By Jeff Wall, Mt. Desert Islander
The IOD worlds practice race on July 26 was met with winds of 20 knots gusting to 25 knots out of the west northwest teaming up with a two foot chop to challenge the international crew of racers.
Before the practice race even started, the mast on Dram, skippered by Elliot Wislar from Long Island Sound #2 (LIS#2) snapped because of a parting backstay. The mast came down in two pieces but fortunately all of the crewmembers on board evaded injury.
Before long Firefly, with San Francisco #1 skipper Jim Hennefer, snapped a boom as a gust grabbed it on a gybe.
The course began just east of the Gilley Thorofare between Sutton and Great Cranberry Island with a windward start. The windward mark was an offset rounding the marks to port. The leeward mark was a gate giving competitors a choice of rounding the side closer to Great Cranberry or towards Sutton Island.
By the end of the first leeward leg the Norwegian team with Martin Rygh on at the helm had rounded first in a tight pack of four boats. The defending champions from Sweden skippered by Urban Ripstorp, Fishers Island #1 with skipper Charlie Van Voorhis, and Bill Widnall from Marblehead #1 were al in hot pursuit.
Most of the fleet opted to go north towards Sutton Island on the second windward leg to minimize the effect of the chop while still maintaining good pressure from the wind and taking advantage what remained of the flood tide.
The front half of the fleet began to gain a slight separation midway through the second windward leg. As the equipment damage began mounting the race committee deemed spinnakers hazardous by the second leeward leg and made the race nonspinnaker.
Most boats opted to round the leeward gate on leg four on the northern side near Sutton.
On the final windward leg the front end of the pack tightened up, but Norway managed to fight off a hard charging Charlie Van Voorhis to take the win by less than half a boat length. Elliot Wislar and crew overcame the mental shock from the mast breakage to nab third. The 2009 champs from Sweden took fourth and Bill Widnall placed fifth.
The damage toll on the boats was so widespread that the repairs couldn’t be made in time to begin a second race so a postponement was put in place to be raced on the lay day of Wednesday.
The beginning of day two looked like it was going to be a repeat of day one. The winds were slightly lighter, coming out of the west northwest at 15-20 knots. The seas were more forgiving however, which led to less pounding on the boats and their contents. The course remained virtually the same for race two. The competitors were all smiles as they tacked and gybed, warming up for another day of phenomenal conditions.
At the start Nantucket #1 got caught over the line and had to bear off to restart giving the rest of the fleet nearly a quarter mile jump. Two thirds of the fleet headed directly for Sutton Island to work the flood tide and the lift from the island, the rest went to Great Cranberry in hopes of eliminating a tack or two on the windward leg.
Going to Sutton was apparently the correct tactic as Ian McNeice from Nantucket #2 rounded the offset first with John Henry from the Northeast Harbor Fleet #2 (NEHF) three boat lengths behind. The next boat, Bill Widnall, was in third by another three boat lengths. The race committee posted a no spinnaker flag at the first mark due to wind conditions.
Fishers Island #1 flew down the leeward leg and hit the gate first with a 12-second lead over NEHF #2. The fleet was fairly evenly split to both port and leeward as they rounded the leeward gate.
Midway through the second leeward leg, Auriga with Craig Davis of Bermuda #2 at the helm, busted their boom.
The first two boats, Nantucket #2 and NEHF #2 remained in the lead, leaving the rest of the fleet behind as they battled for the number one position on the second windward leg of race two.
The two front boats, Nantucket #2 and NEHF #2 matched maneuvers for the rest of the race to take first and second respectively with a significant lead over the rest of the fleet.
The starting line for race #3 was moved closer to the northwestern point of Great Cranberry to accommodate an abating northerly shift in the wind. After an extended postponement of race three due to equipment failure, the starting gun fired with two boats over the line. The main portion of the fleet headed to starboard towards Sutton as the offenders restarted.
