Marblehead NOOD, Day Three: Leaders Dig In

Exclusive coverage of the 2006 Lands' End NOOD Regatta at Marblehead Race Week

Marblehead NOOD, Day Three

Michael Lovett

Marblehead, MA - On Saturday, the leaders at the 2006 Lands' End National Offshore One Design (NOOD) Regatta at Marblehead Race Week established themselves as firmly as the heat wave sweltering throughout the region.Lead changes occurred in only three of the 12 classes; five leaders have straight bullets after throw-outs: John Devine (Colgate 26), David Carlson (J/24), Ron Vener (Corinthian), Rob Gorman (Viper 640), and Bill Widnall (International One-Design).Widnall, skippering Javelin, currently holds a 13-point lead over second place, and attributes his success in the 11-boat boat fleet to consistent crew work. "I've been sailing with the crew I have this week for at least five years now," says Widnall. "The crew knows the kind of info I want at the helm, at that helps immensely. We're definitely not in training mode. We're a well-oiled machine." Despite his domination so far, Widnall and crew aren't resting on their laurels. "We've been trying just as hard every race, that's for sure," says the Lexington, Mass. native, "Today, two of the races we won we didn't have more than a one minute lead."The biggest changes of fortune occurred in the middle of the pack, where shifty conditions allowed for big gains. In the J/105 class, Bill Strauss improved upon 14th and 15th place finishes yesterday with two top five finishes today. "Yesterday was our first time sailing the boat all year," says Strauss, "So our finishes were appropriately dismal. Today we didn't make any mistakes, and we had a wonderful sailing thing called luck."On the first beat of the second race, Strauss and the crew of Heartthrob found serendipity on the left side of the course. "We got pushed to the left when something got screwed up right after the start. Once we got out there we said, 'Oh, what the hell,' and ended up making out big time."Strauss' gains today put him in ninth place in the 18-boat fleet, 22 points behind Marblehead's Peter Morgan, who leads the division.For Robert Wray, a relative newcomer in the well-established Etchells class, sailing the Marblehead NOOD has cemented his affection for the class."I've only been sailing Etchells for two years, and they've got a wonderful group here in Marblehead," says Wray, encouraged by a come-from-behind second place finish in today's first race."We rounded the first mark fourth, the bottom mark third, and the last mark second," says Wray. "The conditions were still pretty optimal for that race-that's probably why we did so well."Wray and his Stingwray crew will have more catching up to do tomorrow. Currently fifth of 25, the team trails Hank Lammens' first place boat by 11 points.Racing concludes tomorrow for all classes.