Family Affair on Natalie J

Three generations and an improving crew took home the overall prize at the Lands' End Chicago NOOD.

Pied Piper

John Burnham

On Father's Day, it doesn't hurt to be crewing for your old man, even if he steers his 46-foot boat over early in the last race, spoiling a perfect string of firsts. And it just might help out if your old man's old man is working the runners and pointing out to your dad any other mistakes he might make. For three generations of Phil O'Neils (Jr, IIIrd, and IVth), the combination worked out so well on Natalie J that the team from Bloomfield Hills, Mich., won not only PHRF A but was also named overall winner of the 2005 Lands' End Chicago NOOD. Natalie J, a Nelson/Marek 46 named for O'Neil Jr.'s wife, had seven firsts and a third for the regatta. "I'm kind of stunned," said O'Neil, III, after the announcement. In addition to Chicago NOOD bragging rights, O'Neil won a week in a villa for 6 crewmembers next January at Sunsail Yacht Charters' Club Colonna in Antigua, where his team will go up against the other eight 2005 NOOD champions at the 2006 Caribbean NOOD Rendezvous. Of course with 14 crewmembers, O'Neil may need an extra villa, but he'll worry about that later, he said. Crediting his long-standing crew and three new sails for the weekend's success, O'Neil said, "One of the sails was a No. 2, and it was the perfect sail for Friday. Boats with a No. 1 were overpowered and others with a No. 3 were underpowered. Winning those races gave us the confidence to keep rolling on Saturday." O'Neil has owned the boat, the former Bright Star, for five years and recalled their first NOOD, a couple years ago, when their teamwork wasn't as good. "This year, going into the gate marks," he said, "we could wait until the last minute to decide which way to go and how to drop the chute." Winners were decided in the other 22 classes on Sunday, which turned out to be a light-air day, but with winds at 5 to 8 knots slightly stronger than forecast. This allowed Chicago YC's race committee to fit in two good races and still get everyone ashore early. "I know the weather cooperated," said Tom Edman, a J/105 skipper, "but I've never been at a regatta before with eight races in three days. The committee worked really hard and got the races off with never more than a 5 or 10 minute wait between races." Edman's Pronto II finished third in the 17-boat J/105 class and although he'd have liked to win, he felt lucky to get a third. "We made about all the errors you could make," he said. "We fouled in a port-starboard situation and did a 720. We couldn't get the chute down at one leeward mark and tacked around it thinking we could do a Mexican drop, but the chute filled and pushed us into the mark…we were leading that race at the time." Edman also described being over early in another race and being unable to unfurl his jib at a mark because the spinnaker halyard was tangled in it. Arthur Wong's Certare had the best day among the J/105s with a 1-2 to finish second ahead of Pronto, and Jon Weglarz's Caress capitalized on its three firsts in the first four races of the series to cruise to an easy 6-point win. One of Weglarz's crewmen also won the Lands' End Business Outfitters "Crew Makeover" prize in a Sunday afternoon drawing, so at least some of the crew will have some new clothing for their next regatta. Bob Arzbaecher's Sociable (2-3) finished behind William Newman's Aftershock (1-2) in both J/35 races on Sunday, but still won the class comfortably. Along with the other contender in the class, Larry Schell's Touch of Grey, Sociable hit the keep-away buoy in the first race and each had to do a penalty circle. "Then we split tacks," said bowman Will Fetterly, "and we caught a huge shift," which helped the Milwaukee boat recover to second, while Touch of Grey finished fourth. Along with a fourth in the last race, that dropped to third for the series behind Aftershock in the seven-boat class. The race that really decided the series, however, turned out to be the third race on Friday in which Aftershock lost a protest to Sociable over an incident involving a tack inside the two length circle at the weather mark. According to Sociable trimmer Steve Elwell, "They poked in there and got their hand caught in the cookie jar." Observed Fetterly, "There was nobody close to us at the time; if they'd just done a 720, they would've still won the regatta." Wrapping up the series in the J/30 class, Dennis Bartley, skipper of Planxty, scored a 1-3 and insisted his crew get the credit: "It's all in the crewwork. If we get behind, they never quit." By contrast, the ever-quotable Paul Dorsi, Defiant's traveling crewmember from West Haven, Conn., said, "Some skippers make it look so easy, and Dennis Bartley is one of them." Defiant, owned by Bernie Kucharski, scored its best finish of the regatta, finishing second in the first race. "We found our sailmaker and did some work on the rigging yesterday," said Dorsi, "which helped our speed today. When we crossed the finish second behind Planxty, it felt like we'd won the race." Click here for final results. The Lands' End NOOD Regatta series continues at Toronto YC on June 24th.