2011 InterClub Atlantic Coast Championship

2011acc1Often times a new regatta comes about as the product of one man’s vision. Making the vision into reality is usually that which requires the most effort, starting with convincing his significant other that it’s a good idea. Presumably, Steve “Benj” Benjamin didn’t have too much trouble talking his wife, Heidi, into the notion that an InterClub regatta hosted from their beautiful home in Minnesott Beach, North Carolina had merit. After all, the Benjamin’s won three InterClub national championship titles together, and Heidi comes from a rich sailing heritage and competitive background herself. Gazing upon their expansive new dream home, it’s hard to imagine that events like the inaugural InterClub Atlantic Coast Championship was not rooted in their initial planning. The accommodations for visitors is plush and plentiful, the views of the racing area spectacular, and the waters perfect for nearly any inland racing boat. It comes as a bit of a surprise that Benjamin claims that the regatta this past weekend is the first organized sailboat race ever to be held
off Minnesott Beach. Strike one in the record books for the “Benj Yacht Club”.

2011acc3Perfect regatta destinations usually come with a catch, and the catch here is that Minnessott Beach is 350 miles from the nearest IC frostbite fleet in Annapolis, and over 500 miles from others in New York. Realistically, these distances are a bit stretched for a weekend regatta, but the Benjamin’s saw to it that the participants were well attended to. In return for the entry fee (a 12-pack of beer), we were treated to as much racing as we could reasonably handle on Saturday in 10-18 knots of wind, followed by copious good cheer and nourishment. The Benjamin’s had professional race management on staff, comprised of some fine young gentlemen that until last weekend had never witnessed a sailboat race in person. I do believe that their race committee boat was well-provisioned for the task at hand, and they did an admirable job keeping us moving on the water.

While competition clearly drives Benj, it was obvious to me that his vision of this regatta has less to do with determining a winner and more to do with bringing friends together to share in the brotherhood of frostbite sailing. Touring the grounds with him, I could see the
calculus taking place in his head (and indeed mine)… 30+ IC’s racing off the beach, spectators calling puffs and predicting winners from their perch ashore, his favorite band (The Grateful Dead) pumping out the tunes, and good times lasting far into the evening
beside the pool house. In fact, excepting the numbers, that’s exactly what happened.

2011acc2It was fitting that Benj won this inaugural event with his crew of three years, Jason Raymond. They sailed remarkably well, with nary a mistake. Just as joyous the victory was the obvious pleasure Benj took in having his longtime friend, Dee Smith, jump into the little boat to test his skill and balance, acquitting himself well. It must’ve been a curious site to unsuspecting onlookers in the surrounding homes to see small boats racing about big day-glow orange buoys in the dead of winter. But maybe they’ll become accustomed to it. Another local North Carolinian has four old ICs in his possession, and may now have the impetus to get them all sailing.

Is it possible? Will people buy into the vision? Will they come? From this humble beginning, I will predict that yes, the InterClub ACCs will happen again and it’s going to be good – real good. Some changes will follow, beginning with a “collegiate” racing format
so that two teams can race in a single boat (as is practiced at the InterClub Midwinters). This provides flexibility for travelers so that fewer people need to drive. Otherwise, the formula is perfect: little boats, lots of short races, great hospitality, in a gorgeous venue.
Just be sure you like the Grateful Dead.

Standing on the moon
With nothing else to do
A lovely view of heaven
But I’d rather be with you