Please select your home edition
Edition
Marine Resource 2016

American YC juniors capture Vineyard Lighthouse trophy

by Charlie Barthold on 5 Sep 2013
The crew from American YC, winners of the Vineyard Lighthouse Trophy Rick Bannerot http://vineyardrace.wordpress.com/
Many sailors compete a lifetime without winning a Vineyard Race, despite countless attempts. But for eight junior sailors from American Yacht Club, the first time was a charm as they captured the prestigious Vineyard Lighthouse trophy given annually to the boat with the best corrected IRC time.

The junior crew, sailing the J 122 Patriot, received the loudest cheers Sunday night at the awards ceremony on the front lawn of host Stamford Yacht Club for accomplishing something many in the crowd can only hope to do. They were also the first winner of the Corinthian Challenge trophy created last year by the SYC’s Vineyard Race to encourage young sailors to participate.

'I’ve never won a Vineyard Race, so this is a pretty magical moment,' said Peter Becker, head of the junior big boat program at American Y.C. who was one of two adults on the boat. 'And to do it with our young sailors makes it even better.' Doug McKeige, father of one of the junior sailors aboard, was the other adult.

Patriot beat out Rambler, George David’s sleek 90-footer, on corrected time, a feat they didn’t think possible when returning to Stamford late Saturday when they spotted her heading East off New Haven. 'So she was 100 miles ahead of us,' Becker said. 'How do we beat that?'

'You always wonder if there’s some smaller boat that is going to finish way behind you and beat you on corrected time,' Becker added. 'This weekend, we were that little boat.'


After the crew finished Saturday evening, they headed back to Rye from Stamford and it was only when they got to the dock they realized they had a chance when one of the crew received a text from a friend. It was confirmed when Becker headed back to Stamford to return his transponder.

The crew of Patriot comes from the junior big boat program Becker heads up at American. The eight juniors – Will McKeige, Colin Alexander, Sean Walsh, Key Becker, Carina Becker, Madeline Ploch, Haley Rodriguez and Sam Papert – have spent the summer with others in the program, not only racing but also cruising and learning all about big boats. 'Big boat sailing delivers all kinds of experience and offshore racing is one such experience,' Becker said.

The 2013 racing schedule started with the American Spring Series and will conclude with the Fall Series. It included the Block Island Race, Larchmont Race Week, several Stratford Shoal races, the Dorade Race and the Vineyard Race.

It was during the Block Island Race Memorial Day weekend the group thought about doing the Vineyard Race for the first time. The junior program, which includes about 35 young sailors, has a J 105 named Young American. But for the Block Island Race the group hitched a ride on Lir, a Swan 45 owned by John McNamara. This year’s Block Island Race produced some wild conditions. 'It was initiation by fire,' Becker said. 'But all the kids came home with smiles on their faces. They were so cold, beat up, and still they wanted to do more. That’s when they started thinking about the Vineyard Race, but not many of them wanted to do it on a J 105. So the Vineyard Race was a bright star on their horizon and they wanted to figure out how to do this race.'

Eventually they were able to secure the use of Patriot, co-owned by former American YC Commodore Steve Furnary and Vice Commodore Peter Duncan. The team had use of the boat for the Beach Point Overnight junior race in early August, but not much other time to prepare. One of the biggest challenges was learning how to use double halyards something they mastered pretty quickly.

Going into the Vineyard Race, Becker knew the boat had a chance. 'We knew they were prepared and would be able to complete the course,' he said. 'They’re also very competitive.'


The first hint they had that they were in the running for hardware was on the way out. The crew stayed with its original plan to stay down the middle of the Sound despite their competition heading off to one of the shores. The crew saw that several boats they thought should have passed them by Port Jefferson were still behind them. They continued to stick with their plan to go out the Gut, even though that was tested when they had a tight reach getting around the island after the lighthouse.

Most of the tactical decisions were made by the junior sailors. 'I was playing navigator,' Becker said. 'I presented various options and concepts. Doug (McKeige) would check various weather reports on his phone and the kids were into it and made the key decisions.'

One of the junior sailors, Madeline Ploch, 12, was competing against her father, sailmaker Mark Ploch, sailing on Lir. During the ride out, when Lir was behind Patriot, Mark texted images of Patriot’s transom to his daughter wondering if they would ever be able to pass the smaller boat. They eventually did, but not before Patriot gave them a run. 'It was fun having that father/daughter competition,' Becker said.

The eight junior crew members ranged in age from 12 to 17. Becker made special note of Madeline Ploch’s accomplishment. 'If she does the Vineyard Race for the next nine years she will become a Buzzard before she ages out of the Corinthian class.'

What’s next? After the team wraps up the 2013 season they’ve set their sites on Bermuda. They don’t have a boat yet, but are starting to look. Based on what they’ve accomplished in the Vineyard Race, that shouldn’t be too hard.

