2004 NAC Story –

2004 Coronado 15 North American Championships June 18, 19, &20th

By Randy Sprout, Commodore 2004

It’s Friday the 18th and I’m still wondering if Barrett can make it into the Nashville airport in time to race at all. He’s been hung up in Los Angeles for bad weather in Chicago, and now has spent the night waiting to get out of Chicago. There are 18 Coronado 15 boats out drifting the lovely Woods Reservoir, and the Holder boat is walking away from the fleet. I’m getting bitten by every kind of bug including a new one you can’t see, just feel…No See Ums. What a great name for a pest! Then there are chiggers, something that also just attacks from the grass directly into your underwear. I am really beginning to wonder if the 2050 mile drive has been worth it. The fleet has been very understanding and they are eagerly looking forward to racing against Dawn as skipper and me as crew, and leaving Barrett in Chicago. The boats all drift in as I get the call from the airport, he is here, and we are on for Saturday. We need to petition to get into the Championship Fleet, but we are racing! The remaining time is spent with our boat upside down in the grass polishing. If we are forced to drift, it’s just got to be done. A beer trailer seems to help.

 

Saturday morning and we have had our fleet meeting, with 19 crews now waiting for battle. The PRO George Goodall has been sweating bullets just thinking about another day of drifting, but he’s got some wind to work with today, maybe 2 knots. He’s a real pro, now going for his regional ticket, and he has, at his own expense, driving up from Fort Walton, Florida. Wow, I want to thank him for that effort!

 

The breeze begins to fill in around 11:00 and we are at the pin end, hugely favored, with Charlie & Alex Quest trying not to hit the pin at the gun. Beep, we are moving in 3 knots of breeze. Just keep the boat flat. Don’t trim too tight, concentrate, this one counts. Barrett scallops up on several boats, and these local crews are not giving an inch. The red boat, with Jim Claffey and Trish Rutan, has peeled off and gone over to explore the right, Doug Britton and his “winged” crew John McCullough are not going away, they continue to hit the shifts, and are right on our heals at the windward mark. We pull away a little downwind and I’m thanking the Friday polishing of bottom and boards. Jim Holder and son Jeff are still threatening, especially in this light breeze, and their boat is flying downwind. The horn goes off for our 1st and the cheering section, a group of 3 Catalina 22’s, erupts with horns and applause, not just for us, but for every boat that crosses the finish. What a great concept, encouragement for every competitor, in every boat!

 

Race 2 and we are at the pin end again when a 20 degree veer comes through with 10 seconds to go for the gun. Ouch! This one is going to hurt! Jim Claffey has the fleet by 20 boat lengths and is stretching his lead. We are working our way up from 8th with the Chicken boat just stepping all over us. Britton and McCullough know how to roll tack and they hit every shift. On the reach here’s a new player, John Lovin and Brian Slater have come up with just right combination of sail trim to roll us. The Holders are still ahead and it’s starting to look dismal. Barrett looks over as we take a header back to middle and says “It looks like the local boys may take the trophy this time Dad.” I’m really getting nervous about the boat speed that Claffey seems to have at all points of sail and he takes the 1st place horn by 30 boat lengths. Fortunately race 2 is a long Olympic course and we finally fight our way back into 2nd place. The cheering section has had a few more beers and their cheers have amped up a bit, but Jim Claffey has shown his full potential and he’s a master of light winds. He grew up with light winds!

 

Race 3 and we are at the boat end when a 15 degree left shift comes through and the red boat with Claffey are way out front on the pin end and on the left this time. We are working our way up through the fleet when the local heroes, Dawn & Jeff Utley, start showing us how it’s done on their lake. They have us by 2 boat lengths at the last windward mark and it’s looking really bad down wind. Within 25 yards of the finish line, we are on their hip pushing them up toward the boat end of the line, when a slight lift came through throwing us into a quick jibe and giving us the 2nd by 2 inches. Jim Claffey and his crew are elated that they now have 2 bullets in a row. Jim has made it a 2 boat regatta and we are now forced to race in his same wind and on his side of the lake. This is not a situation to inspire anything but a slight panic.

