March of the Champions

At the 2006 Caribbean NOOD, the only losers were those who missed out. From our March 2007 issue

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Peter Mcgowan

At its core, a typical championship regatta is a series of parades around predetermined marks. What you can and cannot do is often dictated by lengthy sailing instructions, which might as well start off by saying, "You can not relax and have a good time." But the 2006 Lands' End Caribbean NOOD Regatta Championship in the British Virgin Islands was of the casual sort. For the six of nine invited teams who'd been selected as the overall winners of their respective NOOD events (and one party crasher, with yours truly as its skipper), there were no hard-and-fast rules, no printed sailing instructions, or fixed daily agenda. Aside from keeping the Sunsail-provided Beneteau 393s off any reefs and towing the dinghy while racing, there was only one mandate tabled before the shenanigans started. "If you take this too serious," said principle race officer Peter Reggio, pausing with his trademark scowl, "I will break every competitive bone in your body." For the most part, his warning fell on deaf ears. While there was plenty of laid-back sailing over the next three days, especially at the back of the fleet, those in attendance were champions in their own right, and regardless of beefy untunable aluminum rigs, saggy roller-furled genoas, lazy jacks, biminis, full water and fuel tanks, stern-mounted barbeque grills, dinghies, and provisioned cupboards, this was after all, a championship. At one point or another, everyone showed a little competitive attitude. Watch My Dinghy, PalTo establish an informal pecking order, and to get the buoy racing out of everyone's system early, a pair of snail's-pace buoy races went down on the opening day. Dale Marshall's family-cored Cal 25 squad, winners from Detroit, put the first point on the scoreboard-the scoreboard being the only piece of scrap paper the race committee could scrounge up on board its charter cat.In the second race, the Storck family-father John Jr., sons John and Erik, daughter Kaity, and nephew Bobby, St. Petersburg NOOD winners in the J/80, put their first notch in the win column to finish the day in the lead. Acting on a tip from his brother who regularly races charter boats in the Caribbean, Storck, a car dealer from Huntington, N.Y., came armed with a few tricks to squeeze an extra half-knot out the chubby-keeled 393, including an extra winch handle (a charter boat comes with only one), a snatch block for improving his jib leads, and a borrowed set of Spectra halyards."Once we saw the casual spirit of the event we didn't bother running the halyards," says Stork, "but having the extra winch handle was a big deal."While Reggio allowed everyone to dispatch their dinghies for the first race, he didn't extend the courtesy for the next. There was much discussion, but never a conclusion, on whether it was faster to tow the dinghy close to the stern or far enough away from the boat to forget it was even there while racing, but suffice it to say, an inflatable dinghy with outboard, towed well off the stern, could be craftfully used to create a doublewide gap to leeward in the pre-start.A Virgin Gorda Traffic JamThe slapping of a dinghy in tow during the previous day's buoy racing was a like a mosquito buzzing in Richard Reid's ear, so he and his ambitious Toronto NOOD-winning Beneteau 36.7 team decided to test Reggio's mandate by hauling its dinghy onto the boat's transom, a tactic that he swiftly denied.In its only respectable moment of the regatta, the Mystery Guests of boat No. 4, which had weaseled its way into the event as a self-invited wildcard entry, won the start of the second day's brain twisting 10-miler to Virgin Gorda, but quickly coughed up its lead to the fast-charging Storck clan, which regularly swapped crewing positions as it legged out ahead of the fleet.Over the course of the next four hours or so, the fleet spread far and wide in the patchy breeze, but somehow six of seven teams miraculously (and this is no hyperbole) found themselves stowing their beers into the steering pedestal drink holders as they crossed tacks and searched for tactical passing lanes through the reef pass into Gorda Sound. "One cross was so close we actually pulled in the dink to clear a starboard tacker that had waived us across," Stork confessed after winning.For Adrian Begley's Team Mad Dogs, J/109 winners of the Larchmont NOOD, and easy to spot in the lineup because of its SCUBA tanks lashed to the starboard stanchions, victory was within its grasp after having crawled from the bowels of the fleet late in the race, but they ran out of racecourse. Finishing second was a miracle in itself, they admitted, one that, more importantly, got them to a waiting dive boat sooner.Once docked stern-to at the Bitter End YC, one representative from each team was thrown into club's daily Laser racing. This portion, too, belonged to the Stork family with John, a talented assistant coach to the No. 1-ranked Dartmouth College sailing team, making an easy meal of the fleet before handing off the tiller to his siblings, who did the same in the North Sound's bizarre, swirling winds. Cousin Bobby, along with assorted crew from Doug Weakly's Texas NOOD-winning J/24 entry, manned the peanut gallery, a floating dock just off the pin, to egg on their teammates, and more importantly, dispense cool beer.A Worthy Pit StopTo race past The Baths, the B.V.I.'s most popular tourist destination, would shortchange anyone's trip to these islands, so putting the racing under postponement to explore the area's massive boulders and crystal clear pools was a welcome distraction and a chance to shake the lingering affects of the Bitter End bar staff's generous rum pour.Keeping with his anything-goes race rules, Reggio called for an at-anchor, high-noon start from The Baths for the closing 12-mile stage to Norman Island, located at the western tail end of theisland chain. In order to gain a head start, a few savvy teams anchored strategically and jumped out to an early lead. The exception, of course, was Begley, who pleaded with the race committee to postpone, in light of his crew being unaccounted for (diving).In the end, after a three-hour, sun soaked broad reach down Sir Francis Drake Passage, in a perfect Caribbean tradewind, Team Toronto had to do all it could to prevent Marshall and his feisty Detroit squad from stealing its only moment of triumph.Rob Gorman's Marblehead-winning Viper 640 crew, kept the girls on the sunny side while they navigated a perfect route that kept them clear of many an islands wind shadows, and pulled off a third in another round of tightly-packed finishes. Their best of the series to improved Team Marblehead's standing to fourth overall.Following a post-race snorkel at Norman Island's famous caves, an intimate awards party was held ashore at the beachside Pirates Lair. Here, Kaity Storck's victory lap with the overall winner's flag, signaled not the close of the regatta, but rather the unofficial fifth race to the ill-reputed Willy-T, a floating bar, which for the record, no longer allows inebriated female patrons to remove their clothing and jump off its poopdeck. Here, too, the junior Storks showed their competitive streak in dominating a long, relentless night of "Flip Cup." Not only did they win the regatta, but they won the party, too.

2006 Caribbean NOOD Championship1. Team St. Petersburg/Storck (8.1)2. Team Detroit/Marshall (9.4)3. Team Toronto/Reid (12.3)4. Team Marblehead/Gorman (16.5)5. Team Texas/Weakly (20.2)6. Team Larchmont/Begley (20.7)7. Team Mystery Guest (27.6)