The calendar said April 5 and 6, but the weather said February as a fleet of 63 boats gathered at the Larchmont Yacht Club on Long Island Sound to contest the 2003 IC Dinghy National Championship. Saturday brought the second day of a hard wet easterly that had already caused the cancellation of Friday’s practice sailing. While it never poured, the sky was as grey as the combers marching down the Sound and the fleet was lucky to be able to sail in the relative shelter provided by the Larchmont breakwater. Past champions Neal Fowler of Hyannis sailing with Mike Collins and Jim Bowers and longtime crew Myrna MacRae of Winthrop (MA) each won their respective flights in the first race and it looked as if the very strong Massachusetts contingent would be vying for the title. Bowers went on to win his flight in the second race as the breeze began to lose just a little of its punch and settle into a fairly predictable pattern.
However after a slow start, a trio of boats from the home fleet found their groove and began to take control of the regatta. Former Sunfish World Champion Paul-Jon Patin sailing with his wife Anne came back from an opening race 10 (his throwout) to put bullets on the board in his second and third races. Olympic Silver Medalist Steve Benjamin and Rob Kane opened with a second, were OCS in the second race but came back with a 2,4,5 before doing a horizon job on the competition in winning their flight of Race 6. While both of these crews were putting up strong results, last year’s UBS Challenge winner Ben Cesare and wife Kim caught fire in the middle of the day and ran off 3 wins in a row in dominating fashion. As the afternoon wore on the cold and raw conditions began to take a toll on the racers. A strong outbound tide and the very competitive fleet led to a series of general recalls prior to the 7th race, which prolonged the frozen crews’ agony. However after about 45 minutes of recalls and line resets the final race of the day got off with the respective flights won by veteran Steve Kirkpatrick of Scituate and newcomer Mike Funsch of Larchmont.
The large contingent of sailors enjoyed an outstanding dinner party at the Larchmont Yacht Club and every team present went home the a winner of a prize in the raffle that was supported by event sponsors UK Sailmakers, Dirty Dog Eyewear, Harken, New England Ropes, Thule, North Sails, Douglas Gill, Cape Cod Shipbuilding and Karl’s Boat Shop of Harwich MA (the IC’s new builder).
Sunday’s weather – while sunnier and possibly less raw – brought a new front and 35 kts of rapidly oscillating northerly breeze. The 9:30 start was clearly not going to happen, much to the relief of some of the crews who had partied late into the daylight savings shortened prior night! However the morning dragged on with little more than teases that there would be enough of a drop in the breeze to sail. Early in the afternoon, some of the travellers began packing up, however George Parthemos’ LYC Race Committee patiently waited out the weather. Finally, at 1:30 the RC signaled that they would give the fleet a go. A rush to get boats re-rigged ensued and the first race was finally started around 2:30. Jim Bowers again proved that he was fast off the dock, winning his first race for the second day running. A 6th in the second race was good enough to bring home 4th overall. Paul-Jon Patin sailed a consistent 3,5 in the heavy air to take 3rd. Ben Cesare opened with a 4th to Steve Benjamin’s 5th to put some daylight between them, however, Cesare had a throwout in the final race while Benji came home with a 2nd. After 9 races the two were tied at 29 points, however with their 3 wins on Saturday, Ben and Kim Cesare were crowned the 2003 IC Dinghy National Champions.
Also read Jesse Falsone’s interview after the 2003 Nationals that Sailingworld didn’t print! No Cold Feet for Frostbite Lovers: The Ben and Kim Interview.