Chicago-based Tartan 10 and Laser sailor Rick Strilky wasn't so sure he would be able to do much in the fleet of Sunsail 39s that were to be used by the seven confirmed teams for the 2007 Sperry Top-Sider Caribbean NOOD Regatta Championship in early November. He'd never driven a wheel boat before (never mind one with two wheels), and wasn't so sure the island-to-island racing that was planned for the week was much his style. But, oh boy, was he wrong on both accounts.In the buoy racing on the opening day of the regatta, against six overall winners selected from nine of the 2007 NOOD regattas, Strilky and his team were masterful, and suddenly his outlook was beginning to change. In the first of two windward/leeward races, Strilky's Team Chicago (also bent on beating Team Detroit
a Great Lakes rivalry of immense proportion) snuck away clean from the start while teams from Larchmont, Texas, Annapolis, San Diego, and Marblehead NOODs wrestled for clean air. Even with a broken mainsheet system they couldn't cough up their lead. And with a jury rig between races, they were back in business-well, sort of. Unable to coax their boat in the second race, they managed a fourth. Out ahead in this contest was Stephen Tedeschi's Larchmont NOOD-winning team, who'd only managed a sixth in the opener."I'd wish I known how competitive it would be," Tedeschi admitted later. "I wouldn't have started partying so early."Regardless, Strilky wrapped up the day with a two-point lead before heading back to the Sunsail base for a mainsheet pit-stop repair. Everyone else headed to nearby Cooper Island and Manchioneel Bay for the first round of snorkeling and kicking back.It was rise and shine the next morning for a casual 10 a.m. start, and PRO Peter Reggio sent the fleet eastward, 12 miles or so, up to Virgin Gorda, with a finish inside Gorda Sound, just off the Bitter End YC. Strilky again got away with a front-row, clean start. Team Detroit, led by Kent Colpaert, was next, followed by Tedeschi's Larchmont crew. Strilky was launched, but over the course of a 4-knot upwind grind, Tedeschi managed to sneak past Detroit and chip away at Strilky's lead. At the midpoint, they were trading tack for tack, with Strilky holding a loose cover. After one final split near the entrance to the channel, it appeared the tables might turn, but Strilky's bow passed the channel marker first with Tedeschi's nose barely touching the Chicago dinghy (yes, towing dinghies was required).Deeper into the Sound they went, overlapped. Tedeschi attempted a windward pass, but while doing so, sailed into the island's wind shadow. In the swirling winds dropping down randomly from above, Chicago kept its cool and slipped away while Larchmont parked. With Detroit sneaking in from behind with wind, Tedeschi's anxiety skyrocketed, forcing him to switch into defensive mode and save second place.As the others rolled in-skippers Charlie Pendleton (Marblehead NOOD), Tom Reese (Houston NOOD), and Paul van Ravenswaay (Annapolis NOOD)--everyone dispatched a representative for the day's dinghy racing session at Bitter End. John Richert (San Diego NOOD) and his teammates were M.I.A., but reported in late that they'd made an emergency snorkeling stop at the Baths, the B.V.I.'s tourism mecca. But their late arrival was perfect. With all of the club's Hobie Wave catamarans accounted for, Team San Diego's Allan and Meredith Block picked up a much larger Hobie Mirage (a two-person beach cat with a jib, bigger main, and trapeze). Given that they had a string of last place finishes thus far, the race committee deemed the bigger cat was a fair performance equalizer. Strilky, who was keen to race Lasers instead, rigged one up and took on the multihullers.After three races-all handily won on the water by Strilky (once the secret handicap was applied, however, it was Reese, the Corsair trimaran sailor in the fleet, who technically won the dinghy portion)--everyone was sent in to rest before the night's big spread at the club, a buffet with seemingly no end.With full bellies and more rum, it was an early night for some teams. "Some" being the operative word. As the night was winding down, Team Annapolis was winding up, and with little urging required, a round of late-night wheeled mop bucket launches off the end of the dock kept the party going.Again the next morning, Reggio herded the fleet out of bed and onto the starting line, with a repeat of Strilky nailing the start and jumping into an early lead. Tedeschi, now his main rival, was called over early, restarted, and lucked into a windshift that suddenly put him in the lead; one he'd have to defend for the next 18 miles to the island of Jost Van Dyke. Lead, that is, until Strilky and Van Ravenswaay made their passes. As the wind altogether died more than three hours into the race, Reggio shortened course at Guano Island's Monkey Point where everyone obligingly tucked in for another snorkel and chill session. A night at the legendary Foxy's on Jost van Dyke, mixed with a windy rainstorm (read dragging anchors in the middle of the night), and a squally rain-soaked start, made for a different sort of send off on the last day, this one a short sprint to the final finish off Norman Island. As the countdown rolled to zero, Tedeschi's crew was still mixing Bloody Marys, and for the first time in the event they were chasing the fleet. Luck would have it for them that the fleet would compress at the south end of Tortola as the wind died and the opposing current put them at a stand still. Tedeschi hugged the shore and snuck past to lead into Norman Island, followed by Van Ravensway, Pendleton, Strilky, and Colpaert. Calling it quits early, and resorting to the iron genny were Tom Reese and John Richert's squads.When the points were totaled, Strilky won the thing, hands down. Tedeschi took the runners-up spot, and third went to Pendleton's Marblehead squad. Rounding out the rest, in sequential order, was: Detroit, Annapolis, Houston, and San Diego.With more snorkeling, recuperating, and another rum-soaked awards ceremony ashore at the Pirates Bar, the regatta started winding up in earnest before someone made the call to fire up the dinghies and charge to Willy-T's. This reputed floating bar has sent many to the proverbial hang-over grave, including last year's overall winners, the Stork family from New York, and once again, it did not disappoint. Nothing about the week, for that matter, was remotely disappointing. The point is to have fun no matter how and where the racing takes you, and for everyone present, the Caribbean NOOD, brief as it was, took everyone to a better place.Sunsail has agreed to sponsor the overall championship again in 2008, so get ready NOOD racers-the first event in St. Petersburg is coming up next February. It's all up for grabs.