The first day of the 2008 Sperry Top-Sider Detroit NOOD certainly started out like a normal day. The wind was a light, but pleasant six to eight knots, and everybody’s first race was a good warmup for the three-day series. By the end of the day, however, things had changed, significantly. The breeze came up as high as 30 knots, according to some sailors. There’d been a man overboard but safely recovered from a Cal 25, and two boats, an Ultimate 20 and a Tartan 10, had been dismasted.
Kevin Bell, Underdog, C&C 35. We didn’t have a great day, said Kevin Bell, who’s trimming the main on the C&C 35 Underdog out of Windsor YC, Ontario. “But the heavy air was something we were ready for. The weather forecast was right on for today.” Bell’s been sailing with Underdog for three years, but taught sailing for 16 years. As he said, he’s been sailing since he was “knee high to a grasshopper.” When asked if it was a fun day, Bell was honest with his answer: “Fun, no,” he said. “It’s never fun being at the back of the pack fighting your way to the front, but I guess the fun part is looking forward to the next day’s racing. With some new crew we’re working on routines, who does what and where and when.”
John Reno, who’s calling tactics on Brian Geraghty’s Siochail, another C&C 35, had a better day in the 8-boat class. “We had a second and two firsts,” said Reno. “I’ve been studying Sailflow for the past five days and they definitely called that right-hand shift on the first race. The second and third races were more about survival. We were really hoping the RC wasn’t going to call a third race, our wind speed readout was showing us 25 knots, and sitting on a first and a second, we were just praying “no.” We had a terrible start in the third race, but we sailed conservatively and took a bullet in that race. So we’re laughing.”
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the venerable C&C 35 Mark I, and the Detroit NOOD will be the class’s national championship. Reno admits that despite its popularity, the 35 can be a “fluky boat to sail.” “We had the main basically flogging the entire last race,” he said. “We had a No. 2 up and a double-reefed main, and the helmsman kept saying: ‘let that main rag, because we’re hitting 6.2 knots with a ragged main versus 5.7 when you trim it on’. We just had good angle, good boatspeed and the key was to stay clean, avoid contact, and one or two tacks upwind. You can’t tack on every five or ten-degree lift, the boat just doesn’t accelerate. And in that wind, we’ve got an aging crew, it’s tough to tack and bring that headsail in.” Reno’s plans for tomorrow are simple: “I’m going to go home, study some software, look at the wind, but from what I saw yesterday, there’s not a lot of big things happening out the race course. This 26 knots that came through today was completely anticipated.”
Hans Breeden is sailing in the 24-boat Melges 24 fleet on Zig Zag. “We had a great day,” said Breeden, “great rides both up and downwind. We were first in the first race, fifth in the second race, then we had rig problems so we did our best, and we were in about sixth, but downwind we wiped out, and that cost us a lot. When you’re going zero, and the other boats are going 30, you lose a little bit. I think we ended up tenth or 11th, but we’ve definitely got wheels and we’re happy with our progress and we’re looking forward to tomorrow.”
George Peet, a Michigan native who’s a local hero as a result of his jaunt around the world on ABN AMRO 2 in the last edition of the Volvo Race, is sailing aboard the Beneteau 36.7 Natalie J. “I’ve sailed with them a bit, normally on their Nelson-Marek 46, the original Bright Star,” said Peet. “This one-design sailing is kind of new for the owner, Phil O’Neil, so we’re giving it a run. This is the first time I’ve sailed on the boat, it’s good for the Great Lakes, there are a lot of 36.7s in the Lakes. I think the class here is 11-13 boats, which is really good. It’s probably the best big-boat one-design fleet that we’ve seen at the Detroit NOOD, so I’m happy to be a part of that.” Peet and his tesammates had a pretty good day, ending up with a 2,5,1. “The one-design class is definitely representing itself as one-design, everyone goes the same speed, so you have to be on your toes” said Peet. “The guys in the first race who won the start won the race, so really pretty standard lessons all across the board, you’ve just got to start in the right place, you’ve got to be fast, and you’ve got to know your competition and know where the race is. I was off trimmer all day today. The boats are actually pretty hard to sail, the cockpit’s really cramped, so I was actually just cleaning up rope all day, trying to keep things going.” Peet’s guest shot in Detroit is a brief one, he’s off to Sardinia tomorrow for the J/24 Worlds, then Bermuda Race, the Moth Worlds, and Ireland’s Cork Week.