The Lowdown From Larchmont

Sportboats bring some new spice to the Larchmont NOOD as a tropical storm holds off long enough for three races.

The crew of Richard Palmer's Beneteau 36.7 Breakaway starts down what turns out to be a long, shifty run, full of no-wind holes.

The crew of Richard Palmer's Beneteau 36.7 Breakaway starts down what turns out to be a long, shifty run, full of no-wind holes.Dave Reed/sailing World

Sunday, Sept. 7: How do you like your shifts, sir?

Now were talking: sunshine, a light northerly with just enough punch to it, and flat water to make it easy on the boatspeed. Today's conditions were a welcome from yesterday's gray drifter here at the Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Regatta in Larchmont (N.Y).

Note, however, the wind direction. Take a northwesterly, put it on Long Island Sound, and you're bound to get all sorts of wackiness. We're talking 60-degree shifts from virtually nowhere (unless you were "there"). And any boats that got anywhere near an early layline or a corner to avoid the windless hole in the middle often found themselves hung out to dry or buried in deep-six corner.

For J/105 defending champions Joerg Esdorn and Duncan Hennes, co-owners of Kincsem, it was a nerve-wracking day to be defending their overall lead. Boats they'd needed to be covering were regularly splitting sides.

In the start of the first race they got shut out at the committee boat end and had a second row start, but were able to quickly get on port tack as planned. This race worked out to be a second, a solid finish, but the overall lead was up for grabs with Damien Emery's Eclipse winning the race and moving into contention. A fourth in the next race had Kincsem's crew doing serious math down below as they tried to figure out how to cover and who to beat.

"The shifts were 60 and 70 degrees," says Hennes' tactician. "Three races in a row the wind was left, so we finally went hard left, and the wind went 50 degrees right." They came out alive, however, and finished the last race with third, barely squeaking past one boat

"We had that debate about whether we focus on the boats we had to beat or just sail the race," says Hennes. "It was impossible to cover the guys going to extreme sides of the course."

Brian Keane's Savansana came on strong with a pair of seconds and a win in the last race, and had Kincsem not beat that one boat at the end, Savansana would have taken the series on the tiebreaker. Third overall was Damien Emery's Eclipse, which had 1-2 finishes, but posted an eighth in the second race. After fouling a boat and doing his penalty turns, Emery said he knew his regatta was over-ending a six-event winning streak that Eclipse had been enjoying all year long.

The series for the 11-boat Shields fleet was just as competitive, and here, Com Crocker and Kurt Weisenfluh's Rascal emerged as the top boat with no race worse than a fifth in the six-race contest. In the races they won, they won big time, by big distances, and this, says Crocker is all due to his crew, with which will be traveling to the class's nationals in Oxford, Md., in October. He says it's the best crew he's ever taken to Nationals, and his win here in Larchmont was a good confidence boost.

"It's so great to have a crew like these guys, so I don't have to do anything but stare at the tell tales and concentrate," says Crocker. "It's nice to have confidence that the tactics are good and the sails are trimmed right. These guys are great. It was hard to figure out what was going on out there."

The 13-point win also netted Crocker and Weisenflugh the regatta's overall trophy, and an invitation to the Caribbean NOOD Championship in November.

For those of you who haven't found your way to the results, here's a quick round-up of the other individual class winners: Roy Halvorson's Crossbow aced the Beneteau 36.7 fleet with five wins; Rick Lyall's Storm locked up the J/109 division by 2 points; Mike Bruno and Tom Boyle's Wings snatched the J/122 series after winning two of three races today; Jacob Doyle's Privateer won the two-boat Level 22 division, and J.J. McDonald won all three races to win the J/27 division. Click here for complete results.

Saturday, Sept. 6
As the last of the boats reached the safe confines of Larchmont Harbor (N.Y.), the rain switch turned on and Tropical Storm Hanna unleashed its first few inches. With it came the first of the 20-plus knot gusts that had been anticipated all day. Those competitors of the Sperry Top-Sider Larchmont NOOD who'd been hoping for some wild sailing on Long Island Sound were sorely disappointed.

