Bruce Stone really, really likes racing J/105s. On Saturday morning, he flew from Rhode Island, where he’d just spent the week competing at Block Island Race Week, to San Francisco, where he had just enough time to zip down to St. Francis YC and lead his Arbitrage team out to the racecourse for the first start of the Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Regatta.
In Block Island, the team was racing a borrowed boat in light and variable conditions; returning to San Francisco, they were back in a familiar boat, racing in familiar, 18-25 knot conditions. “It was like putting on an old pair of shoes,” says Nicole Breault, who calls tactics and trims mainsail. “And that’s such a good feeling. You just know when it’s happening. All the information is coming in, everyone is doing their job, and the boathandling is like clockwork. If we had to make a last-minute douse at the leeward gate, the team just made it happen.”
With flawless crew work, stellar starts, and a never-say-die attitude, the Arbitrage team put up a 2-1-2-1-2 scoreline to win the 17-boat J/105 class and earn the event’s overall prize, which includes an invite to compete in the Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Championship regatta this November in the British Virgin Islands. “There were plenty of times this weekend when we found ourselves in a tight spot,” says Stone. “At a couple of the starts, we were sandwiched between two good sailors and had to fight to maintain our lane. Other times, we’d get the slows in the heavy chop, and we’d have to make some adjustments to get back up to speed.”
In addition to Stone and Breault, the Arbitrage team includes Terry Brennan (pit), Mike Straus (trimmer), Will Madison (bow), and Marc Acheson (mast). “What makes the teamwork good,” says Breault, “is when you do make mistakes, you fix them right away.”
Stone moved to San Francisco from the East Coast in the early 1980s and has been running a bi-coastal program for the past 11 years. “We keep Arbitrage here on the Bay, and then we borrow boats on the East Coast,” he says. “We find owners who want to race but don’t have a team, or don’t have the experience, and then we bring the team, help rerig the boat, and go racing. I pay the variable costs, and they provide the boat.
“We’ve raced seven different boats in 11 years,” he continues. “A few years ago, on Power Play at the Sail Newport Regatta, we had three bullets in one day. The owner was just ecstatic. He said, ‘I’ve never been on a boat that had one bullet, let alone three in one day.’ We had him doing mast, and he just had a blast. It’s worked out really well that way.”
Stone, it seems, is one of those guys who dives into life head first. He had never sailed before moving to San Francisco, but he bought a boat and sailed 50 races the first year. He paid his dues racing IOR, moved on the the J/24, and settled into the J/105 in 1999. “It’s just a great boat for the Bay,” he says. “The 105-percent jib is perfect for the big breeze, and you can roll it up at the windward mark, which is nice. The boat is easy enough to handle, so you can focus on tactics. And you don’t need to have five 200 pounders on the rail. We’ve had 115-pounders doing bow or pit, so it’s a great boat for a mixed-sex team. Plus, compared to other similarly sized boats, you need a lot less crew, which is great for today’s economy.”
When he’s not racing J/105s, the former hedge fund manager puts his efforts towards a junior sailing program he started in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. “Sailing is really taking off down there,” says Stone, picking up the latest NOOD backpack in his collection. “The kids are crazy about these things. We often give out our NOOD backpacks as prizes for the junior regattas. They’re going to love this!”