-Sider Annapolis NOOD is drawing near when the stress meter of the Annapolis YC’s racing manager, Linda Ambrose, starts redlining. Ambrose and her squad are putting the pieces into place for what should be a record turnout next week. Let’s hope that feisty J/24 fleet doesn’t peg that meter past redline. In advance of the regatta, we’ll be looking at the various classes and see what’s happening. Let’s start with the J/24 class with brief from our friend and Boat of the Year judge Chuck Allen:

The Allen Report

Walter Cooper| |Chuck Allen gives the unofficial J/24 pre-worlds a thumbs up.| The 2009 Sperry Top-Sider Annapolis NOOD Regatta will have the largest J/24 fleet in recent history due to the upcoming Worlds being held only a week after the event. With 50 boats signed up, we can expect at least 10 more to jump into the regatta by game day for sure. There are at least that many boats sitting in Baltimore in containers ready for pick up, coming in from Europe and South America. Most everyone planning to sail in the Worlds will use the NOOD as their tune up (of course some cannot make both), then take a couple of days off and roll right into measurement, which will take all of the four days allotted, seeing that 82 boats have registered for Worlds.

You know things are going to be good when the local Fleet 8 asked for a tuning day/clinic a couple of weeks ahead of the NOOD…North Sails One Design answered the call and held a racing clinic over the weekend. Will Welles, Alan Terhune, Charlie Enright, and I all attended, sailing on different boats, going through many starts, tacking/jibing drills, short course races, and even helping out the Annapolis YC’s race committee by handing off the fleet so they could practice a couple of “mocked up” races in preparation for NOOD and Worlds–it all worked out very well. The weather was raining and cold, but Fleet 8 did not care, spending all day on the water and debriefing back at the AYC afterward, showing their drive to perform well in these upcoming events.

Scouting some of the favorites to sail well at NOODs, you automatically have to assume that any team that performed well in the last two seasons at any of the major J/24 regattas will be in the hunt, not to mention the skippers that have already won a World Championship. And yes, there are past world champs sailing at the NOOD–either driving or crewing. We’ve got Chris Larson and Anthony Kotoun, and anytime these guys are on boats, trophies usually follow.

Tim Healy is sailing really well and is quite fast in J/24s; he could easily be on the podium. Will Welles, who has been trading off trophies with Tim and won the J/24 ECCs (in Annapolis), is another to watch for sure. Local Mark Hillman is very good and has a great team that has been sailing together over the last two years– he can win any J/24 regatta he enters. Then there are the Zaleski Brothers. Everyone who sails J/24s knows these guys; they actually won four events in a row back a year and a half ago, which is really hard to do. Watch out for them. Tony Parker, who won the NOOD last year, is another favorite, as is Mike Ingham, who has sailed these waters many times and brought home lots of trophies to Rochester.

There are a bunch of Chucky’s Dark Horses to watch: Tom Barbeau from Canada, Pete Levesque and Charlie Enright, both from Bristol, R.I., are both awesome J/24 sailors and can pull off a string of good scores. Kiki Werner, from Rochester, sailed really well at the Midwinters and can get launched big time, not to be caught. Then, of course, you have those fast, unknown foreigners that you notice quickly after the first day of sailing when you look up and see them winning the regatta. The 2009 Annapolis NOOD will be one of the best ever that I can remember; we can’t wait to get down there. Actually, our boat is already sitting at the AYC. It’s just waitin’ for us. See you all there.

Photos: 2008 Annapolis NOOD

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