Patriot was one of five boats that competed this year in the newly-formed Corinthian Challenge. To compete for the challenge boats must have two thirds of the crew between the ages of 14 and 24 and enrolled in high school or college. The Challenge was created by David White (sailing coach at Fairfield Prep School) and Stamford Yacht Club’s Vineyard Race Committee to encourage more youth involvement in the event and sport.

Stamford Yacht Club Commodore Tom Campfield presented the Chelsea Clock trophy to the team for their IRC win and praised them afterwards. 'Stamford Yacht Club is a strong supporter of junior sailing so Patriot’s win is very meaningful. We hosted several junior events this summer so this is a fitting cap to a great season. Congratulations to American Yacht Club and its team.'

This was the 79th running of the Vineyard Race. This year 98 boats entered and 89 started on Friday of Labor Day weekend.

Note: an earlier version of this article reported the highest age of the students aboard as 16. The correct age is Vineyard Race website

Colligo Marine 660x82Schaefer 2016 Ratchet Block 660x82Ancasta Ker 40+ 660x82

Related Articles

Michael Marshall triumphs at J/22 World Championship
With a second place finish in Thursday’s only race, Mike Marshall, Todd Hiller and Luke Lawrence are the champions. Heading into the 10th and final race, Marshall and Chris Doyle were tied on points at 30. As the 41 teams arrived at CORK in the morning, the after effects of an overnight storm left breeze in the mid-20s, so the Race Committee postponed on shore.
Posted on 25 Aug
Best pictures of the first 4 Acts of the Extreme Sailing Series™
An influx of fresh talent have all added to the hype, but the greatest evolution is the replacement of the Extreme 40. An influx of fresh talent, new venues and a revised race format have all added to the hype, but the greatest evolution is the replacement of the Extreme 40 by a smaller, faster catamaran: the flying GC32.
Posted on 25 Aug
Return to Russia for the Extreme Sailing Series™
Joining the fleet as the season heads into its second half is Gazprom Team Russia, led by WMRT champion, Phil Robertson. With one week to go, the fleet returns to St Petersburg for the fifth Act of the season, presented by SAP, 35 of the world’s best sailors are getting their heads in the game and preparing for the one of the trickiest venues of the season so far.
Posted on 25 Aug
Marshall and Doyle tied on points at J/22 World Championship
By way of a victory in Wednesday’s third race, Mike Marshall, Todd Hiller and Luke Lawrence are tied at 30 points By way of a victory in Wednesday’s third race, Mike Marshall, Todd Hiller and Luke Lawrence are tied at 30 points with Chris Doyle, Will Harris and Adam Burns. Jeff Todd is still in the hunt in third place with 35 points.
Posted on 24 Aug
Debriefing the 2016 Rio Olympics—Sailing news North America and beyond
Editorial Editorial
Posted on 23 Aug
The Clipper Race turns 20!
Throughout the race, tales of crew celebrating birthdays on board filter back and they are always a special occasion Throughout the race, tales of Clipper Race crew celebrating their birthdays on board filter back and they are always a special occasion, likely to remain a completely unique event in their lifetime.
Posted on 23 Aug
A magnificent fleet gathers in Cowes for Etchells World Championship
58 teams from all over the world have entered the championship, hosted by the Royal London Yacht Club. Twenty teams are from Great Britain and a dozen each from Australia and the United States of America. Four entries are from Hong Kong and as far afield as: Bermuda, Ireland, New Zealand, Portugal, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.
Posted on 22 Aug
FAST40+ Class to be the first to have honour of racing for One Ton Cup
14 FAST40+ racing yachts are expected, flying the flags of England, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa and the USA 14 high performance FAST40+ racing yachts are expected for the One Ton Cup, flying the flags of England, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa and the United States of America. The crew, of which only five can be professionals, come from countries all over the world.
Posted on 22 Aug
Noroton Yacht Club dominates Hinman Trophy Team Race
Sailors often say it’s the little things that make the difference between winning and lose. 2016 Hinman Trophy Team Race - Sailors often say it’s the little things that make the difference between winning and lose. This was the case for Noroton Yacht Club as they won the Invitational Team Race Regatta for the Commodore George R. Hinman Masters Trophy for the second straight year, though maybe not in the way you’d expect.
Posted on 22 Aug
Drama Queen - Goransson wins Melges 32 National Championship
Richard Goransson and his Inga from Sweden team have claimed the 2016 US Melges 32 National Championship 2016 US Melges 32 National Championship - After a weekend of challenging, moderate conditions in Newport, RI, Richard Goransson and his Inga from Sweden team have claimed the 2016 US Melges 32 National Championship hosted by Sail Newport. Capping a weekend full of tight racing with lead changes around the track, it was fitting that the final race had three teams fighting for the regatta win
Posted on 22 Aug