A Star Shines in Marblehead

Bill Lynn and the crew of the J/105 Shooting Star took first place overall at the 2011 Sperry Top-Sider Marblehead NOOD.
Sailing World
Bill Lynn (at helm) and the crew of the J/105 Shooting Star took a flyer to victory at the 2011 Sperry Top-Sider Marblehead NOOD. For more photos by Tim Wilkes, click here. Tim Wilkes

Bill Lynn is a Marblehead local through and through. He’s been sailing at Marblehead Race Week since he was a kid, and he’s a partner in Atlantis Weather Gear, the sailing apparel brand based right downtown. But to say he was a favorite to win the J/105 class at the 2011 Sperry Top-Sider Marblehead NOOD would be a long shot. First of all, he doesn’t usually drive Shooting Star; the boat’s owner, Laurie Willard, does. But Willard couldn’t race this weekend, so he put Lynn at the helm. The crew also included Ben Willard (Laurie’s son), Matt Contorchick and his wife, Catherine Sullivan, former Sailing World senior editor Chris Hufstader, and Lynn’s daughter, Hannah.

Going in to Sunday’s racing, Shooting Star sat in fourth place in the 31-boat J/105 class, three points out of first. It was only a wing and prayer that got the team past Henry Brauer and Stewart Neff’s Scimitar, Bernard Girod’s Rock & Roll, and Matthew Pike’s Got Qi?, and up onto the podium at the Corinthian YC, where they received the regatta’s overall prize—and an invitation to compete against the winners of the other NOOD regattas at the Sperry Top-Sider Caribbean NOOD Championship, which takes place this November in the British Virgin Islands.
How did you manage the final day?**
We weren’t sure how many races we’d sail, and the problem for us was that our throwout wasn’t as bad as everybody else’s. As you factored in the drops, we had a deeper hole to dig out of. So we just went out there and tried to win a race. It was a matter of seeing who could tee it up for one last win.
So what’s your stance on throwouts?**
I go back and forth. I’ve probably lost as many regattas by not having a throwout as I have by having a throwout. So, over the course of time, I think it all comes out in the wash. I guess I’ve been burned both ways. I sort of like having no drop, but then again, if you get black-flagged or have an OCS early in the series, your regatta’s over.
What was the most memorable incident that happened on the racecourse?**
Well, the one that probably pissed the most people off was in the first race on Sunday [what turned out to be the penultimate race of the series -Ed.]. They ended up shortening course and finishing us after the first downwind leg. We had a lousy start at the pin end, and rounded the windward mark in ninth. The guys we needed to beat were third or fourth. Everybody was parading downwind on starboard. All the forecasts had been calling for the classic sea breeze to fill in, but the wind was at 230 degrees, which is way right of the sea breeze direction. So we gybed and sailed away from the fleet, and when the sea breeze filled in we were left of the fleet. We ended up crossing everybody for the win. That was a bit of a hail mary, but we did have a game plan in place.

I heard a lot of talk about the patterns of the windshifts off Marblehead. Everyone seems to have their own combination of “right, left, right.” Do you subscribe to a particular theory?
To me, it’s left early, right late. The key is when to make the transition. Yesterday, the forecasts predicted the classic sea breeze, but it was anything but typical. I don’t know what was going on. On our course in the second race, there were two different breezes with a 40-degree difference between them. The sea breeze was supposed to fill in from the left, but the right kept paying off. It was bizarre.


I used to come up to Marblehead Race Week each summer with my parents when we were racing Etchells—this was before I lived here—and it seemed like we’d always lose a day because of lack of wind. But I think over the past 30 years what’s helped us up here up in Marblehead is what makes the summer conditions worse and worse on Long Island Sound. The more they pave Peobody [Mass.], the more predictable the seabreeze becomes.

Still, I have no idea what was going on yesterday.

**So by winning the Marblehead NOOD have you jinxed yourself going into the North Americans [which begin August 10 at Marblehead’s Eastern YC]?
**Well, I don’t know about that. I don’t know if we have a real shot at winning, but we’re going to go out there and have fun.


**Will you practice at all before the regatta?
**Practice? We don’t practice! [Laughs] We’re a pretty casual operation.

**Have you been involved at all in the planning for the North Americans?
**A little bit. Atlantis is the apparel provider for the event, so I’ve been involved a bit with the planning because of that.

**I noticed a lot of people wearing Atlantis gear around Marblehead, right down to the launch drivers. Did you make sure to saturate your hometown market?
**Well if we can’t be big in Marblehead, where can we be big? Pretty much, though, it just comes down to a lot of nice folks helping to support a local company.