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North Sails 2021 Innovation - LEADERBOARD

Navy Yacht Club Pensacola takes GYA Fish Class Championship

by Talbot Wilson 26 Oct 00:25 PDT
Navy Yacht Club Pensacola won the 2021 GYA Fish Class Championship with this hold your breath finish in the last race. Navy (27) and Pensacola (5) finished tied wit 10 points each. Navy had a 1-2-7 while Pensacola was one behind with a 1-3-6. © Talbot Wilson

Navy Yacht Club Pensacola took the tiebreaker win when the final points were counted and finishing positions matched up in the 22nd Annual Fish Class Championship. Navy and Pensacola were knotted in a 10-point tie for first place. Pensacola finished the three-race regatta with scores of 1-6-3 and Navy finished 7-1-2.

The tiebreaker came at the very end of the final race when Navy skipper Mark Smith held his final-leg-lead and nipped Pensacola at the pin end of the finish line by a foot and inches for second place and one point ahead of Pensacola in that race. It was a mighty good win for the Navy team of Mark Smith, Bert Rice and Tom Whitehurst as Navy's second place finish just ahead of PYC gave them the advantage in the tiebreaker, 1-2 vs.1-3.

Navy now holds the coveted John G. Curren Trophy, a silver scale model of a Fish Boat perched atop a wooden base ringed with the names of the 21 previous winners.

Maybe one more puff of wind in the dying 9kt breeze at the finish line of the final race would have turned the tide for the surging Pensacola YC team and put them ahead for the regatta. That's how close the competition was... and that's one-design sailboat racing.

In another close battle, the Point Yacht Club and Mobile Yacht Club tied for third with 12 points each. The Point won that tiebreaker with 2021 Fish World Champion DJ Johnson's first place finish in Race 3. That put them in third and Mobile dropped into 4th.

Mobile had finished Saturday in second place followed by Southern YC.

Trophies were awarded to the winners of each race and three deep for the team competition. A new trophy was introduced this year, the boat Owners Trophy. It was awarded to the owner of the boat which had the lowest score in the regatta. That prize went to John G, Curren, the owner of the #11 boat. His father is the man honored by the GYA Fish Class Championship Trophy.

In the first and only race sailed on Saturday, Tom Pace and his Pensacola YC team smoked the fleet. Pace and crew Derick Riddle and Brandon Addison celebrated Brandon's birthday with a walkaway win. They got the start on the pin end of the line, worked their way a little way out on the left side of the course, tacked over on port and crossed the fleet with a comfortable lead.

Being clearly in the lead, the Pensacola YC team kept a loose cover on the other seven boats and worked their way up the ladder on their own terms. Sailing the #11 boat... teams draw different boats for each race... they had about a 10 boat-length lead at the first leeward mark. By the finish they had nearly doubled that.

Saturday had started with a long postponement because there wasn't enough wind for racing. The boats were sent back to the PYC marina to hydrate crews and have lunch. After more than an hour the boats were called back to the course as the sea breeze filled to about six knots. The RC set a 180º windward leg and got the first race started by mid-afternoon. After all the fleet had finished the breeze collapsed and no more races were sailed on the day.

The GYA Fish Class Championship is sailed in borrowed boats and competing teams draw to determine the boats they will sail in each race, just as Fish were sailed in the original Sir Thomas Lipton Challenge Series.

The Fish Class sloop, also known informally as the Fish Boat, is a one-design sailboat designed in 1919 by New Orleans resident Rathbone DeBuys, a member of the Southern Yacht Club. It is reputed to have been the most popular sailboat racing class on the US Gulf Coast in the early 20th century and was the Gulf Yachting Association one-design racer. For more see ORIGIN and GROWTH of the FISH CLASS The History of the Fish Class - written in 1948 By: RATHBONE DE BUYS ALIAS DADDY OF THE FISH CLASS. fishclass.org/history.

Rumor has it that it was called a fish boat because when they were towed behind a powerboat from club to club for regattas on the Gulf Coast the sailboat would wallow and suddenly nosedive into the waves, sometimes to the bottom. So the boats spent a lot of time under water thus the name Fish Boat.

This Fish Class boat should not be confused with Nat Herreshoff's larger New England sloops, nor the popular singlehanded, single sail Fish dinghy.

Fun and Fair Racing

Come on down to the South's finest, friendliest Yacht Club. Race on the world famous waters of Pensacola Bay under the expert direction of Pensacola YC's PRO?Hal Smith.

The Pensacola Bay racing areas are a matter of minutes from the Bayou Chico Channel, the Pensacola YC marina and others. That's more racing and less transit time from the club to the courses.

In October and November, Pensacola sailors often find a daily sea breeze that builds from a mid-day southeasterly to the afternoon 9-12 southwesterly they love. In other seasons, the winds are determined by frontal passages, temperature variables, and Florida sunshine.

All sailors are invited to come sail on Pensacola Bay. Organizers of amateur regional, national or international sailing championships and professional sailing events should contact Pensacola Yacht Club to discuss racing with us on beautiful Pensacola Bay. www.pensacolayachtclub.org.

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