by NM Jacques
2013 North American Championship - Thirty-five teams descended on sunshine-drenched Newport, RI and the New York Yacht Club, who played gracious hosts throughout the four day event. The weigh-in line had formed early for some of the crews - anxious to see how close they were to the 628lb/285kg weight limit. Mixtures of three and four person teams were gathering and the NYYC team - led by Brad Dellenbaugh and Beth Duggan, in close coordination with Etchells class volunteers Peggy Comfort and Dorothy Mosko welcomed the sailors and moved them through registration quickly.
2013 North American Championship
With a promising forecast that showed the potential for the SW gradients to be enhanced by the sea breeze over subsequent days, Wednesday's practice race was held ' inside' in the last of a fading northerly. This allowed teams to practice their starting routines and get a quick couple of laps under the supervision of PRO Tom Duggan and A-PRO, Karin Nye's race team.
Thursday, the first day of racing for the eight race series, saw a short postponement followed by RC tows out towards the already-advancing sea breeze in Rhode Island Sound (the outside track).
The PRO announced his intentions to run three races if the breeze continued to build, and soon the fleet was being brought to attention in a 6-8 knot SSW breeze. The fleet set up - with a slight bunch at the boat end - but otherwise reasonably distributed down the line. The pack on the right quickly flipped onto port tack while the early leaders were showing in the middle-left. However, new pressure and a 15 degree right shift rolled in from the right, burying the early leaders in the left.. Bruce Golison, Moose McClintoch and Bill Lynn on USA1285 led the right and were launched! Senet, and Clay Bischoff with Ben Kinney on USA 1308, Scott Kauffman with Tony Rey, Justin Law and Monica Morgan on USA1198 and Pat Stadel, Patrick Sloan and Ralph Carpenter on USA1111 showing some early promise rounded fifth. CAN1396 - skippered by Hank Lammens with crew Steve Girling and Jens Bojsen-Moller and 1266, skippered by Peter Duncan and crew Tom Blackwell and Jud Smith were right on their heels.
The RC managed to get the course squared up after the first run, but the leaders had the race in the bag. Golison won, Bischoff was second, , Olympian Stu McNay - with crew Deborah Capozzi, Jo Morris and Bill Ricketson on USA1248 was third, Scott Kauffman with Tony Rey, Justin Law and Monica Morgan on USA1198 were fourth and Lammens fifth.
2013 North American Championship
Race two started in a little more breeze - around 8-12 knots from the WSW. The building thermal influence still offered plenty of snakes and ladders. A clean start kept the fleet incredibly close on the 1.4Nm beat with lots of gains and losses, even in the top of the cone, Jeff Siegal, Jeff Madrigali, Willem Van Way and Sarah Callahan on USA1296 were first to show from the middle right and led the fleet around the weather mark. On USA1221, Wade Edwards with crew Ben Newman and Tim Platt were clean around in second followed by Peter Duncan in third, USA1408, skippered by Jim Cunningham with Vince Brun and Karl Anderson, US988, skippered by Thomos Hornos with Andy Casey and Luke Lawrence, and then Lammens.
Down the run, the fleet was well into wave working conditions, and there were big gains and losses in the building waves, but still patchy breeze. All seemed status quo for the leaders until the final run when team Lammens staying in pressure to the right of the front four - surfed across the line for the win by a boat length over team Siegal.
Race three of the first day was started in similar conditions and all clear at the start. Siegal was again in the lead pack at the top mark as the middle - and then increasingly further right edge of the race track continued to produce strong gains. The top group were Siegel, McNay, USA1000 skippered by Tom Carruthers with crew Andrew Campbell and Chris Busch, Kaufmann, and Henry Brauer/Stu Neff and Will Wells on USA 1262. Unfortunately for the fleet, the breeze was losing its edge, returning to the 10 knot range, but it was still a good racetrack with plenty of lanes and opportunities to gain. Siegal would hold onto his lead throughout the second lap to take first. Carruthers would earn a strong second with Kauffman third.
Overnight the scoreboard had Team Lammens on top (scoring a five, one, six), with Kauffman in second (scoring a four,six,three) and Golison in third (scoring a one, nine, four).
The day two forecast was for the pressure gradients to tighten from a SW direction and build throughout the day. PRO Tom Duggan signaled a plan to run three races from 11am, and there was an air of anticipation among the fleet, excited to stretch their legs in the 13-15 knot breeze at the starting area.
The first race of day two got away cleanly with Lammens, Duncan and Golison popping out of the middle of the line. All three flipped onto port, taking the first shift out towards the right side of the track. At the pin end, Phil Lotz, Rodrigo Meireles and Eric Doyle on USA1376 had a good start and were leading the left pack. Lammens was able to build a small lead - consolidating back to the left - three lengths ahead of Lotz in second and Siegal in third. Leading the rest of the pack were Cunningham and Shannon Bush, Brad Boston and Kurt Oetking on USA1350. Down the first run the leaders extended, with Lammens splitting to the left gate for a cleaner exit and to protect the right on the second beat. Having split the leeward gates and cleared the chasing fleet, Lammens in the right, consolidated back towards Lotz, who had made a nice gain and was now bow even. Meantime, Siegal was still in hot pursuit. Lammens elected to set up below Lotz and Siegal - just as a 15 degree lefty rolled into the left edge of the course. This quickly put Lotz ahead with Siegal now challenging second and squeezing ahead. They rounded in that order, but Lammens was immediately back in contention after a good set allowed him to catch the first wave out of the top mark. All three boats were overlapped halfway down the run, but Lotz held the right-edge advantage with the finish line biased towards the boat. Lammens, digging deep on the left and extending but sailing into Siegal's dirt, gybed away to try to gain some more distance but lost ground. Siegal also got down inside Lotz to experience the same sensation and – after quite a tussle - it was Lotz in first, Siegal second and Lammens third. Cunningham and Bush were fourth and fifth respectively.
