2009 Nationals Wrapup

Danny Pletsch and Kari Sachs turned in a virtuoso performance to win the 2009 Interclub Nationals, Presented by ACE Recreational Marine Insurance on April 18-19, 2009, by 49 points over two-time defending champions John and Molly Baxter. Conditions were picture perfect for the 14-race series with a warm, puffy westerly gusting to 18 knots on Saturday followed by a lighter, lumpier easterly on Sunday. A 55-boat fleet made this the largest Interclub Nationals since the regatta was last held at LYC in 2003.

Principal Race Officer Charlie Ulmer was all business and got the talented fleet off in a light southwester to start the regatta. Three-time national champion Steve Benjamin started with a bang, winning the first race while Pletsch/Sachs showed good early form coming a close second. The wind then abandoned the south and made a gradual right turn, finally settling in out of the WNW with some big puffs coming off the land. Positioning in the puffs was very tough and most of the top teams found themselves caught on the wrong side of the course at least once. Pletsch/Sachs were one of the few teams to avoid these pitfalls and rattled off four firsts and two seconds in eight races to take a commanding lead after day one.

The sailors enjoyed a great regatta dinner party in the junior clubhouse where regatta sponsor Heineken’s product helped to soothe achy bodies from a full day’s racing. Regatta chair Peter Beardsley presided over the regatta raffle where lucky sailors took home loot from regatta sponsors North Sails, Quantum Sails, Kinder Industries, Annapolis Performance Sailing, Burgeestar, Phil’s Foils, Doyle Sails and the Dinghy Locker.

Sunday’s racing brought light and lumpy conditions as a strong outgoing tide flowed against the easterly breeze. Keeping the boat powered up and moving was absolutely essential, as was not over standing the starboard layline in the strong current. Though they would not win another race, Pletsch/Sachs finished in the top 10 in all but one of the day’s heats to take the title. The nationals win also netted Pletsch/Sachs the Wharf Rat Challenge Trophy, which rewards the best score in a series of Interclub regattas in Annapolis, Massachusetts, Long Island and Larchmont.

Class stalwarts Pedro Lorson and Mimi Berry from Manhasset had a strong Sunday to move from seventh to third overall in the final standings. David Dowd/Trisha Leicht were fourth and Paul-Jon and Anne Patin finished fifth to give LYC four of the top five placings in the event. In B division, Larchmont’s Peter Strothman and Kendra Emhiser took top honors, followed by Ward Young/Julia Werb and Andrew Davis/Sarah Henley.

National champion Danny Pletsch attributed his success to getting off the starting line cleanly. “We felt very comfortable with our bow down speed and were able put our self in that mode by starting near the pin.”

Overall, regatta chairman Peter Beardsley was pleased with the event. “It’s easy to have a good time when there’s a large fleet of Interclubs and ‘frostbiting’ weather warm enough to sail in shorts. It was a great way to end the winter sailing season.”

Advertisements

2008 Nationals Writeup

Thirty-five boats competed at the 2008 Interclub National Championships hosted out of Metedeconk River Yacht Club in Brick, New Jersey on April 19-20. Sailors were welcomed with excellent conditions, where many opted to race in shorts for the mostly sunny days with breeze ranging from 5-15 knots.

The race committee ran 12 exciting races and competition was tight since the breeze was shifty. Due to consistent finishes, Larchmont YC’s John and Molly Baxter won the event, the only team to have one score out of the top ten. In second place was Steve Benjamin and Charlie McHugh from Larchmont YC, third place was Jim Bowers and Sarah Hitchcock from Winthrop, fourth place was Danny Pletsch and Heather Switlik from Stamford and fifth place was Pedro Lorson and Mimi Berry from Manhasset Bay.

Full Results

2006 Nationals Wrapup

Jim Bowers, sailing with Bridgid Murphy, won the 2006 IC Nationals on March 25-26, 2006 in convincing fashion. Bowers and Murphy posted single-digit finishes in 14 of 16 races in the no-drop series to win by a comfortable 30-point margin over Ben and Kim Cesare from Larchmont, NY. The Cesare’s won the title back in 2003, but never engraved the perpetual trophy, which now reads “Kim and Ben Cesare” courtesy of 2004 winner Mike Funsch. Such is the commaraderie in the IC Class. With this 5th IC Nationals title, Bowers needs only one more win to tie class legend, Jack Slattery. Asked if he would beat the record, the self-effacing Bowers just smiled and shook his head, saying “I don’t know”, seemingly belying the ease in which he has won most of these championships. Many figured Slattery’s record was unbeatable with so many great sailors competing in the class, but at 37 years old, Bowers has many competitive years ahead of him. Ed Adams can attest to that fact, having posted a third at the event. Adams is a perennial competitor in the IC class, having sailed the last few Nationals with his son, Luke. Adams is just one of many 50-somethings competing well in the IC, and having a great time sailing with kids. “It’s tough when they are young because you are essentially single-handing the boat, but then when they turn 11 or 12, and have some experience and size, it all starts coming together. It’s been very rewarding sailing with my son and finishing so strong.” Steve Benjamin has been chasing Slattery’s record for a few decades, amassing three IC National titles, and countless runners-up results. However, consistency evaded Benjamin last weekend, who has a real passion for making the “tubs” go just a little faster. Once look at his tricked-out wooden IC is testament to that fact, and Benjamin owns a “syndicate” of five actively sailed ICs.

