An unexpected trip east for the Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta delivers a storybook ending to one college sailing career.
By Brock Kraebel, USC ’12
We were 40 minutes into the first leg of the first race of the final day when we found out we had won the regatta. That was when the Race Committee for the Storm Trysail Foundation Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta abandoned the race and all subsequent races for the day because the breeze was too light and shifty to set a fair course.
We held off celebrating winning the J/105 division until we had put away the boat. At the dock, Max Hutcheson, our skipper, couldn’t resist taking a celebratory dive into the harbor, though he did have a little help. One by one, we all joined him as our initial silence turned into full jubilation. It was a great end to a weekend where everything seemed to work out just right.
A month earlier, Mike “Sego” Segerblom, the sailing coach for the University of Southern California, had invited me to compete in the IOR, hosted by Larchmont YC on Long Island Sound. I was in the midst of my final semester at USC. After focusing on sailing for the previous four years, I had traded afternoons sailing on Alamitos Bay for long study sessions in USC’s climate-controlled library. But I jumped at the chance to sail in one more event.
The regatta was more than just a welcome distraction. Although I grew up on Long Island, my family is rooted in New York City, having lived there for two centuries. The city that my ancestors helped shape was going to serve as the backdrop to my final collegiate sailing regatta.
After a smooth five-hour flight, the USC Offshore Team landed at New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport ready to go to work. Julian Croxall, owner of the J/105 Jouster, met us on the docks of LYC and took us out to his boat with the intention of getting in some practice. While a few teams bring their own boats—namely the nearby Merchant Marine Academy and the New York Maritine Academy—most of the nearly 50 boats are loaned to the regatta by their owners.
Long Island Sound, however, offered up more tide than wind. So we went over some basic boathandling and then headed to shore. There Julian gave us the grand tour of the yacht club. In the club’s mahogany walled library, we marveled at the lines of historical yacht replicas, such as Reliance, saw photos of the club’s various one-design fleets dating back to the early 20th century, and gazed at our reflections in the club’s perpetual trophies. I felt a connection to the sailors in the photographs and the names etched on the trophies.
Julian then led us into a small room that housed a fleet of remote control boats, which club members race on winter weekends. Then he told us that he owned two of the sizeable RC sailboats.
There were smiles all around the moment Julian’s two RC boats hit the water. We quickly set up a match-race bracket and started racing. Each sailor was given a four-minute warm up period, followed by a one-minute start for a windward-leeward course. There were moments of laughter, some oooh’s and ahhh’s, and some heckling on the dock. Julian and I did our best John Madden impressions as we narrated the intense on-water action. Coach Sego emerged victorious, something he didn’t let anyone forget for the rest of the trip.
Julian and our team bonded quickly, which our results reflected. I think Julian saw how serious we were taking things, and he matched that. When we went to sign-in for the first day of racing, Julian was nowhere to be found. A club member informed us that he had beaten us to the mooring. He had arrived early to scrub the bottom, tune the rig, and go over every detail on the boat. He even had coffee for us. His preparation, as well as our pre-race tune ups, gave us the confidence we needed to win. I don’t know if it made a quantifiable difference in our boatspeed, but the mental edge we gained made us faster and allowed us to live in a tight lane off one start, and ultimately put us at the top of the fleet. After a full day of racing on Saturday and then Sunday’s aborted race, the team came off the water happy, and the owner came off the water ecstatic. What could make this weekend any better?
As I headed to the club to dry off after our dip in the harbor, I stopped dead in my tracks. My parents were standing right in front of me. They hadn’t even hinted about coming to watch the regatta. My father had heart surgery a week earlier, so I wasn’t expecting to see them at all. I couldn’t have been any happier; my parents never made it out to the West Coast to watch me race during my time in college. Although my parents weren’t able to watch me sail in this regatta either, they were able to see our team pick up trophies for finishing first in the J/105 division and third overall.
In junior sailing, I was embarrassed when my dad would take photos of my friends and me during awards ceremonies. But I didn’t mind in the least when my dad broke up the crowd at the awards ceremony, on the front lawn of Larchmont YC, to take my team’s picture. In fact, I loved it. The photo’s been on my Facebook profile ever since.
The author (third from the right) was a four-year member of the University of Southern California sailing team and a winner of the Pacific Coast Collegiate Sailing Conference sloop and dinghy championships. He sails regularly on Long Island Sound on One Ring Circus, a Quest 30.
Sailing the Radio Waves
By Elizabeth Dorr, Williams College ’12
The moment, Brian, the owner’s representative, stepped on board Shaun Ensor’s Farr 395 Fearless, he didn’t even mutter a hello before clambering below deck and turning on the radio full blast. The Williams team all looked at each other out of surprise for a moment, but smiles crept across our faces, and we knew right then this was going to be a fun weekend at the Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta.
