Chuck Bayer and the crew of Grizzly won the first five races en route to a runaway victory in the 11-boat Beneteau 36.7 division, earning first-place overall at the 2011 Sperry Top-Sider Detroit NOOD. The overall title is a long time coming for Bayer, a die-hard NOOD racer who has won his division several times in the past, but never received the invite to compete in the Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Champship, which takes place each November in the British Virgin Islands, courtesy of Sunsail.
Shortly after the awards, I dragged the winning team out of the tent and borrowed them for a few questions while they waiting for the real prize—a pitcher of Hummer cocktails from famed Bayview YC bartender Jerome Adams. Besides Bayer, who owns and drives the boat, the Grizzy team includes tactician/ main trimmer Carl Kuspa, trimmer Bob DeClerk, bowman Kevin Thomas, mastman Colin Bayer (Chuck’s son), pitman John Maxwell, and floater Joe “Popeye” Henderson.
**So you finally won the big prize. Feeling pretty good?
**Chuck Bayer: I’m elated. We’ve come so close, but [the Beneteau 36.7] has never been picked as being the best fleet. We won three San Diego NOODs and four Annapolis NOODs, and we’ve won here three or four times. But it’s been a long drought where we haven’t been picked. So we’re so happy to be picked…because we’re all going, and we’re going to win down there! We’re looking forward to the Caribbean, because we’re competitive, but we do this as an avocation, and it’s fun for us. The whole point for us is having fun.
Joe “Popeye” Henderson: The most important thing is we want to have fun. And losing is not fun! [Laughter all around]
CB: Everybody on this crew has sailed with me at least two or three NOODs, if not five or six, or 15.
Bob DeClerk: I sailed with Chuck 48 years ago as a junior sailor, and I’ve done every NOOD since 2004.
CB: And we do three or four NOODs a year!
**How did you go about winning the first five races?
**Carl Kuspa: It wasn’t our starts!
CB: Nothing about the starts went well.
CK: We just had flat-out boatspeed. Our starts sucked, thanks to me, but we were flat-out fast, and Chuck finally listened to us!
To have a run like that, you’ve got to have a pretty good idea about what’s going on with the breeze, don’t you?
CK: We went the way we wanted to go all but one leg in those first five races. We got lucky the first beat of the first race, had a bad start and got shot to the right, and that paid out for us. But outside that, we did what we wanted.
CB: We were first to every mark the first day.
CK: The second day we were OCS, but we were still first to the mark. Then, when they took tactics away from me, we finally had someone beat us around the mark, you [fair-weather friends]!
CB: And that’s a quote!
John Maxwell [Addressing Bayer and Kuspa]: You guys can bitch about each other all you want, but, over the years, whenever the two of you are in the back of the boat, we’re higher and faster.
**What was the most memorable moment of the weekend?
**CK: We started at the leeward end of the line, and [Dan Shriner’s] Legend, which is a good boat, starts at the weather end. We won the pin, they won the boat. We had a 10-degree right shift, and we both kept going. By the time they finally tacked, we had pinched them off!
CB: Our sails we good, our crew was good, and we just put a new coat of [Pettit] ViViD on the bottom. (I’m a big fan of Vivid, so I’ll be a testimonial for them.) We also had some luck.
CK: You know, Chuck is a good owner. Bottom job, halyards, sails, whatnot—we get it.
CB: The boat was flawlessly prepared, and everything worked. [SW] ran an article about what people do in the offseason (“How the Best Teams Prepare,” June 2011). Our boat was prepared, and we raced a month and a half ago—we came in second at the Annapolis NOOD. We were a month ahead of a lot of the boats around here, especially since we had a late spring.
**So I’ll see you in the Caribbean?
**CB: Oh, we’re coming. You might not invite us back again, but we’re coming!