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Experience Not Required

John Ricci finished last in each race at the Marblehead NOOD and he had a blast.

July 29, 2002
Diane Chase

MARBLEHEAD, Mass.–John Ricci sees no reason to inflate his level of sailing expertise. He has a minimum and he isn’t afraid to admit it. “My sailing resume is non-existent,” he says. “It consists of two nights of PHRF racing last year and the four-day sail it took to deliver my boat from Annapolis to Marblehead.” But that didn’t stop Ricci from entering his newly acquired Frers 33 Whitecap in the Sailing World NOOD at Marblehead Race Week. He gathered a group of his friends, most of whom don’t know much more about sailing than he does, signed up, and trudged ahead. Today, out on the racecourse east of Marblehead Neck in a light easterly breeze and lumpy 6-foot swell was where his enthusiasm finally ran out of punch. It could get him a boat, get him out on the course, but it couldn’t get him ahead of any of the five other boats racing in his class. Unfamiliar with the workings of a spinnaker, Ricci and his team fell well off the pace on the downwind legs and finished last in each of two races.

Instead of drowning his sorrows at the party tent, however, Ricci was celebrating. “It was a blast,” says the Albany, N.Y., native who moved to Marblehead a year ago. “Plus just the experience; watching the other boats you’re going to learn. Plus you get a red hat. It’s an expensive hat, but it’s worth it.”

Aside from the ubiquitous Mount Gay regatta hat, Ricci said he will take home at least one other great memory from today. “On the second start we were glorious,” he says. “We were 15 feet from the starting boat. That was the one moment in time we realized it all worked.”

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Ricci was hoping to fly his spinnaker on the final day of the regatta. He also going to work on focusing on keeping his own boat going the proper direction. On Saturday, he says, he often found himself looking at other boats to see what they were doing and by the time he turned his attention back to his craft he was 20 or 30 degrees off course.

Excessive enthusiam seems to be a common atribribute among Frers 33 owners, highlighted by fleet president Kurt Hudson. Four years ago, says regatta coordinator Matthew Whitlock, there wouldn’t have been a Frers 33 class at this event. But Hudson has been relentlessly pounding out emails and making phone calls and has created a strong class in the Northeast, with a local fleet in western Long Island Sound in addition to the eight boats in Marblehead. In all, says Whitlock, there are 25 members in the class association. Considering that Carroll Marine only built 37 of the racer/cruisers during the production run in the mid ‘80s, this is an amazing accomplishment. They had 10 boats at their nationals two weeks ago in Newport, R.I., and hope to have a dozen at the Larchmont NOOD in early September.

Among that dozen may well by Ricci’s boat. There may not be enough time to hone his team into a podium-worthy crew, but for now, that doesn’t seem to make a lot of difference.

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