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Henr-Lloyd 2021 For the love of foul weather LEADERBOARD

A Q&A Nancy Pearson and Buttons Padin on the 2021 Viper 640 North Americans

by David Schmidt 5 Oct 08:00 PDT October 7-10, 2021
Final day - Viper 640 World and North American Championships © Sharon Green / Ultimate Sailing

Brian Bennett drew a racecourse winner in 1996 when he drafted the design that became the Viper 640. As its name implies, this high-performance sportboat carries just over 21 feet of waterline (read: 6.43 meters), which begins at its fine-entry bow and continues through its widely flared beam sections before terminating at its self-bailing open transom. Carbon fiber spars reduce weight aloft, while fiberglass hull construction and strict One Design rules help wallets maintain their vanishing stability.

More importantly, the boat's design and sailplan help it hop onto a plane in less air than other similarly sized sportboats. And should things really go cattywampus, the boat's 220-pound keel bulb helps ensure a successful self-righting.

Crew weight and true windspeed depending, Viper 640s are sailed with crew of two to four sailors, and they are commonly transported between regattas on trailers.

This is helpful, as the Viper 640 Class is active across the country. The 2021 Viper 640 Women's North American Championship (October 2-3) and the 2021 Viper 640 North American Championship (October 7-10) are both being hosted by Noroton Yacht Club, in Darien, Connecticut, and both have attracted some of North America's top Viper 640 sailing talent.

I checked in with Nancy Pearson and Buttons Padin, event co-chair of the 2021 Viper 640 North American Championship and Viper 640 Class Administrator (respectively), via email, to learn more about this One Design regatta.

What kind of entry numbers are you seeing this year? Also, are there any notable geographical concentrations to this entry list?

Currently, we have over 55 boats registered for the Viper 640 North American Championship and, encouragingly, 16 teams entered for the first Viper 640 Women's North American Championship.

Originally, both regattas were set to be World Championships, but due to Covid issues, we were unable to guarantee entries from Australia, Europe and South Africa, so we shifted [both regattas] to North Americans.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter off on Long Island Sound in early October? What are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

The Viper Class has held a number of championships on western Long Island Sound in the fall. For example, we had the Viper NAs at Larchmont Yacht Club in 2014 when it blew like stink.

Purposefully, these two championships are scheduled for early October, so we've a much better chance to have the wind conditions Viper sailors love...mid-teens when the boats get up and go, both up and downwind.

Everyone is really looking forward to these championships.

Do you see local knowledge playing a big or small role in the regatta's outcome? Can you please explain?

Not really. We'll be sailing far enough out into the Sound that current won't be much of a factor. And, as many of the competitors have significant Long Island Sound sailing experience, it should be pretty even sailing for both events.

As a follow up to that last question, will the sailors who competed in the Women's International Championship have an advantage over the sailors who competed in the North Americans, given that the Women's International Championship also took place off of Noroton Yacht Club?

Not really other than they will have more time in the boat.

And, the reality is that most of the women skippers will be crewing for their normal team in the NAs.

If you could offer one piece of advice to visiting (and local) teams, what would it be?

Simply, be on time each day. We will be dry-sailing half of the boats each day so there will be lines at the hoists. Being on time, if not early, will allow you go [get] your boat set before starting out to the course.

Oh, yes, also say "Thank you" to all the Noroton Yacht Club volunteers who have worked tirelessly to host these championships during a very administratively trying time.

Do you have any teams that you are eyeing for podium finishes? What about any dark horses who you think could prove to be fast, once the starting guns begin sounding?

Yes, some of the big dawgs will be there.

While reigning World Champion Marcus Egan can't make the NAs, we have five-time NAs Champions Brad Boston and Lee Shuckerow in Jackpot. In addition, the local (Larchmont Yacht Club) teams of Peter Beardsley [and] Jay Rhame and Cardwell Potts [and] Ted Ferrarone are both past NAs top Corinthian teams.

Add to that list local Noroton sailors including Will Graves, the father-son team of Jim and Rob Crane, and Viper newbie Marek Zaleski.

Obviously organizing and running a big regatta amidst a still-churning pandemic isn't easy. Can you tell us about the biggest logistical and organizational hurdles that you've had to clear to make this happen?

Clearly, the biggest challenge has been the ever-moving goalposts of Covid Protocols.

As noted, we moved from a Worlds to a North Americans due to Covid. Now, we're trying to sort out how the eight Canadian boats can come across the border to sail. We went out in front of the curve weeks ago and mandated that everyone participating (sailors, committee, volunteers, guests) all provide proof of being vaccinated.

In a few instances where vaccinations are not possible due to medical reasons, accommodation are being made to accept a negative PCR test within four days of arriving and those people will be masked at all times while on the Noroton Yacht Club campus.

Can you tell us about any efforts that you and the other regatta organizers have made to try to lower the regatta's environmental footprint or otherwise green-up the regatta?

Both the host club and the class go into these events with eco-conscious mindsets. Water bottle-filling stations, recyclable items wherever possible, and having all registration data digitally managed by YachtScoring.com.

In reality, you can't eliminate all eco challenges, but the committee has done everything possible to reduce environmental impact.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add, for the record?

Yes, the Class would like to thank the folks at Noroton Yacht Club led by Event Chairs Nancy Pearson and Bob McHugh. Also, Stamford Yacht Club was originally running the NAs between the Women's and the Worlds. While SYC is not hosting the event, they are working hand-in-hand with Noroton as venues and protocol issues evolved.

We have assembled a truly world-class Race Management Team! Our teams, led by International Race Officer Sandy Grosvenor from Annapolis, MD for both events, and includes IRO Hank Stuart, and ROs Ellen Pesch, Maureen Koeppel, and Glenn Morrison. Our Jury for the Women's includes IJ - Jan O'Malley US/Chair), Elizabeth Rouget, and Jennifer Leary. Our North Americans International Jury includes Lynne Beal (CN/Chair), Darryl Waskow (US/Vice Chair), Bruce Cook (US), Lori Lowe (BAH), and Andrew Alberti (CN).

Recording the event will be a team of photographers including Rick Bannerot, Harry Milne, and Dave Trost, and the Class will be posting throughout the regatta with its PR efforts led by Viper 640 Class Administrator Buttons Padin. www.viper640.org, @Viper640

Our teams include all levels of experienced sailors, Race Committee, and Safety personnel. In tribute to the first Viper 640 Women's North American Championship, we have an all-women Race Committee and Protest Committee. Our Team represents more than 15 different Yacht Clubs for these North American Regattas.

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