Finishing Strong In Annapolis

It was a high-stress finale for the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in Annapolis. But these winners kept their cool.

J/30 Shamrock crew
Bruce Irving and his teammates on the J/30 Shamrock celebrate their regatta win and selection for the Helly Hansen Sailing World Caribbean Championship Walter Cooper

One point. That was the winning difference for Bruce Irving’s teammates on his J/30 Shamrock, champions of the J/30 East Coast Championship at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in Annapolis. Through three days of extremely challenging light winds, strong currents and an ultra-competitive fleet, Shamrock’s young crew persevered to not only take home the class title, but also the regatta’s overall title as the top team, which earns them a berth in the Regatta Series’ Caribbean Championship this fall.

Irving, who painstakingly rebuilt his 39-year-old cult-classic keelboat to perfection over the past six years attributed his team’s win to great teamwork, patience and a calmness on the boat that took away the stress of the weekend’s stressful conditions. They went into the final day’s races with a tenable 2-point lead, started the day with a win and closed with a third, which was enough—just—to beat their friendly rivals on Bob Rutsch and Mike Costello’s Bebop.

“Today, we had more shifts that we could take advantage of and very decent wind during the first race,” Irvin says. “We focused on getting in phase, powering the boat up and getting boatspeed.”

Jimmy Praley’s old coach from Tufts University would have been proud of his former Jumbo sailor heeding his advice enroute to winning the Viper 640 class title. Praley, his tactician Austin Powers, and forward crew Max Vinocur were 3 points shy of the lead when the day’s first race got underway in a light easterly breeze. All day long, Coach Ken Legler must have been whispering in Praley’s ear: “Start where the others are not. Tack and win.”

2023 Sailing World Regatta Series – Annapolis
The J/30 fleet compresses on the run on the light-air final day in Annapolis. Walter Cooper

With Legler’s sage advice imprinted in his mind, Praley’s squad on Robot Flamingo made their move to the top of the scoresheet with a big win in the day’s first race. “The goal was to try and stay close to our closest competitor,” Praley says, “but once we put some points on them in the first race we decided it wasn’t worth the risk to do anything but sail our own race.”

Robot Flamingo won four of seven races over the weekend and was the most consistent of the 13-boat fleet. Still, they closed the three-day regatta with only 2 points to spare over their second-placed rivals on Martin Casey’s Life of Riley.

Robot Flamingo
Jimmy Praley’s Robot Flamingo made its move on the final day to win the Viper 640 fleet.

“It was nearly impossible to be consistent this weekend, but we just did our best,” Praley says. “Fleet management was a big thing, and we were always optimizing our ability to get to the favored side of the course. Our biggest thing was to be as conservative as much as possible but not be afraid to take a flyer if we had to.”

Brad Julian and his team Yard Sail also capitalized on a strong Sunday finish. Yard Sail moved into first place in the J/22 fleet after an intense weekend of back-and-forth lead changes. Starting the day 5 points behind Aden King’s Rhythmic Pumping, Julian and team closed the regatta with a 3-point lead, but it wasn’t easy.

“Sticking to our game plan and putting ourselves in a place where we could control our own destiny was the key to winning today,” Julian says. “It was a tough day. The first race had reasonably stable conditions and a pretty clear need for a course strategy, whereas the second race was much more of a crapshoot. The big lesson was to never give up—we were mid-fleet at the first mark of the second race after a tricky start, and we just kept grinding.”

J/22 race at the regattas
J/22s set off on one of two light-air races on the final day of the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in Annapolis. Walter Cooper

TC Williams and his crew on the Alberg 30 Argo won their fleet for the sixth time at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series, narrowly beating the second-place Firestorm/Laughing Gull by 1 point, a victory decided in the final race. As this weekend’s top Alberg 30, Argo also earned the class’s coveted Maple Leaf Trophy, which has been awarded annually since 1965.

“We have great chemistry on board, my wife Elizabeth was trimming the jib and my son Austin was on board doing bow for the first time,” Williams says. “Keeping the boat moving through the current was crucial. We always went left on the start, went left downwind, but the shifts were there and you had to find a way to keep the boat moving when the wind went away.”

