Skippers and Crews Find More Challenges on the Chesapeake

Even lighter breezes marked the second day of racing at the 2008 Sperry Top-Sider Annapolis NOOD.


Tony Bessinger

Conditions looked good at the start of racing on Day 2 of the Sperry Top-Sider Annapolis NOOD, but the wind once again grew fickle and died, leaving racers on all four course with more challenging conditions. Most courses got at least two races off, despite some big shifts and the dying breeze.

Mike Carroll, owner of the Melges 32 New Wave, managed to have some good finishes despite the light conditions, and is standing in first overall, one point ahead of Joe Woods’ Red.

“We had a great day,” said Carroll. “We got a first and a third, and we’ve been able to move into first place overall. It’ll be an interesting day tomorrow, Red, which is from Great Britain has improved over the last 18 months incredibly; they’re at the top of the fleet and they’re highly competitive. It was very light and shifty today, but we’re blessed to have some excellent talent on the boat. Scott Nixon is sailing with us and he’s from this area, so that’s a big help, but the other boats have been here practicing for a couple of days and we’ve got four or five boats that are just very strong and have high-talent teams, but it’s a great venue for us.


“Marty Kullman, my co-owner and helmsman of the boat is doing an excellent job with these very light conditions we have a light-displacement boat, but it’s still nerve wracking when you split from the fleet and decide which side of the course to go to. We tried to stay with Red, by-and-large, but we started out the day three points behind and you’re never going to win by following, so we separated a couple of times and it paid off big time for us. The fleet’s become very high-profile, we’ve gained some sailors from the Farr 40 fleet, we’ve got some pretty serious teams out there. It’s a high level of competition. We’re looking for the heavier conditions actually, we were nervous about a third race today because it had become very light and we felt it was turning into a bit of a crap shoot in terms of which side to go to, and we think it’s a more sportsmanlike race if it’s consistent and strong winds. We generally do well in breeze, the crew weight on the boat is at max, so we should be able to hold our own in the heavier air.”

“We’re in fifth place right now, three points out of third, but we had a tough day today,” said Dan Cameron, who’s sailing with Jim Ryan on a What Me Worry, a J/80. “It was very difficult on our course today, we were in good shape but we had the Melges 24 fleet sail through us, they’re a little faster and we had one boat camp on us and put some hurt on us at one point and we fell back to eighth in the first race today, and then in the second race the breeze was just terribly light. We were doing two knots downwind with none of the sails filled, just the current carrying us down. The current was even worse today than yesterday because the breeze was a little lighter. We rounded both weather marks in third place, but we went from third to eighth, then third to tenth in our last race just going downwind, it was just horrible. Hopefully tomorrow they’ll be a bit more breeze, but the first two boats are pretty well established up front. We’re at 22 points, and I think they’re at 12, so unless they have bad days tomorrow, which probably won’t happen, because when there’s a little bit of breeze it’s easier to stay up front.

“Our skipper, gets the top player award for the day; it’s hard steering the boat upwind for an hour in light air. We had two beats with no tacking, just fetching the finish line, and it was like 40 minutes going a knot over the bottom, the rest of us had lost patience and were just waiting to open up the cooler and have a few beers, but he kept going. It was still a good day; it’s nice to get out there sailing and any day sailing is a good day.”


“We had a tough day today, we had a 4,1,2 on Friday, which put us in first place,” said Greg Dupier, sailing on Horizon, an S2 7.9 owned by Bob and Lisa Fleck, but we had a few tactical errors today, and it was a challenge to make it around the course. We dropped back to fourth today, so we’ve got some work cut out for us tomorrow. We’re going to definitely battle for third, I think second or first will require a bit of luck, but hopefully things will go our way, we’ll see what happens.”

Tim Wilkes, one of the better yachting photographers on the water today, is wearing a different hat this regatta, and is sailing with with Harry Benson on the J/24 Blue Strikes Back. “We’re doing fairly well, we were top ten Friday and had a good finish today, a fourth,” said Wilkes. “We tanked it a couple of times today, we’re not going to be competing for the top spots, but we’re doing well. It’s always great to get out sailing, it’s a good break for me. I’ve been shooting non-stop, I had Charleston Race Week last week, and I’m doing the Opti team trials next week, so this was a good time to come and be at a sailing event and not be working.

“I’m calling tactics, and it’s going alright; I’m not used to the currents here, but by the last race I had it figured out and we pulled off a pretty nice race and got a fourth. The breeze will be stronger tomorrow, so we’ll see how it goes. I’m learning the local knowledge, I’m kind of an armchair tactician because I’m out working all the time, so I’m watching everyone and have a pretty great view of what people are doing wrong and what they’re doing right. Being on the sailboat is a little bit different, you’ve got to go with what you’re calling and the view’s not quite as good. When you make mistakes you’ve got to live with them, or try to figure out a way out of them.” When we asked if Wilkes found himself framing shots on the water, he said, “we were sailing along and the Etchells were coming down off the top mark, and there was a little breeze so they were sailing deep, and I could see the whole pack of Etchells coming down with the bridge in the background, and I’m thinking, ah jeez, maybe I should be taking pictures.”


Harry Melges is sailing with Jeff Ecklund’s Melges 32 Star. “It’s going OK,” said Melges, “we’ve had our moments, it’s been very tight racing with short courses and a lot of competitive boats. We’re all having a good time. When we asked about the strength of the class, Melges said. “It’s rewarding, it’s been fun to see new people getting into the class and guys like Jim Schwartz (Moneypenny) getting into the class and doing really well and getting better all the time and getting really hard to beat.

“We’ve sold close to 85-90 Melges 32s so far, a lot of boats in Europe. The Audi circuit in Italy starts this May on Lake Garda, and they’ll have 15 boats for the first regatta there. Every month throughout the summer they’ll have a regatta, and I think the class will grow throughout the summer over there. The U.K. fleet is gaining momentum, and there’ll be three boats in Australia soon, we’re staring to see growth down there.”

When we asked how it was to sail the 32 in these challenging conditions, Melges said: “The 32 powers up pretty quickly, so they’re pretty nice to sail even in five knots of breeze. Downwind they’re great, upwind, everybody’s on the rail or hiking out most of the time. Rarely do you ever move everyone off the rail. It’s a powered-up boat, which is what you want, but it’s pretty manageable even when it’s windy. As people get comfortable on the boats they learn that it’s really fun to sail in a breeze. It’s definitely manageable, and downwind it’s pretty awesome all the time, just good fun.”


The next new boat from Melges is the Melges 20. “We’re all pretty excited about that, and we’re seeing a lot of interest in the boat. We hope to sail the first one in June and do some testing in some windy venues for a month or so, shake it out a little bit, and start delivering some boats in September.”