The Laser 28 Rags won her division in the 2001 Sailing World Marblehead NOOD regatta. This win made her the unofficial Laser 28 world champion, for class officials consider the regatta to be their fleet’s world championship, or “Gold Cup.” But the victory that seemed to be in her back pocket after yesterday’s stellar performance did not come easily today.
“It was a dicey way to win a championship,” said sailmaker Ed Botterell. The first race began with what seemed to be an excellent start: four of the nine boats had been over early, including the venerable Convictus who won the Laser 28 division in the Quebec Open regatta earlier this month. Yet skipper, Denise Bienvenue, after circling Convictus back to the starting line, caught sight of a right-hand windshift and rounded the windward mark with a huge lead over the entire fleet.
Meanwhile, Rags made her way up the left-hand side of the course, a decision for which she paid in points for her overall score, finishing fifth. Although she was still in the lead when the race was over, the victory was not guaranteed, and her crew’s nerve was put to the test. “I don’t know if we could have done anything differently,” said Botterell. “We started before the shift began to happen, so we had no way of knowing that the boats that had to go back to the line would have made out so well by going right.”
Ample wind allowed for a second race in which Rags worked her way up to second place behind Convictus. The last windward mark rounding became a hair raising situation when Rags’ crew raised a twisted spinnaker.
As the aft crew exploded in panic, foredeck members painstakingly unwrapped the chute. Shockingly, the twist cost Rags nothing but a negligible boat length, and she remained in second place for the remainder of the race. Yet crossing the finish line with the Laser 28 NOOD series and the Laser 28 Gold Cup in hand was not as comfortable for the crew as they had imagined it would be. “That wasn’t the way I wanted to win,” said skipper Judy Button.
By the time the awards ceremony began, the excitement of winning overtook any frustration with the last two races. Bowman Tristin Doherty was asked about the crew’s morale today. “You mean the high school debate team?” he stated with a grin. “Tension is keeps us on our toes. It’s better than slacking off and not concentrating. Who knows what could’ve happened if we hadn’t been atleast a little tense today.”