Caribbean NOOD 2011
Todd Fedyszyn, a sailing coach at the St. Petersburg YC (Fla.), beamed with satisfaction as he and his crew Genoa Fedyszyn, Eric Bardes, Steph Karidas, and Doug Weakley sauntered forward from the crowd to collect their earnings as the 2011 Sperry Top-Sider NOOD Regatta overall champions.
Maybe his ear-to-ear grin was the result of four days of inter-island racing in the British Virgin Islands, or maybe it was the five straight days of attempting to “win the party,” too. It could have been the experience of snorkeling with turtles that afternoon, or the quality anniversary sailing time with his wife Genoa and their shipmates on the Spoony Tactics. I doubt, however, it was one contributing factor that had him smirking that night —and all week long for that matter. It was the combination of them all.
“I guess we got the fast boat,” said Fedysyzn, of the 44-foot Sunsail charter boats that were granted to seven competing teams, one each from St. Petersburg, San Diego, Seattle, Annapolis, Detroit, Chicago, and San Francisco (Marblehead winner Bill Lynn was unable to attend). “But it was great to sail against and meet everyone from other NOOD regattas. This is obviously a really good group of sailors, and the racing was excellent.”
Fedyszyn and his teammates, which earned their invitation to the Sperry Top-Sider Caribbean NOOD Championship by topping their J/24 division at last February’s St. Petersburg NOOD Regatta, started out by controlling all three of the Caribbean regatta’s buoy races, conducted on the waters just outside Tortola’s Road Town Harbor in twin-wheeled, jib-and-main Sunsail 44is.
When prompted by the race committee to share speed tips with the rest of the fleet in advance of the second day’s race, Spoony Tactics‘ collective response, over the VHF, was to “drink a lot of Mount Gay, keep you weight aft (facetiously—I think), and “don’t tack.”
They continued their streak in the second day’s distance race to the front door of the Bitter End Yacht Club, a 10-mile or so race from the morning’s snorkeling spot, The Baths. At BEYC, Genoa Fedyszyn owned the Laser racing portion, and on the long-distance race from Virgin Gorda to Jost Van Dyke the following morning, _Spoony Tactics _led wire-to-wire, mathematically locking the series with the last race to spare.
While they dominated the racing with good sail trim and conservative tactics, they also paid close attention to their thirst, polishing off countless handles of Mount Gay Rum, as many liters of mixers, and cases of beer. Ice was always at hand in the cockpit table storage compartment while racing. Staying thirsty, I’m told, was never a problem.
While Spoony Tactics aced the scoreboard (and the party, says crewmember Doug Weakley), others teams in the seven-boat fleet were left to fight for scoreboard scraps, enjoying close finishes and extremely narrow margins on the scoring sheet.
Bruce Stone’s team from San Francisco rallied after a tough start in the buoy races. It took a few laps for Stone and his able crew to figure out the nuances of their boat. A thorough tie-up job of their dinghy for the distance races did them well (by rules the dinghy must be towed, with some a potion of it “in the water” at all times). Stone’s squad hung its dinghy from the backstay, leaving only an inch or two of the RIB’s port tube dragging behind. Their best finish was a close second in the shortened race to Jost van Dyke. Maybe it was Stone’s homemade olive bread baking in the oven that did the trick there, and ultimately earned them second overall.
Annapolis’ entry, led Thomas Klok, along with Will and Marie Crump, were a little slow out of the starting gate, but finished third overall after learning the ways of massaging speed out of a charter boat laden with provisions, clothes, and full fuel and water tanks.
Chuck Bayer’s team Grizzly, representing Detroit, rotated crew from its “mother ship,” and was a strong contender for second overall midway through the regatta. But in the race to Jost van Dyke, they tried to cut the corner at Guano Island, got stuck in a windless hole, and had to turn on their engine to avoid being pushed onto the rocks by heaving ocean swells. The retirement cost them critical points, and gave them an eventual fourth-place overall finish, but Bayer shrugged off the withdrawal. The early retirement got them down the track sooner to their next destination where a hearty meal prepared by the team’s hired chef awaited.
Fifth-placed Team San Diego came armed with the youngest set of competitors the Caribbean NOOD had ever seen. Steve Ernest’s newborn daughter, and four-year-old son, Oliver, couldn’t pull ropes or steer, but they took to the racing like seasoned pros. Perhaps the lightweight crew contributed to their speed in the week’s light winds, but being shorthanded didn’t stop them from putting in a solid performance. Most importantly, said Earnest at the conclusion of the regatta, Oliver learned to swim on the final day—a proud and important moment for young Papa Ernest.
Harry Dursch’s Seattle entry somehow drew the short straw and was assigned what they deemed the slow boat of the fleet (there always seems to be one), but didn’t dwell on their handicap. They kept their spirits high with flowing spirits and happily explored the B.V.I.’s natural wonders during mandatory snorkel stops. Sixth place, in the end, was fine by them.
And bringing up the rear in the standings is Chicago’s overall winner, led by skipper Scott “Breezy’ Bruesewitz. Bruesewitz’s Milwaukee-based Team RedRum could never put a finger on the source of their slows, but at the Caribbean NOOD championship (as anyone who has participated would agree), at the end of the week, it’s not about who won or lost, or how badly you “lost.” It’s about good times with friends, of fine, warm, and easy Caribbean sailing. But most of all, it’s about the memories made along the way. And the forgettable memories too, like the one your skipper’s “Bayer”-white ass soaring from the deck of the Willie T’s.