Growth on the Line

Sailboat racing will never be like it was in the old days. Good thing, too, because the way it was then wouldn't work now. Nobody has time to sail Saturdays and Sundays every weekend at the club, or to race around Florida for five weeks each winter. But from amateur to professional, affordable to pricey, performance sailing has plenty of excitement to offer those who want to race--or occasionally watch it. As this year winds down, consider all the appealing and popular events we've recently witnessed. To mention just a few: More than 200 young sailors competed at both the Optimist Dinghy Nationals at the Chicago YC and the Atlantic Coast Championship at Brant Beach YC (N.J.). Equally as enthusiastic, if somewhat older, 132 sailors raced in the Laser Masters NAs in Newport, R.I., (a few of whom hadn't raced a Laser in years). At the Riverside YC (Greenwich, Conn.), 93 teams turned out for the Etchells Worlds, a class in which the pros again showed up to sail for fun alongside talented amateurs. Bigger-boat events continued to grow. In 2003, Sailing World's NOOD regatta series drew a record 1,697 boats to nine events, six of which were bigger than in 2002, led by the Annapolis NOOD with 273 boats. All nine Sailing World NOODs included not only J/24 fleets, with 150 boats, but (for the first time) J/105s as well, totaling 199 boats. Overseas, ISAF pulled off a world championship for all Olympic classes in Cadiz, with the United States earning two medals. Meanwhile, bringing new vitality to the America's Cup scene, Larry Ellison and San Francisco's Golden Gate YC hosted Ernesto Bertarelli and the Alinghi team in the Moet Cup, a two-format series featuring pro drivers (Gavin Brady and Jochen Schuemann) in one and amateurs (Ellison and Bertarelli) in the other (p. 8). Not every regatta or class is growing, but a combination of good class and event management, plus competitor enthusiasm, has sustained racing participation despite difficult economic, political, and international affairs. Equally hard at work has been Sail America, the industry association. In September, across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan, Sail America launched a new sail-only boat show with big-time potential--NY/NJ Sail Expo. This is the seventh sail-only show (after Annapolis, Atlantic City, Chicago, Miami, St. Petersburg, and Oakland), and it nails the three rules of real estate--location, location, location. Located in Liberty State Park in Jersey City, the show is minutes from Manhattan by fast ferry and easily accessible by car or public transportation. Several of SW's Boat of the Year prospects were on display (read about the winners next issue), plus dinghies such as the 505 and Flying Scot. Also on display at NY/NJ Sail Expo was Brad Van Liew's Beefeater (nee Tommy Hilfiger). It's featured as one of this month's "30 Built for Speed," a section of the magazine that itself is a showcase for the vitality and excitement in the upper end of performance sailing. During Sail Expo, a brand new technology rocket arrived on the other side of the river--the 147-foot Mari Cha IV (p. 22). You'll be able to read more about it next month--at press time it was on standby to assault the transatlantic record. Racing will never be the same as it ever was. But there's a whole lot of action, not to mention plenty of buzz.