Alberg 30
TC William’s Alberg 30 sails to the Maple Leaf title for the sixth time. Walter Cooper

Pete Kassal and his crew on J/24 Spaceman Spiff won their fleet with 16 points across nine races. “Being consistent was the key to winning the regatta,” Kassal says. “Being the first boat to get out of the current, which was definitely worse on the right, and not stalling the boat was important. I just got my boat together on Thursday, so I was very happy to be out there. The J/24 fleet saw intense competition, with four of the five competing boats winning a race.”

Competitive would be an understatement for the J/70 fleet, which had a dramatic end to its series when Sunday’s final race was finished mid-way through the race as the wind died altogether. With the front of the fleet crawling toward the leeward gate, fighting adverse current, there was a maddening slow-motion scramble to cross the finish line. The morning’s leader, Brian Keane’s Savasana, was stuck in the traffic and could only manage a 13th. Douglas Newhouse’s team on Yonder, however, crawled across with a fifth, to give them the victory on account of winning the tiebreaker with Cate Mueller-Terhune’s second-placed Casting Couch.

“This weekend, we had to fight for every inch we could get,” says Jeremy Wilmot, the team’s tactician. “The light, shifty weather was not our strength—we are definitely a heavy air team, and we came to Annapolis to work on our light air.”

Spaceman Spiff
Pete Kassel’s Spaceman Spiff in fine form enroute to winning the J/24 fleet. Walter Cooper

Bryan Stout and Lizzy Chiochetti narrowly won the Melges 15 fleet, finishing 2 points ahead of the second-place team of Britton and Heather Steel. “Today, we had to sail the boat with what we had and not what we wanted,” Stout said. “A lot of the time, especially when we were around other people, if I could just focus on the telltales and make my boat go fast, we would have a lot of success.”

John and Mary Driver were the Wayfarer team, topping the fleet by 6 points after winning three of six races. “Our goal was to sail as well as we could,” says Mary Driver. “I was really afraid of trimming the spinnaker because I’m used to asymmetric sails so this was a little different, but I felt like after practice, it went very well.”

John and Mary Driver
John and Mary Driver, Wayfarer Class champions for the class’s first Regatta Series appearance. Walter Cooper

The Distance Race fleet was especially challenged with much longer racecourses that stretched across the Chesapeake Bay. Today, simply finishing was the order of the day, as it was on Saturday when only three of 11 entries completed the race before the time limit expired. Ben Capuco and his Aerodyne 38 Zuul won the ORC fleet, finishing second in both of its races. “Today was about redemption—we missed a 30-degree right shift on the weather leg but had great speed once we were off the wind,” Capuco says. “It was nice to be off the wind and having the right sails to win on the reach leg.”

While most standings were contested in the final races, there were a few teams that dominated their respective fleets over the weekend, including Matt Lalumiere’s Cash Money, which topped the Etchells fleet by winning four of its five races.

2023 Sailing World Regatta Series
Matt Lalumiere’s team on the Etchells Cash Money ready to set and carry on to a class win. Walter Cooper

“We were in a very old boat that is hard to keep moving through the current, so keeping speed and communicating with each other as we were going through the gear changes, and making adjustments when we had to was super important,” says Mitch Powell, the team’s bowman. “We had some nice breeze and a square course, so there was great racing today.”

Ray Wulff and his teammates on the J/105 Patriot won the J/105 fleet by 9 points, winning four of seven races, including the last three. “Consistency was the secret to winning the weekend,” Wulff says. “Not doing anything stupid and staying fast when we needed to be fast was imperative. The most important thing was not getting in any trouble. We had a 23-boat fleet and staying out of the congestion helped us a lot.”

Mike Beasley and his teammates on the J/80 Black Sheep were the most dominant of the weekend, topping their fleet by a whopping 18 points after winning seven of eight races. “Tuning was key,” Beasley says. “We put a lot of time into boat setup and understanding what the demands were from the sails we had and what we were trying to achieve with upwind speed,” Beasley says. “Working as a team was a highlight of the weekend; we had a guy from the youth team. On Friday, he was a little ropey, but he was a machine today.”

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