Herb Motley from Marblehead #2 rounded the offset first with number two, John Burnham of Nantucket #1, on his heels. The main pack rounded less than a minute later trying to chase them down.
At the leeward gate Marblehead #2 and Nantucket #1 rounded in tight succession less than a half a minute ahead of LIS#1 charging in at third.
LIS # 1 cut hard on a port tack towards Sutton then off to Bear Island then to the windward mark putting them in a healthy lead under a steadily dying wind. Once they rounded they headed for the eastern tip of Greening Island as the first cool whiffs of a southerly breeze wafted in.
Wislar and crew dropped the spinnaker and took off towards Great Cranberry. As the rest of the fleet passed Greening, the light run turned into a decent close haul catching some off guard, collapsing their spinnakers.
Rounding the leeward gate and heading back towards Sutton under a steady southeasterly, LIS#2 continued to stretch out their lead on a run, taking the gun in race three. Just over a minute later Fisher Island #2 crossed the line well ahead of the remainder of the fleet.
With weather looking like it will be conducive to racing, the fourth race, held on the lay day Wednesday, marks the midway points of IOD World competition. With winds of 7-10 knots out of the south varying slightly to SSE and back the race committee placed the start by the southern end of Greening Island and the windward mark was at the entrance to Western Way on the Great Cranberry Island side. The course was a windward-leeward with an offset to windward and leeward gate. Five legs of the course were sailed.
At the start the I rule was invoked keeping all boats behind the line one minute before the start with infractions necessitating a rounding of one of the ends of the line before starting.
The start was clean. With the flood tide in the middle third most boats opted to try to sneak along the Manset shore to capitalize on the eddies while still maintaining lift. The three entries from the NEHF used that area knowledge to their advantage and managed to get in the front of the pack by the midway point of the first windward leg. Most other competitors were quick to notice and soon followed suit.
The breeze became slightlypuffy with gusts to 10-12 kts. Four boats opted to battle the current in a gamble of reaching the Cranberry shoreline for eddies and slightly calmer water.
Richard Thompson from the Chester, NS fleet managed to find the sweet spot on the Manset shore and edged out to an early lead but was being challenged by the By the time they reached the first windward rounding Martin Rygh of Norway had attained first, John Henry (NEHF#2) was in second, John Burnham (FIS#2) was in third, Penny Simmons from (BER#1) was in third and Thompson was in fifth. The top four boats were separated by a boat length or less at the mark.
The leeward gate was shifted to the east towards Sutton Island to accommodate a slight shift in wind to the southwest.
The racers headed toward Cranberry and off toward the leeward mark under spinnaker. Burnham (FIS#2) got closer to the middle of the channel early and gained enough advantage on the leeward leg to round the first gate to starboard in the lead. Henry (NEHF#2) and Rygh (NOR) were close behind headed to starboard. All three threaded gaps in the fleet on port tack to head to the Manset shore. Going to the port side of the gate Thompson (CHES) was in fourth with Simmons (BER#1) chasing him down.
The windward mark was shifted to favor the Manset side of Western Way for the second windward rounding
The Manset shore was once again favored on the windward leg by everyone except Ripstorp (2009 Champs) who stayed on a starboard tack after rounding the gate all the way to Cranberry.
The wind increased slightly to a steady 12 kts pushing up some fair chop in the middle of the Western Way. Burnham (FIS#2) stretched out his lead to nearly a full minute over Thompson (CHES) at the second windward mark. Rygh (NOR) was close behind with Wislar ( LIS#1) making significant headway on the third leg getting into fourth position.
The top three positions were locked in on the second leeward leg. Simmons (BER#1) worked his way into fourth on the leg while Wisla r(LIS#1) nailed sixth.
The finish was snugged up to the Manset shoreline causing the entire fleet to finally choose that shoreline. The top of the pack stayed in the same order to the line with Burnham (FIS#2) getting the bullet Thompson (CHES) taking second and Rygh (NOR) getting third.
Pictures by Nicholas Schoeder.
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