Report from the 2015 World Championship Regatta by Herb Motley
Jonathan Farrar with a crew including his Olympic sailing wife, Isabelle Kinsolving Farrar became the first son of a previous World Champion to Claim the Bjarne Aas trophy. Our International One Design Fleet was welcomed by the Nantucket Fleet and the Nantucket Yacht Club September 13-18 to compete for the 2015 World Championship.
Nantucket is a charming 18th century town on a remote island 30 miles from shore. Guests arrive from the mainland by fast ferry out of Hyannis on the south side of Cape Cod or fly in to the uniquely designated ACK airport in the center of the island. In high season the airport serves at least as many private jets as commercial flights!
The teams arrived during the day on Sunday and were welcomed to a delicious buffet dinner at the very modern Yacht Club. Following dinner the skippers retired to receive specific regatta instructions and participate in the boat draw for the week’s racing.
Monday morning awakened to 25-30 knot winds from the west. Before any boats had left their moorings, Eric Robbins, the excellent PRO, announced on the radio that there would be no sailing that day. Discretion suggested that there would be a full fleet of boats all week if they weren’t broken by the rough seas and high winds of Monday. By 10:00 AM all were back on shore, and plans were made to hold the Annual General Meeting of the World Class Association at 5:00 that afternoon leaving plenty of time to explore the island and its many charms. Fleet founders Peter and Bonny McCausland welcomed us all to their lovely home for buffet dinner overlooking the bay to the north side of the island.
After a full day champing at the bit, the boats left the harbor early Tuesday morning. While the wind had dropped to 15 knots, the direction hadn’t changed and the seas were still choppy and rough. Norway’s Martin Rygh claimed both the Practice Race and the first regular race to throw down a challenge to the rest of the fleet.
Expert boat handling by the Nantucket RIB operators quickly moved crews from one boat to another despite the rough water, and they were off again. This time Wells Bacon Jr. representing Long Island Sound claimed the prize. Wind and sea had abated somewhat for the third race as weary crews changed boats once again. This time Jonathan Farrar heard the finishing horn. Throughout the course of the day each of the past champions had at least one finish in double digits. John Henry from Northeast Harbor had sailed most evenly with a 6, 5, 2 record on the day to take the lead. Farrar and Rygh were tied one point behind him with 16 points. Wells Bacon, Jr. and Bill Widnall were next with 17 each.
On Wednesday morning the wind had dropped out overnight and filled in with a 6-8 knot northerly and flat seas. PRO Robbins set his most common course configuration, a “double sausage” windward-leeward with the start/finish line about 0.3 miles above the leeward gate. Spectators held our breaths as he called for a 1.6 mile beat to the top mark, but the wind held long enough to complete the course won again by Fishers Island. They were followed in order by Martin Rygh and John Henry. Boats were changed. Lunch was enjoyed. And about 1:00 o’clock it was decided that there was little hope of getting off another worthy race that afternoon and the boats returned to harbor. Calm winds and a flat ocean sunset view made for a spectacular dinner at the home of Pierre and Connie Crosby on the south shore of the island out in the moors below the airport. (Your scribe paused on the way from the parking lot to house for a delicious swim on the deserted beach.)
Thursday was crunch time with everybody expecting three races to get back on schedule. At the top of the pack were Henry, Farrar and Rygh with 16, 17 and 18 points in hand. Farrar and Rygh each had a big score to discard when the event got to six races. Past Champion, Urban Ristorp from Sweden was close to the leaders with 22 points and he won the first race on Thursday morning to tighten things up even further. David Rockefeller, Jr. with Wells Bacon Sr. had 25 points just one ahead of Wells Jr. (and sister Maggie) from Long Island Sound. Ten time champion, Bill Widnall was sitting on 28 points, while Penny Simmons, defending Champion from Norway in 2014, was having an uncharacteristically tough week back in the weeds with 40 points. His best races at the end of the day were a 5 and 6.
Back out to the Great Point racing circle the competition was held in 10-12 knot winds from the Southwest. Peter McCausland took the pin end of the line and carried almost to the left hand corner before tacking back. He rounded the weather marks with a comfortable lead. At the gate he once again went left but didn’t tack back to cover the near competition who had split and gone right. At the middle point of the second beat the boats were separated over a mile apart from left side of the course to the right. The right paid off for Urban Ristorp who took the win. Peter had to settle for fourth, sandwiched between John Henry, Martin Rygh and Jonathan Farrar.
Another boat change, another race, and this time McCausland was narrowly beaten out at the gun by old fox Bill Widnall. Farrar was third and the other Nantucket team led by Bobby Constable slipped into 4th after holding the lead at the second windward mark. In the final race of the day the Commodore’s team (aka People’s) held on for the bullet leading to a very strong finish in the regatta. Henry, Rygh and Farrar scored 2, 3, 5 to keep the scores close at the front.
Came Friday morning and we had a tie with Farrar and Rygh holding 17 points after throwouts. John Henry lay third with 23 points. A pair of 9s dropped Urban Ristorp back to 31 points and out of contention for the trophy. Constable and “the people” had worked their way up to 5th with 33. Rockefeller and Bacon were tied on points for the family rivalry one point ahead of Widnall.
Friday was a perfect day with a moderate Southwest breeze. Half the fleet headed east toward the harbor entrance while the others split to the west. Tide was running north with increasing speed as the day wore on. Going left got you out of the tide, but playing the shifts up the middle was the winning strategy. Farrar took his third bullet closely followed by Widnall. Constable continued his upward track from the day before taking 3rd, while the other contenders were less successful. Henry was 6 and Martin Rygh was 13!
Boats were changed, lunch was enjoyed. And the course was set up for the final race. Before the start sequence a message came over the radio. “This is Fishers Island. We are heading for the beach.” Careful lunchtime arithmetic had told them they could score their 11 point previous worst score, accept 15 points for the DNC as a new throwout and still win the regatta.
Martin Rygh came back from his disastrous first race to claim bookend wins in the first and last races of the regatta. Henry had to settle for 4th which left him in third place with 33 points to Rygh’s 30 and Farrar’s 29. Constable took second moving him up to fourth place overall. Bacon, Jr. took third giving him a nine point margin over his Father with D Rock’s Caribou team. Widnall followed his morning 2nd place with an 11 to drop back into 7th.
At the end of day, we had a lot of family stories. The Farrar family became the first father and son both to win a championship. (Kevin was not competing this year.) Father Wells Bacon had to concede 3 positions to his son and daughter, Maggie and Wells, Jr. The senior generation of past champions watched from much cheaper seats than expected with neither Widnall nor Simmons in contention. The other past champion, Urban Ristorp, had some jets in the early races, but scored 9, 9, 4, 9 after his Thursday morning win.
Every competitor praised the organization of the Nantucket fleet and Yacht Club staff for an excellent regatta. They liked the fact that all the boats were rigged identically, making boat swaps easier. Ian McNeice and Geoff Verney were gracious hosts and superior organisers. Nantucket have set a high bar for other fleets hosting future regattas.