Regatta Chairman, Ian Mutnick, was extremely pleased with the regatta. “Sixteen races might just be a record for the IC Nationals, and I’m very thankful to SSA and the regatta staff for working some magic.”

At this point, it’s been well over a decade since Slattery last made his presence known in the InterClub. Maybe now he’ll have a reason to suit up in the frostbite dinghy once again.

Full Results

No Cold Feet for Frostbite Lovers

By Jesse Falsone

coldfeet1
Ben and Kim (21) near the top of the fleet at the finish.

Ben and Kim Cesare were married in 1994, one year after they met while sailing InterClub dinghies together at Larchmont Yacht Club. Many frostbite dinghy skippers might tell you that once their better half slipped on the wedding band, the drysuit went into mothballs. However, Kim and Ben continued to sail the tub-like boat together through thick and thin ice flows, and with the vision that one year they would be crowned champions at the annual InterClub Dinghy National Championship. That vision was to become a reality on a cold, blustery weekend in early April 2003 when the Cesare’s finally topped the 62-boat fleet in a nine-race round-robin series at their home club.

Ben and Kim obviously believed in themselves. “We’ve known for a few years that we have good enough boat handling and speed to win the Nationals”, says Ben. “Two years ago, after we finished 3rd for the second time, Neal Fowler (1997 IC National Champion) said to me ‘just keep showing up, eventually you guys will win this thing’.”

The IC Nationals is almost always a dogfight, and the difference between winning and being the runner-up is usually a scant few points.

This year was no different, and the Cesare’s won the regatta in a tie-breaker with three-time class champion Steve Benjamin. Benjamin, a perennial top finisher in the class for many years, seems to be on a mission to catch IC class legend, Jack Slattery, whose mastery of the tricky dinghy earned him 6 class championships before he retired. As for the competition, according to Ben, its “the best dinghy racing on the East Coast, period, but I’m sure sailors from fleets such as Newport or Cedar Point’s frostbite Laser Fleets would take issue with that statement. I do love the preponderance of former collegiate sailors, the sheer number of past All-Americans, many of who have turned national, world champions or Olympians. But there are also the many, many excellent sailors who didn’t get to sail in college but sail InterClubs, and routinely beat the former All-Americans! If during college sailing, you get a BA in shorter course dinghy racing, then in IC sailing, you get your masters. Some sailors simply elect to skip the BA and go right to grad school.”

coldfeet2
A typical tight weather mark rounding.

Ben says his key to success in the very shifty spring breeze was positioning yourself to be in the top few boats on the side you picked. “You’re positioned to not necessarily win your side but be in the top three if its the correct one. More importantly, you need to be able to round in the top ten if your side did not work out.

So if we’re in the hunt, our downwind speed and Kim’s ability to call the breeze allowed us to convert our position into a good finish by the end of the race. This strategy works well in IC sailing when 20 out of the 30 boats on the line are capable of winning a race.”

Contrary to what some people think, the IC crew contributes to success in multiple ways. Kim says, “The key to being a good IC crew is to view yourself as more than ballast. I think the crew can make a big contribution in terms of trying to call the breeze and help with the shifts. It’s also extremely important to keep the skipper focused on the big picture, and to stick to the plan that we lay out before the start.” Ben adds, “Speaking of keeping focused, crews who are spouses of skippers can also motivate in other ways; ‘we really need to win this next one because I really, really need to use the head on the floating dock parked 200 yards from the starting line’.”

The Cesares, still happily married after a hard fought regatta.
The Cesares, still happily married after a hard fought regatta.

So, is sailing with your spouse a good thing, even in the winter? “It’s not for everyone”, says Ben. “For example, if you can’t handle the occasional conversation between races about the next vacation, living room furniture, or refinancing the mortgage, then don’t sail with your spouse!” Despite some past threats to hang up her drysuit, Kim cherishes the friends they have made sailing each Sunday from November to April, and says she’s in for another year – that is “as long as I get a day on a Caribbean Island for every day I crew!” That’s a small price to pay for a crew as good as Kim.