The radio remained on at full volume for the rest of the weekend, regardless of whether we were racing or not. Set to the “Classic Vinyl” satellite station, Mr. Ensor knew every word to every song and proceeded to sing along from his perch back aft or down below for the entirety of the weekend. We all sang along on long upwind beats and rested our eyes between races to Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”
From the start, we decided as a team to have fun first and be competitive second. The Williams Sailing Team operates as a club sport with a minimal budget from the college and a fleet of boats almost as old as our freshman. We teach people how to sail as well as foster a competitive race team that can keep up with the larger programs we sail against in NEISA. Going into the IOR this year, our team was nearly half new freshman with very little big boat experience. We embraced this weekend as a chance to reward our hard work in the season thus far, have fun, meet new people, and learn as much as we could about big boat racing. Our goal was to be in the solid middle of our fleet. Because we knew were at a disadvantage from the get-go, we weren’t going to take ourselves too seriously. After wearing purple cow print pinnies, we couldn’t look that much more ridiculous belting out classic rock hits at the tops of our lungs.
Keeping the tunes playing in the background helped to ground us in why we were here: to have fun and learn something new. It kept the stress level low and spirits high, and low and behold, it paid off! We showed steady improvement Saturday and were really excited to keep up the pace on Sunday. The one race that got off but was finally abandoned on Sunday was our best yet. We got lucky out on the left side of the racecourse, and rounded the windward mark first in our fleet. However, with the wind dying and shifting, we didn’t make the offset and had to douse the spinnaker and spin around to make it. We quickly made up ground, passing the few boats that took advantage of our snafu at the offset, and were in the lead when the race was abandoned. We were all crouched to leeward, silent, only the radio blaring in the background, keeping us positive as we slowly crept past those boats downwind. If only that race hadn’t been abandoned! I truly believe that the radio helped us maintain a relaxed and positive attitude, and it really started to pay off, even if the wind wasn’t in our favor.
It’s little things like the sing-a-longs to the radio that really make college sailing fun for me. Oftentimes, I feel like other teams take themselves way too seriously, and while being competitive is important, you often do better when not so stressed, and having fun. The Williams team is great at appreciating the small things, and that’s why I love my teammates so much. As my last fall sailing season comes to a close right now, my most vivid memories of college sailing are not scores and races, but team parties, meeting other sailors at regattas, restaurants we ate at after starving all day on the water, prizes I won at the IOR raffle, even singing along to the “Classic Vinyl” radio station. The Storm Trysail Club Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta at Larchmont Yacht Club has been such a great learning experience for me over the past three years, and these remain some of my most cherished memories of college sailing. I’m sad I won’t be able to compete next year, but who knows, maybe I will sneak my way onto the Williams boat as a coach…
By Sonia Guior, Cornell University ‘15
I have never sailed in a big boat regatta before. Well, before the Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta. I’d sailed 420s, JY-15s, Lasers, and the occasional recreational J/24. Due to this limited experience (and a clear preference for dinghies), boarding the 40-foot_ American Girl_ was something of a shock. My first thought was, “Wow, it’s so clean.” Not to say that our fleet of 420s at Cornell aren’t spiffy, but this cruiser was impeccable. Most of us having never sailed a boat this expensive, beautiful, or fast, my fellow sailors and I simply just looked at each other and thought, “Let’s keep this thing fully intact.”
In the end, we didn’t do any (noticeable) harm to American Girl, and even though we didn’t place near the top (or middle, oops), we learned SO much. I can’t even begin to stress how much we took away from a regatta that couldn’t seem to stop giving. What an amazing opportunity—give a bunch of college sailors, who aren’t used to big-boat sailing, the chance to sail on a top-of-the-line 40-foot boat, while learning how to perfect their skills from a crew of wiser, more knowledgeable people who sail that boat regularly. I was thoroughly impressed by the way we were treated by the boat’s owner and his crew. Every silly question we had was answered without a moment’s hesitation, and by the end of the weekend, I felt we were ready to compete to the best of our ability, without being held back by our lack of knowledge.
As many a college sailor is familiar with, a lack of wind hindered our success on the second day of the event. After a long chalk talk the night before about how to improve and use our resources to the fullest by the amazing Dr. Dan Galyon and his crew, we had attacked the day with the confidence that we would put all the pieces together and improve. Naturally, dead air ensued. We weren’t downtrodden though, because we had still gained so much from the event and from the experience. Though we love them so much, dinghies may not lie in the futures of everyone involved in college sailing. Some of us will pursue larger craft, and it is experiences like this that inspire that.
