Standing on the deck at Mattapoisett Yacht Club, one looks upon a beautiful mooring field of a hundred boats or more, of various sizes ranging from twenty foot day sailors to sixty foot cruisers. The waters of Buzzard Bay become a deep, murky blue with any depth, and the shoreline is dotted with colorful, gambrel-roofed, shingle siding cottages typical of the Cape Cod area. On this warm, sunny Friday before the regatta, the boats in the mooring field are pointed in every direction, white puffy clouds are lazily dragging their shadows along, and zephyrs are teasing the water's surface. Workers at the Mattapoisett Boat Yard, which shares the property, are going about their business as usual, running the travel lift, painting boat bottoms, seeing to repairs, and talking to their customers. One of the harbor launches departs to deliver an owner and his guests for an afternoon sail.
Having just pulled in, I am walking around the coarse gravel surface, just exploring, taking in the sights, and wondering where my Ensign might be best out of the way. It's quitting time and a fit young lad jumps off the travel lift and saunters over to the open tailgate of a pickup truck. One of his co-workers tosses a beer and the smiles begin. Nothing is better than a cold beer at quitting time on payday.
These are the folks that took care of an entire fleet of Ensigns throughout the week, launching and retrieving them in a careful, quick, polite and professional manner, and it was a pleasure to get to know them. Getting the boats rigged and launched in an efficient manner, and then the reverse process at the end of the regatta, is a significant part of any Ensign National Championship, and no one could have done it better than the friendly folks at Mattapoisett Boat Yard. The yard also ran three, well padded harbor launches, and the pilots were very adept at maneuvering and stopping alongside your Ensign for loading and unloading. Overall, the boat yard was quite an addition to the event, even providing a fabulously decorated boat shed for after-race gatherings and evening dinners.
As for the event management, Mattapoisett Yacht Club does not have a large number of members, or even a fancy clubhouse, but the level of hospitality and organization was outstanding. No details were left unattended, the food and drink were excellent, and whenever one needed some help, it was always delivered by a member with a smile. Although the entire club's membership was involved in running the event, outstanding efforts by the following people deserve special mention:
Fran Grenon - Regatta chairman and photographer
Tina Clark - Fleet Captain and Event Co-Chair
Bob Warren - Commodore
John Mello and Meaghan Giroud - Food and Entertainment
Ed Sargent oversaw the lunches
Mike Dahill - PRO
Ed and Cathy Martens, Ed Normand, Mark Thornhill - RC Support
Mark Thornhill - Sail Measuring
And again, lots of spouses, and doubling up on duties ensured a really well run event, and Mattapoisett Yacht Club is to be commended for a job well done!
Not very often in yacht racing is one fortunate enough to experience an event with such a full range of sailing conditions and a full complement of races. The first three races were held in the lightest winds of the event (3 - 6 knots, a system breeze out of the northwest), and even though the weather shore held the water fairly flat, it was imperative to keep the boat moving, and to minimize tacks. The left side of the course seemed to be favored with better wind velocity, but going all the way to the corner was risky. Approaching the weather mark on port tack offered late benefits, much to the chagrin of the starboard tack layline parade. Eric Jones (and crew George Dalmen, Ann Kitzmiller, Eric Jones, Jr) jumped out to a nice lead and ghosted across the finish line as boats with foaming bow waves closed in. As the winner of the first race, they were awarded the Ray and Ann Torpey Perpetual Trophy. Race 2 was won by Mike Derusha, whose boat and crew (James Knape, Al McInally, Ron Midle) exhibited their usual excellent speed and handling throughout the regatta. In the third race, Island Height Yacht Club's Marista, sailed by Thomas Healey, Marlene Healey, Joe Gonzales and Guy Sirois (pronounced Seer-wah) won the first of their two bullets of the regatta.
After sailing back to MYC, we secured to a mooring, made up the boat, and were almost instantly picked up by a launch. Gear in hand, and hot after a full day of light air racing, we exited the launch and were delightfully greeted by MYC members passing out ice cold, post-race beers from the on-site beer trailer. What a nice touch! The beer trailer was waiting for us after each day's racing, and the immediate, post-race stand-and-slosh was an big hit with all the sailors. Nothing goes with a freshly created sea story like an instantly acquired ice cold beer.
The wind on the second day of racing was out of Buzzard Bay's steady sea breeze direction (SW), at 10 - 12 knots, and accompanied by a larger chop. The first race of the day (Race 4) was won convincingly by CanAm Express, sailed by Thomas Hering with crewmen Sean O'Malley, Kevin Keegan, and Doug Wefer. Mr. Hering is a two-time National Champion (1999, 2001), and ended up second in this event. He races his Ensign in a talented Fleet 7 out of Centerport YC on Long Island's northern shore. The second race of the day (Race 5) was claimed by the eventual regatta winners, Bud Brown, Eric Wiedeke, Brian Gabriel, and Ted Wingender. It's interesting to note that Mr. Hering and Mr. Brown swapped OCS comebacks in races 4 and 5, with Mr. Brown's Race 4 OCS turning into a 7th, and Mr. Hering's Race 5 OCS turning into an 8th. As discovered at Thursday's Award Ceremony, both crews felt their OCS comebacks were one of the highlights of their regattas.