2003 Nationals Wrapup

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.

Full Results

2002 Nationals Wrapup

60 boats descended on Duxbury Bay Maritime School and Duxbury Yacht Club for this year’s Interclub Dinghy National Championships, held mid season on December 1-2, 2001. The event was hosted by the Scituate Frostbite Association, and competitors included over a dozen past and current collegiate All-Americans, National and World Champions and Olympic Medalists. After 12 very tight races, MIT sailing coach Mike Kalin and Ariya Dararutana, a member of the MIT sailing team emerged victorious.

Saturday’s 70 degree weather and 12 to 20 knot southwesterly featured six windward leeward races. Olympic Silver Medalist and past IC National Champion Steve Benjamin and crew Adam Walsh came out on top of Saturday’s racing, yet were closely tailed by a pack of eight boats, all within 15 points of the lead. The competitors knew that with the expert race management of Fran Charles, MIT’s sailing master and past Interclub National Champion, the regatta would feature a full day on Sunday if the weather permitted.

Sunday’s racing began in a 6 to 12 knot northwesterly with Kalin and Dararutana jumping out to to win the first. Steve Kirkpatrick and Craig Fagan displayed good starts and solid speed to win both the second and third races of the day and to slide past Benjamin and Adams into second. In race four Kalin and Dararutana popped off another bullet, while Benjamin, Kirkpatrick and three time National Champions Jim Bowers and crew Myrna Chen MacCrae were slightly further back. In race five, Benjamin and Adams battled back with a second just ahead of the Bowers/MacRae team followed by Kalin and Dararutana in fourth. At this point Kalin and Dararutana had the regatta won, however there was still debate as to the rest of the positions.

The final race featured the largest windshifts and velocity changes of the 12 race series. At the first mark all the players vying for the top five spots were doing well. Downwind a pack of boats including contenders Ed Adams, Steve Benjamin, Geoff Moore and Neal Fowler all gybed and headed left while Steve Kirkpatrick, Chad Demarest and Jim Bowers continued on starboard. As the breeze gradually shut down, the boats on the right maintained better breeze with Kirkpatrick, Demarest and Bowers hanging on to finish first through third.

A great time was had by all the competitors, who will continue to frostbite throughout the winter.

Full Results

1999 Nationals Wrapup

99NationalsLogoJim Bowers bested a talented field of 56 sailors Sunday to take top honors at the Interclub national championships, held this year at Severn Sailing Association in Annapolis Md. This is a first time win for Bowers, a 1991 graduate of Harvard College where he gained All-American status as a top intercollegiate racer. Bowers, who sails in the Winthrop, Mass., based fleet, had flirted with wins at the IC nationals before, taking a 5th in 1998, 3rd in 1997 and a 6th in 1996. But this year he could not be denied in a two day 12 race regatta that saw everything from light and shifty breezes on day one to a steady, choppy 15-20 knots on day two.

After six challenging races Saturday sailed in shifty conditions just off the U.S. Naval Acadamy, long-time Interclub sailor Steve Benjamin and long-time crew Adam Walsh jumped into the lead. Benjamin, a three time former IC national champion, showed superior speed and masterfully picked his way through the shifts. But by Sunday, a low front had ripped through Annapolis, bringing with it a classic northerly breeze. The breeze held strong for much of the day, putting a premium on hiking hard and hitting massive shifts, often 30 degrees.

Benjamin proved no slouch and fought hard into the final heat. Going into the last race Benjamin and Bowers were one point apart. Also in the fight were Larchmont-based Ben Cesare and Kim Cesare, a husband and wife team. Cesare took five firsts, more than either Benjamin or Bowers could come up with on their own. But Cesare’s downfall: His worst race was a 17th, which he discarded, but he had to keep a devastating 13th, putting him out of the running. In the last race, Bowers took a 2nd and Benjamin fell back to 7th, giving Bowers a six point win over Benjamin.

The cracker jack SSA race committee ran 24 races in all, that’s 12 races for each competitor under the round robin two division system used for large dinghy fleets. Racers came as far as Hyannis, Massachusetts, Boston and Rochester, N.Y. The IC nationals has their usual flavor of former collegiate sailors, husband and wife teams and father and son and daughter combinations. The field was incredibly talented, and included such luminaries as former Rolex sailor of the year Susan Dierdorff Taylor, Tornado Olympic hopeful Lars Guck and America Cup sailor Ralf Steitz.

— Allan Freedman

Full Results

Article in The Capital