Marblehead Etchell sailors brushed the cobwebs off their heavy air sails upon hearing a forecast that the first day of the 2001 Sailing World NOOD regatta would see winds of 25 knots or more. By the starting gun, the morning squall had dwindled to nine knots. Light, lumpy conditions soon prevailed and only nine of the 19 entries finished their first race. “We were very worried that it was going to blow,” said Etchell veteran Bill Douglas, “So we took our old sails and left the new ones on shore.”
By the time the brunt of the fleet approached the last leg of the trapezoidal course, the wind died entirely and the current threatened to pull them not only into the mark, but down the river towards Boston. After many boats spun painstakingly slow 360 degree penalty circles for touching the mark, they were faced with a leg of jibing at 120 degree angles just to maintain forward progress. Not even the exhausting conditions they experienced could deter the most traveled Etchell sailors from their enthusiasm.
“We sail down here quite often,” said Allan Gray, who made the seven hour trek, Etchell in tow, from Montreal, Canada. “It’s a great venue and the fleet is just superb. We always enjoy coming to Marblehead.” Gray and his crew were in third place when the race committee abandoned the second race. “But they made the right decision,” he said.
Other Etchell sailors were equally enthusiastic, despite a tough first day. Douglas and his crew were winning the first race until the wind stopped, and the current dragged their boat into the mark. “I’ve been sailing with the same crew for three years,” Douglas says, “And we’re never once gotten upset, never uttered a bad word. You have to be able to step back from bad luck, like if you drop your spinnaker pole in the water-there’s not much more you can do than say ‘oh well.'”
Pat Stadel won the only race of the day by being the only lead boat to opt for the right hand side of the leeward gate. “We watched Pat take the lead after clawing our way to seventh,” said Don Miller, the Marblehead Etchells Fleet Captain. “It really paid off and she just flew.”