Steel Away Nabs 105 Title at Marblehead NOOD

Action from Day 4 of the Lands' End NOOD Regatta at Marblehead Race Week.

Marblehead NOOD Sunday
Stuart Streuli

MARBLEHEAD, Mass.-Two weeks before the 2005 Lands' End NOOD Regatta at Marblehead Race Week, Peter Morgan was without a boat and wondering whether he'd sitting this year out. He'd recently sold his Sonar and upgraded to a J/105, but wasn't sure the boat would be ready. "My goal was to buy the boat and get it here on time," he said. "It was my 20th Race Week and I didn't want to miss it." Morgan, who owns the boat with his son Doug, made the first start and then surprised himself, and the competition, by winning the first three J/105 races. He slipped to 10th in Race 4, but rebounded with a fifth in Race 5. Heading into the final day of the regatta was tied on points for first with James Flanagan. Any thoughts of a championship almost disappeared at the top of the first beat as the Morgan team found themselves in the cheap seats. "We were in eighth around the first mark," said Peter Morgan, "but we dug back. We got to second." Second, however, in this case wouldn't be good enough, as Flanagan was in first. So on the final run, the Morgans, sailing Steel Away 3, did the only thing they could do. "We split from him and we sailed a really bad angle until we got to the breeze," said Peter Morgan. That new wind was enough to push Steel Away 3 past Flanagan's Achiever V and win the regatta. Aside from his crew, Peter Morgan credited the local J/105 fleet, which helped his team get up to speed very quickly, and the patron saint of anyone sailing in light and shifty conditions, Lady Luck. "I've been in his position before," Morgan said of Flanagan. "He sailed really well and we got a break on the last leg." It wasn't nearly as hair-raising a finish for Sonar sailor Bill Lynn, who was winning the regatta after two days and five races. When the breeze failed to show up this morning and it got to the point where there would only be one race, if any, Lynn and his team were assured of the victory. Since they were tossing out a fifth, and had a five-point lead over Stew Neff and Henry Brauer in second, there was no was anyone in the fleet could catch them. They didn't need to sail the race, but Lynn and his crew, which included Chris Hudstader, Doug Sabin, and Lynn's 10-year-old daughter Hannah, decided to sail the final race and "stay out of everyone's way." They did that nicely by winning the race. For his winning performance in the regatta's biggest fleet, Lynn also received the Norman Cressy Trophy and was named the Sunsail Overall Champion of the Marblehead NOOD. The latter gets him a week's stay in a villa at Sunsail's Club Colonna in Antigua. The former didn't come with quite as exotic a prize package, but was very significant nonetheless. "I've been coming to Marblehead Race Week since I was a kid," said Lynn, who grew up on Long Island. "It was my parents' favorite regatta, they'd come here and sail their Etchells. At first I didn't sail, and when I got old enough I'd crew. It was one of the reasons I wanted to move to Marblehead when I got a job in Boston. The people here were so nice. They'd do anything for you. And Norman was once of those guys. He's very competitive. He'll go out and kick your butt on the course, but he'll do anything for you off it." The other big award of the regatta, the Leonard Fowle Trophy, was awarded to long-time race committee volunteer Susie Schneider, both for her work on the Halfway Rock Line during the NOOD Regatta and for her work with the Marblehead Junior Race Week, which preceded the main event and celebrated its 50th anniversary. The J/24 class is always one of the most competitive at the Marblehead NOOD and this year it boiled down to a two-boat battle between a pair of out-of-town teams, Brian Bissell's crew on Preppy J and Will Welles' team on USA 3145. After a little bit of pre-start maneuvering, both boats got off the line cleanly. "We ended up both starting at the committee boat," said Bissell, who hails from Annapolis and was steering a J/24 in a regatta for the first time. "They were the first to tack off and we went to cover them. We both got creamed by the guys on the left and we were both pretty deep at the windward mark." Welles had a slight edge, rounding one spot in front of Bissell's team. He quickly jibed around the mark. Bissell chose to stay on starboard. "We saw breeze on the right side," he said, "and two of the local boats heading out there, so we thought it might be a good idea." They found enough breeze to slip past Welles by the leeward mark. "It got really easy from there," said Bissell, "as right after we got ahead of them a 30-degree windshift turned it into a parade and there really wasn't any way to pass anyone." Unlike Bissell, Swampscott's Arthur O'Neill's been sailing his boat for a long time, nearly 20 years. During his two decades in the venerable Town Class, O'Neill has won the Race Week title once, but has more seconds and thirds than victories. This year he was able to add another first to his resume. His formula for success was fairly straightforward. First he sailed all the races. He also credited, "tacking on the shifts and keeping our fingers crossed." He was pressed hard by Martha Rice Martini, who won four of the final five races-the fleet sailed seven races over four days-but was able to hold her off and was thankful for both the good result and the fond memories. "It's interesting to race against people who are deep friends. We all know each other's habits and styles." he said. "It's competitive out on the water, but then we have a friendly beer and talk about the race that got away." O'Neill was speaking about his class in particular, but those sentiments could apply to nearly every class at the Marblehead NOOD.