The third day of racing was Survival Day. After a strong frontal passage, the sailors gathered at the yard in a twenty five to thirty knot northwesterly howl. Everyone watched with some apprehension as the most excellent PRO, Mike Dahill, gathered the data he needed for a decision. Racing started without delay, and it took very little time to get to the race course. The best finishes on this day were going to go to the teams with the best starts, and the best boat and sail handling. Aboard Lorelei, we replaced our brand new genoa with an older one, just to preserve the new sail's shape. If twenty dollar bills fly off a #1 while tacking in moderate breeze, one can be quite certain that fifties or hundreds fly off a new #1 in a blow. We also fitted a much flatter main sail to the boom, as the fairly close weather shore was almost certainly going to hold down the seas.
The first race of Day 3 was the second bullet for Thom Healey and crew who, with a little more consistency in the first two races, would have almost certainly been vying for the lead on the final day. The next race (Race 7) was won by three time National Champion Greg Eiffert (1992, 2005, 2008), who had Mike Frankovich, Steve Finnan, and Doug Burtner aboard. Always smart and fast, Greg and Ward Woodruff both suffered DSQ's in Race 5 for an unusual infraction of an SI Rule (7.2 "Racing Areas"). Thomas Hering sailed a beautiful race in the still breezy, but noticeably fading, gust cell conditions of the day's final race, closing on the leader, and setting up an exciting final day of the regatta.
With two scheduled races on Thursday, Lorelei (Bud Brown) stood in first by four points over CanAm Express (Thom Hering), while Marista (Thom Healy) and Menekauna (Mike Derusha) were tied, both only seven points back. The wind was eight knots out of the prevailing sea breeze direction (SW), and predicted to build to fifteen. CanAm Express managed a nice start very close to the heavily favored pin, while Lorelei was a third of the way closer to the boat, suffering from a second row position. With port tack favored, Lorelei tacked and started looking for a hole to pass through the long parade of starboard tack boats. With no opportunity in sight, Lorelei leebowed an oncoming starboard tacker, and inadvertently fouled her. After clearing and performing a 360 penalty turn, the race looked pretty dismal. CanAm Express was well ahead, but trapped by a group of boats on her weather hip sailing toward the left side on starboard tack. Though Lorelei was on the favored port tack, the poor start and penalty turn had cost her dearly. She was sailing in clear air though, making modest gains... and then the wind started to rock to the right. CanAm Express tacked to close the separation, but Lorelei's leverage to the right had already produced a substantial gain. At the windward mark, CanAm was still ahead, but only slightly. The two leaders sailed the downwind with Lorelei surfing CanAm's leeward sternwave, close enough to require onboard communications to be whispered. These were tense moments indeed! At the end of Race 9, however, CanAm had reduced the lead by another two points with a fourth place finish to Lorelei's sixth.
In the final race of the regatta, Lorelei held a slim two point lead over CanAm Express. With a square line, and the breeze now settled at fourteen knots out of the southwest, CanAm again opted for a pin end start. Lorelei started a third of the way toward the committee boat, in clear air, and with good speed. The two boats were evenly matched, and they sailed toward the left corner, each striving for an advantage. CanAm reached the corner and tacked. As the two boats converged, CanAm bore off slightly to build steam for maneuvering and to force an early tack by Lorelei. Lorelei's tack positioned her about three quarters of a boat length to leeward and a half boat length ahead. Again, the evenly matched boats went to battle, each striving for the advantage they needed to pull ahead. A slight, five degree lift placed the port tack boats above the lay line, and when they both rocked down to sail to the mark, Lorelei was clear ahead, exhaling de-energized wind, and pulling away ever so slightly. Both boats rounded the weather mark, set their chutes, and sailed for the starboard gate without gybing. Lorelei managed to round clean, while CanAm became caught outside in a multiple boat rounding. Lorelei placed a loose cover on CanAm for the remainder of the race, and as you now know, the racing was much, much closer than the final point spread would indicate.
When I heard the Award's Banquet was to be held at a YMCA, I envisioned a non-air conditioned, inner city brick building with open windows and a chain link fence. I surely was not prepared for the lavish, prime, waterfront property in Mattapoisett. The food was good, the view of a full moon rising over the water was stunning, and of course, it's always great to see Ensign friends after they clean up. In some cases, you'd be doing good just to recognize them! How blessed are we to have the opportunity to spend time together every year... racing... partying... sharing our common affection for Ensigns?
The Award's Banquet was a huge success. It was a final glowing memory from this amazing group from Fleet 76 in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts. In addition to the racing results, the Ensign Class Perpetual Trophy winners for 2016 are:
Most Beautiful Ensign: #1154, "Sea Foam" Niantic Bay Sailing Academy
Sea III: Joel VerPlank, #583
Faget Trophy: Greg Eiffert, #740
Ray and Ann Torpey Trophy: Eric Jones, #319
Doug Wood Mid-fleet Trophy: Jim Barnes, #1693
Youth Championship : Gabe Gentz, #1584
2016 Ensign National Championship Regatta
Ensign Class (29 boats)
Series Standing - 10 races scored
Regatta results last updated: Thursday, August 18, 2016 2:41:08 PM CDT
- Scoring System is RRS Low Point 2013-2016
- Finishes in [brackets] denote throwouts