Instead, under gray, sometimes ominous skies and light southerlies, the able LYC race committees managed enough races on each of the two respective circles to put scores on the board for the first of this two-day regatta. In this paltry and shifty Long Island Sound breeze there were all sorts of shifts and holes, but the Long Island sailors seemed right at home. Even a few of the regatta's out-of-towners managed to figure out which side worked best and when, or simply got lucky.

"Today wasn't really about boatspeed at all," says Viper 640 skipper Justin Scott, originally from England. "It was about being on the right [correct] side at any one time or another."

Scott and his teammates were part of a one-day Sportboat exhibition class that included four Viper 640s, two Laser SB3s, eight RS K6s, and one Open 5.70, all sailing under Portsmouth Handicap.

The regatta's sportboat class was created specifically for the Larchmont NOOD to encourage participation from (and foster cooperation amongst) a flowering 20-foot sportboat scene in the Northeast. The concept came together in the past few weeks, and thanks to class coordinators from each, the sportboat division pulled in an impressive 14 boats. It's the groundwork, for what could be a stronger sportboat fleet for next year, with the possible inclusion of the Ultimate 20 class, which is a regular at other Sperry
Top-Sider NOODs, and even the new Melges 20.

In year regatta's Sportboat fleet, however, things fell into place as expected given the conditions, with the lighter winds favoring the Vipers. Chris and Dawn Shaughnessy, with Viper designer Brian Bennett standing in at the helm, showed great poise in the conditions, winning the opener by a large margin, finishing second to Scott in the second, and then finishing third in the final race, despite a horrendously late start. That third race was won by Walter Florio's K6. Keeping close tabs on the top-two Viper teams, however, was Kaitlin Storck's Laser SB3, Team MacLaren, which finished third overall, tied with Scott. Storck had finishes of 2-4-2, and had the breeze built into the moderate range, this serious could have turned out all together different.

But Dawn Shaughnessy was ecstatic with the team's win, and said that Bennett's presence on the boat definitely had them sailing faster. "I had no idea how to roll tack the boat until today, and man, does it make a difference." Shaughnessy is from Raritan YC (New Jersey) and she and her husband got into Viper sailing after finding one for $5,000 on eBay. They trailered it to New Jersey from Colorado, and it sat in their driveway for nine months. They put a carbon rig and other upgrades into it and eventually traded the boat in for a new one. This one, says Dawn, is fast, and once they get their PHRF certificate approved they'll be terrorizing Raritan's Wednesday night fleet.

The Sportboats only raced one day, they've got their awards, and they're out of here so we won't be seeing them tomorrow, but there's a lot more action to come out of the other six fleets, many of which are relatively close in overall points. On the regatta's western circle, Joerg Esdorn's Kincesm leads the 17-boat J/105 class by only 4 points; Com Crocker's Rascal leads the Sheilds by 2. The racecourse for these two classes will have a lot more room tomorrow without the sportboat, so we should see things change, particularly at the mark roundings where all three classes regularly merged in quiet chaos.

On the eastern circle, Mike Bruno and Tom Boyle's Wings lead the five-boat J/122 class by 2 points after two races; Roy Halvorsen's Crossbow sits atop the eight-boat Beneteau 36.7 fleet after winning both its races.

Rick Lyall's Storm coughed up a potential win in the day's first J/109 race by trying to block Al Minella's Relentless at the leeward mark (Storm stalled after a hard luff, but left enough room for Relentless to round clean, tack, and win the race). But Lyall made good in the second race, winning it, and now leads the series tied with Minella. I wouldn't be surprised to see these two guys going at each other tomorrow, which according to weather forecasters should be windy and sunny. Guess it takes some tropical brew to get any serious wind around here, but we'll take it.