It was mentioned sometime during the weekend at the IOR that college sailors are the future of sailing, and that without taking the time to truly pass down the knowledge of this sport, it will die. I found this especially riveting considering the hands-on experience that inspired every Cornell sailor who attended the regatta to pursue big-boat sailing in the future. Knowing that I participated in an event that helped to further the world of youth and general sailing feels great. And even though we didn’t win, the weekend was still a “win” for sailing. And hey, there’s always next year, right?
By Andrew Sayre, Villanova University ’12
To say that this regatta “came together” for the Villanova Sailing team would be a huge understatement. When we found out about this regatta and registered back in January, we had big plans. We started mentally putting our team together, figuring out our key players, and how many people we thought we could pull together. Fall rolled around, and it turned out that this regatta was the first weekend of Villanova’s October break—kids actually want to go home…weird. We pulled together a team of six guys, and secured ourselves a J/105.
Having never sailed this event before and having no previous relationship with any of the registered boat owners, we were coming in blind. Oh, and did I mention that only one of our sailors had ever stepped foot on a J/105? Our crew consisted of myself on the wheel, having barely any experience driving big boats, aside from having the helm of an 86-foot yawl on the Transatlantic Race this summer, our J/105 “guru” trimming main, two dinghy sailors doing jib and pit, a Melges 24 sailor on mast and trimming kite, and a rock solid bowman up front. Needless to say, we were a motley crew. Due to tests, quizzes, classes, and traffic, we were not able to make it up to Larchmont in time to practice on Friday afternoon, so we were really coming into this event cold.
Luckily for us when we registered we were greeted with the pleasant surprise of learning that we were being provided with a coach to help us learn the boat handling and tuning aspects of a J/105! It was just what we needed. We also met up with a friend of one of our sailors who fed us a tidal wave of information about everything we ever wanted to know about racing J/105s. The information was awesome, but the overload led to at least half of it going in one ear and out the other. We enjoyed a lovely dinner of chili and hotdogs, and then headed off to my aunt and uncle’s house where we were graciously being put up for the weekend.
Bear in mind for the next part of this story that we are a bunch of college sailors who are used to spending our weekends overpacked into small hotel rooms eating takeout food. My aunt went overboard when it came to taking care of us. We showed up Friday night to at least 100 piping hot chicken wings, jumbo shrimp, chips, cookies, sodas, sandwiches and snacks for the next day, and cases of water and Gatorade. We were all given beds or air mattresses to sleep on, and in the morning we woke up to more hot coffee, muffins, bagels and fresh fruit than we could wrap our eyes (or our mouths) around. Good thing it was going to be windy…oh wait, just kidding.
We got on our boat Saturday morning only to find that we had no tension gauge and had no idea where our shrouds were set at. All we knew was that our mast was a noodle (or more of a banana) and everything was WAY too tight. We went about our business of evening the mast out and dumping the tension, and got things as well set as we could figure. As I previously mentioned only our main trimmer had ever sailed a J/105 before, so we headed out of the harbor as early as we could and got some practice in. By “some” practice I mean we got numbers on both tacks and did one set, gybe and douse…if you can do one you can do them all right?
Fast forward to halfway through the second race, which has left us full of “learning experiences” that generally involved good starts and slowly losing boats around the course. I believe it was during our second race that our radio started making funny noises right in the middle of a gybe so the main trimmer whacked it, hit some button, and shut it up. It was a temporary solution, and we were racing, so we were all fine with it. WELL, after that race we forgot to check our radio for important things, like still being on the right channel. The race committee was moving marks, so we sent our weasel of a bowman up the mast. He wanted to mount one of his GoPro cameras on the spreader, and he was up there snapping some pictures and getting his camera set up. All of a sudden, we realized that, with our radio off, we had missed the start of our sequence and were away from the line in no wind with our bowman up the mast and our headsail furled. We started roughly 1-2 minutes late, and somehow we weren’t the last ones off the line.
After a day of light air sailing and way to much pinching on my part, a serious no-no in a J/105—especially in light air, we came off the water Saturday with our spirits high and a lot of things to fix for Sunday’s finale. Sunday morning we located a tension gauge (begged to borrow one from our “coach’s” husband, who was amongst our competition), and got our rig properly set. We were just a little off the day before…During dinner Saturday night, we made some crew adjustments to better utilize everyone’s skills and had a rock solid game plan coming into Sunday’s racing.
Unfortunately for us there were no races on Sunday. We got in one start and three-quarters of an upwind leg, on which we were in fourth—I would like to point out! Moral of the story is we now have all our problems solved and are ready to go for next year! Who knows maybe this time we’ll even practice a bit? Overall, the IOR is hands-down the most fun event in college sailing and something every college sailor should try to participate in.