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Shields Nationals, Sept. 7, 2001 –View from #107

The breeze picks up off Newport, R.I.

November 9, 2001
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It doesn’t get any better than 10-15 knots from the southwest on Rhode Island Sound with a gradient southwesterly reinforced by a thermal wind. And you can’t do much better than hearing two guns, which is what Peter Denton and Chuck Allen heard aboard Ultimate Pressure III #226. In the first race they held on to win by a fragile few feet of nylon as Bill Shore’s #224 was crushing down on their breeze, but in the second, which included a third beat to the finish, they took the lead on the second run and opened up a solid margin of victory on the beat to finish ahead of Jerome Jordan and Anthony Kotoun on #57.

In the overall series scoring after four races, Shore and Jordan/Kotoun are at the top of the fleet in a close battle, with Jordan/Koutoun 3 points ahead unless you figure in a throwout, which deadlocks the pair at 8 points each. Denton/Allen by virtue of two unremarkable finishes on the first day (a withdrawal and a 14th), are still well down in the fleet, but if you count a throwout, which comes into play after the fifth race, they move up to fourth with 16 points.

Surprisingly (to its occupants anyway), the boat just ahead of #226 in third is our boat, #107. We concentrated on sailing fast and clean today after our errors yesterday, and found a few extra gears for getting upwind in the moderate breeze and waves to take a third and then a fourth. Adding some spice to the proceedings, we had to deal with some equipment issues, mainly a port jib sheet that had to be tended upwind or it would pop out of the cleat when we hit a big wave. But we later learned that we’d had it easy. We stopped by West Marine and met a string of Shields sailors at the cash register fixing everything from a broken spinnaker pole end fitting to a busted spinnaker basket. We also heard that Bryce Muir’s #23 broke a lower shroud and retired, and we heard of broken goosenecks and broken halyards. If it pipes up further for Saturday, the last day of racing, I’m sure we’ll be in for more of the same.

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In the first race, near the top of the second beat, we found that along with #226 and #224, we’d extended from the rest of the fleet and begun playing a tactical chess match. Unfortunately, we lost that match on the final port tack up to the starboard layline when #226, leading, chose to tack on us (rather than Bill Shore) to protect the right-side advantage.

Even more exciting was the beat to the finish of the second race. Andy Burton’s #201 was loosely covering us as we both came in from the right in third and fourth. We crossed a pack of boats #217 (Jamie Hilton/Charlie Shumway), #138 (Chris Withers) and #224 (Bill Shore) by about a boatlength, and they tacked in close company on our weather quarter with #61 (George Petrides). To leeward a few lengths was Charlie Shoemaker and Coles Mallory in #245, but we elected to tack over to cover those on our right. Andy followed suit, covering us. When we tacked back to starboard ahead of Shore, five lengths shy of the layline to the pin, Andy covered us again and the boats behind us all hitched up once more for clear air. The waves were building, travelers were down in the puffs and I think because we had a little freer air, we were able to tack back across the narrow finish line, preserving our length lead on those three boats. We tacked back to starboard just in front of Shore and #61 to cross the line and our blanket may have been reason Shore couldn’t fetch the mark and hit it. He fell back to 9th while doing his circle. After Petrides and Hilton/Shumway, Shoemaker/Mallory were able to sneak in at the pin into sixth place, salvaging a respectable finish after suffering the disappointment of dropping from first (at the first three marks) to eighth, halfway up the last beat.

With four races completed, it’s certain that the series will end on Saturday whether there are two, one, or no races. The forecast is again for a good southwesterly.

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