 

Race 4 and we are determined to follow the lead of the red boat and Gentleman Jim Claffey. We both tack off the start line and dive deeply to the right side along the shoreline. The rest of the boats are looking better and better on the left and we are tempted to tack over to consolidate; but Claffey keeps on running right and increases his lead. It starts to feel like we are really over standing and this could be the quite an adjustment, with the 2 leaders bringing up the rear. Wham! Here comes the shift Jim has been waiting for and we get our chance to lea bow him. Nuts, he rolls right over us and the lea bow fails miserably. He’s first at the windward by 2 boat lengths and we try to cover and distract him all the way to the leeward mark. We finally jibe and duck to the left and get an overlap just before the 2 boat circle. This is close racing at its best, with a gentleman who is really good. The college training pays off for Barrett. I lose the pole on the take down but I’m hiking and get the jib in and the pole has to wait. Thank goodness the trolley Bunji holds the pole, until we tack out. The game is still not over as we have to roll tack every shift to keep ahead of the red boat all the way in for another 1st. The first day of Championship racing is over, we have 1,2,2,1 and Jim has 4,1,1,2 but with the throw out we are tied.

 

 

Saturday night and we eat like we know what fried tomatoes and “pulled meat” actually are. The great Southern menus from the Highland Yacht Club Chefs actually put meat on your bones right now! I still don’t know what that final meal was on Sunday, but it had a great Cajon taste. They are real quick down there to tell any gullible Yankee about how they picked up the meat on the road as they drove to the regatta. I’m not quite sure what that means? Bill Riner, Dawn and Jeff Utley have done a great job getting this event to be really first class. The fleet awards $400 to the Highland Yacht Club as a thank you. The beer trailer was a big hit with many sailors willing to guard it overnight.

 

Sunday, after a short postponement, the wind comes up, but stays light. The first race finds us in the middle of the line, having learned the hard way about last minute shifts. Our plan is to stay in front of the red boat at all cost. We get a great start; hit the first shift on the money, then we look back to see the red boat mired in a pack of boats trying to break out. Whew. Then, here comes the Utley boat. They have the taste of winning and they want some more. With a hint from Saturday’s racing they have really improved their down wind speed and we have a great race to the finish 1 & 2. With the red boat in 9th we can finally accept the cheers from the cheering section and Charlie Quest comes over to tell us “You have done it again!” 8 years of racing, 8 North American’s, and now we have the cup again for the 3rd time to take back to California.

The 2nd race on Sunday we get pushed up over early and have to dip the line. Working from dead last through 19 boats is ugly! Everyone gets to step on us as we battle just to see clean air. Lucky for us it’s a long race. With the red boat 30 boat lengths in front of everyone we are really happy to have won that last race. That doesn’t seem to matter to anyone else in front of us. We get into a great tacking duel with Jim & Jeff Holder going up to the finish and are just able to peel them off onto a downwind boat. Justin and Amanda Preyer have a 3rd in the last race and they want a second now. We duck their transom, and then get a lift right up to the finish, a 2nd place for us.

 

In the Cabrillo Fleet the winners were Bill Riner & his niece Jennifer who put together two 1st places, a 2nd, and a 3rd to let us all know they are coming up to the Championship Fleet next year at Huntington Lake in Northern California. Out of the 19 boats racing this year there were 11 boats with “family” teams and 3 women skippers. This I believe is what Frank Butler thought might happen when he designed our little racing sloop, and I think it’s great that families can race together all over the USA and Canada. Now if we could just get a fleet going in Acapulco! Many times during our races we would look over and see the Cabrillo racers right up in the hunt. Justin & Amanda Preyer caught fire on Sunday during these last 2 races and I am sure we will be seeing more wins from this team.

 

At the awards ceremony Doug Britton said what I have always wanted to say. After thanking the race committee and the cooks, he said: “I want to thank all the Competitors

for coming here and giving me the chance to race against the best!” I just love this attitude within our Coronado 15 Fleet. Those of you that have never raced in the NAC must set aside some time and energy just to see what Championship Racing really feels like. It’s wonderful to win, but to compete with the best, and know that they all have committed to due their very best, that’s awesome!

 

With only 2 points separating 1st and 2nd, and then 3rd and 4th in a dead heat you can see that there were a lot of lead changes during these races. It should be great fun to see everyone back in Lake Huntington in 2005. I know Steve Fishman and Charlie Quest will put on a great regatta! The father son team of Jim and Jeff Holder won the Sid Corp Qualifier Trophy this year and I was thrilled to hear that they will be in Huntington in 2005. If I can figure it right, we may have as many as 6 crews who have won the NAC’s, all competing at Huntington. Keep your calendars open for those dates, soon to be on our web page: http://coronado15.org/