The breeze was still in the 12-15 knot range for the start of race two and, again, it was Lammens leading the middle and Lotz leading the pin. In this race, the boats that went harder right earlier came out well at the top mark. The group was led around the first mark by Brauer/Neff, followed by a close pack including Michael Gavin, Bill Abbott and Paul Davis on USA1305, Bush, Chuck Poindexter, Dave Dyson and Tim Keyworth on USA1341, Lotz, and Hornos. Significantly, Siegal and Lammens had tough cones and lost ground – both rounding in the teens. The leading boats that gybed early towards the left-edge pressure and potentially some current advantage, gained significantly. Notably, Hornos got right back into the group from the left with Siegal hot on his heels.
In the second loop, the fleet worked harder right upwind with Brauer/Neff leading the charge and surfing home for a strong win. Hornos earned a creditable second, Golison third, Poindexter fourth, Lotz fifth. (Siegal was eighth and Lammens recovered to 12th).
For the final race of day two, the breeze had built to 17-21 knots from the WSW. The race track looked fantastic from the starting area, and it was clear that the fleet would have some challenges sailing over (and sometimes through) the waves upwind. They were also destined to enjoy some excellent surfing downwind.
Lammens got off to another great start from the middle of the line and flipped into port with the first shift. Brauer/Neff, Siegal, Duncan and McNay were also going well.
Lammens had a two length lead at the top mark and led the fleet back out to the left side in the top third of the run. Brauer/Neff gained a little in the middle, but Lammens had the overlap going into the left gate. Lammens had a beautiful rounding and immediately put Brauer/Neff in the lane below the mark exit. Lammens put the hammer down and was gone! By the weather mark, Lammens was 10 lengths ahead and surfed home for the win. Brauer/Neff did a nice job of holding off Siegal for second. Siegal beat the pack home for third, McNay was fourth and Duncan fifth.
Overnight, Lammens and Siegal were tied for the lead with Golison seven points back in third.
Day three dawned a lot warmer and much calmer. The gradient breeze was still blowing from the SW, but on the racecourse, it was only in the six to8 knot range for the two races planned to complete the eight race series.
Race seven saw an even start with the pack slightly bunched at the boat. Critically, Siegal got a blinding start about four lengths up from Lammens and took the opportunity to plant him as they both tacked in the first shift, preventing Lammens from getting to the favored right side. Meantime, Lotz had pulled off another pin start and was launched on the left crossing back to the right. At the top mark it was Lotz, McNay and Gavin leading the charge, with most of the top teams hooked up in hot pursuit. Lammens, having been forced left twice by Siegal, rounded in the high teens.
On the run, the right collapsed as the left came in strong, bringing up folks like Bush who worked the hard left-edge mercilessly. Lammens, trapped on the wrong side of the course by the pack, lost more ground.
On the second beat it was a question of taking the pressure to the right. The leaders were in the best position to make this plan work. Lammens found a nice lane as well and recovered about 10 boats.
On the run into the finish, the left continued to be favored, but with a boat-biased finishing line (finish line on opposite side of boat to start line,) the artful teams led back and protected the right at the end. Lotz managed this perfectly to claim the win, McNay and Gavin were able to hold on. Siegal scored a nice result in fourth and Duncan scored another five. Lammens recovered to ninth.
Going into the last race, Siegal had a five point advantage over Lammens. The breeze continued to hover in the six to seven knot range, but the track was starting to look a little flakey.
At the start, Lammens favored the boat third of the line while Siegal, not wanting to engage, disappeared off towards the pin. Golison, Bischoff, Poindexter, McNay and Lammens all had good starts and found the right opportunity to move right in a nice band of pressure. At the weather mark, in fact, they rounded in that order despite a few lefties on the way up the track. With the pack lined up on the starboard lay line, it was a brave call to gybe back under them and go back out left for pressure, but that's exactly what Golison and Bischoff did. Meantime, Poindexter, McNay, Lammens and Duncan extended out toward the right in reasonable pressure. McNay led the right pack back into the middle with an early gybe that looked very risky but ultimately paid off handsomely. Golison and Bischoff extended a little on the left edge, but the left pack were also now back in the game, gliding in with a knot more pressure. For the overall, on the first run, it was very tight, with Lammens still holding onto fourth on the race course and Siegel around eighth.
With the new pressure that had condensed the fleet on the run coming in from the left side, it seemed straightforward to lead back out to the right (now looking upwind). In fact, the guys who led towards the left out of the opposite gate looked soft. However, this group of Duncan, Bush and Siegal found some magic pressure on the left edge and made a Lazarus-like recovery that brought them all right back into contention with the four leaders.
At the last weather mark of the regatta, it was still tight for the overall win, but Siegal was starting to look good - rounding just behind Lammens.
Golison had a battle with Poindexter and McNay but they finished in that order. Bush squeezed into fourth, Bischoff was fifth, Duncan sixth and Lammens seventh - only two places ahead of Siegal.
The final results brought a first-time Etchells North American Championship win for Siegal with Lammens second, Golison third, Duncan fourth and McNay fifth. It was a great week in Newport with nice weather and real mix of breeze from the typical SW direction. NYYC did a superb job of hosting the proceedings both on and off the water. Aside from a stunning opening night reception on top of the hill at harbor court, there was free beer and snacks at the sailing center every night after racing, providing a nice social opportunity for the teams to get together and tell stories after a long day on the water.
This was also an excellent warm up for the Etchells Worlds in June 2014 which will likely see 75+ boats on the line.