There was no shortage of wind for this year’s Region 1 ECA Championship, and it came in two varieties: strong & steady, and puffy-shifty. Saturday’s racing was held in the relatively open waters of Toms River’s Wanamaker area, which provided for a very steady breeze of twelve to eighteen knots. Sunday’s breeze, however, was much too strong on the Wanamaker for enjoyable, safe competition, so racing was held in the very shifty confines of the river, which was a much better alternative than cancellation. The combined variety, and the excellent skills of PRO Rich Proko and his team, provided the competitors, who hailed from as far away as South Carolina and New York, two very different and challenging days of racing.
Off the water, the competitors were treated to an ever-present flow of patio beer, socials and parties! During the day on Friday, while some were arriving, getting their sails measured and launching their boats, others enjoyed together-time on the water for some fun and to practice their maneuvers. Later, under a colorful orange and gold sunset, everyone gathered on past National Champion Dick Torpey’s large, backyard deck for some great food, drink and social time.
On Saturday, a capricious, geographic shift along Wanamaker’s northern shore provided spice for all three races, which were sailed in a northeast breeze. The competitors used starboard tack lifts in the gentle oscillations to scramble to the sometimes-present geographic shift, but dared not get too close for fear of shallow water and shore-induced spotty wind. Largely, all three of Saturday’s races were boat-speed, sail-handling contests, as long as a team didn’t go hard right, suffer a break down, or get too close to the northern shore.
After racing, the competitors swapped racing stories on the TRYC patio while drinking cold beer and enjoying light snacks. Sheila Torpey, the regatta’s hospitality chairperson, kept the food and drink in ample supply while our Fleet 63 Captain, Michael Paccione, grilled up some tasty burgers, sausages and hot dogs for dinner. Lots of good stories strengthened friendships new and old, as the beer flowed and the grill smoked, against a constantly changing parade of sailboats and powerboats in the background.
Sunday’s racing was a completely different animal. Toms River is a fairly narrow waterway, surrounded by cliffs, tall structures and trees. It is certainly wide enough to set a race course, but the hard, temporary, twenty-five degree shifts that auto-tack your boat make racing in high winds west of TRYC, an eyebrow lifting and sometimes harrowing experience. Getting struck by a powerful, aft shift while under spinnaker can roll your Ensign hard to weather, even if the spinnaker sheet is barber-hauled hard to the deck to keep the spinnaker shoulder from twisting off. To prevent a Niagra-like waterfall from entering your cockpit under spinnaker in a powerful breeze, keep the mast head fly forward of the tabs. Sailing too deep in these conditions is just an invitation to a weather roll, and sometimes following the chute to weather is not enough of a deterrent.
Sunday’s conditions provided golden gems of opportunity all over the race course. Staying in-phase and in the breeze is a good pre-race strategy, but it’s one that is quickly undone by personal wind Gods in the corners of a race course. Sunday’s racing was quite close and very exciting!
Good regattas are provided by people and planning. This regatta was planned and overseen by some folks who did a really nice job. Harry Foote served as our US Sailing Judge, and provided two more judges in case of a protest (of which there were none). Michael Paccione and TRYC Fleet Captain Adam Walsh made sure every ‘I’ was dotted and every ‘T’ crossed. Rich Proko was the extremely capable PRO. Sheila Torpey was the hostess-with-the-mostest. Trace Dittenhofer oversaw boats, trailers and launching, and the fine folks at TRYC helped with all the rest… food and drink, procurement, lunches, committee boat, marks, flags, and racing equipment. For those that came, we sure hope you had a great time! For those that didn’t, we sure missed you! Please come see us soon!