Regatta Reports
2003 Spring Championship of the Western Hemisphere
By Magnus Liljedahl
May 26, 2003, 09:50

This year’s event was hosted by Gull Lake Yacht Club in Michigan. Shifty, cool winds were predicted and if not as cold as some feared, shifty it was. It is obvious to me that the competition part of sailing is not the sole reason why I have spent most of my life time racing sailboats. The friendship among us is the glue of our fraternity and without it chances are I would be doing something different at this point of my life. What Gull Lake might be missing as far as “fair” winds, it more than makes up for it with an extraordinary well run event, a social schedule second to none and hospitality beyond what anyone should expect. To some, sailing in a small lake, with erratic winds are “crap shoots”, but the reality of it is that the best team usually wins and this regatta was no exception. Howard Schiebler and Rick Peters won their first Silver Star as a team with the even series of 7, 3, 7, 2, 7, 1. All finishes in the top ten is an impressive feat, and trust me, luck alone will not get that accomplished.

Most of the races were sailed in 4-8 knots of breeze. The first race was won By MacCausland/Trinter finishing ahead of Jimmy Lowe/Andrew Higgs (BAH) and Larry Whipple/Mark Strube. Mark and I lost a few boats on the first run. We traded positions with Peter Bromby and Martin Siese (BER). We thought we had them when we tacked on the lay line to the finish, but increased pressure made them sail past us and cross the line just ahead of us. Incidentally, they never got a signal as they finished the race. They were disqualified for not having checked in prior to the race. While it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to the Bermudians, since the rule was in the racing instructions, I cannot help but wonder why this rule was in effect for the regatta. Checking in prior to start makes a lot of sense for events held in open waters such as the Pacific or the Atlantic, but in a Gull Lake it may have been an "over kill". At any rate, the punishment for not checking in is a DNS and in this case it rendered them a full 48 points for their negligence. A first time warning may have been more appropriate, after all, no gain was made by not checking in. and the punishment seemed a bit harsh.

The Bermudians shook it all off by posting a first and a third in the following two races. They were back in the hunt for silver. Paul Sustronk and Mike Wolf (CAN) scored a second and fourth, giving them the regatta lead. Bill Allen and Hyde Perce posted another couple of “sixes” and Mark and I finally got the “bullet” in race number three.

Race four and five were monumental in determining the teams with a chance to win the title on the final day. A couple of good races and Mark and I would be in it. Both races were sailed in the shifty easterly. Race four had course #2, two triangles and a run, finishing upwind. The course is a great alternative, because the reaching is exciting even in lighter air, it creates opportunities in shifty conditions and you keep the apparent flow going, giving speed around the course. Gene and Glenn McCarthy held off the eventual regatta winners in a thrilling race while Patrick Londrigan and Dave Jackson took third.

Race five had course #3, two turns, finishing upwind. I felt opportunistic and I believe that Mark felt the same way. In both races we felt very good being 4/5 up the first beat, basically we thought that we had “things” under control, but not so. In the fourth race we sailed up the middle, looking really good, but somehow we ended up losing to about ten boats on either side before rounding the weather mark. In the fifth race we got around the weather mark in second, but only to gibe-set and lose massively. MacCausland/Trinter scored another first and at the end of the day they were now in contention for the top honor. Szabo/Nichols took second while Brian Cramer and Mark Dolan finished in third.

Five points now separated the top four boats, going in to the last race. Sustronk/Wolf had a two point lead over John MacCausland and Phil Trinter. Schiebler/Peters were back another two points and George Szabo and Brad Nichol rounded of the list of teams with a shot at the championship. The champions to be took an early jump on the fleet, Szabo/Nichols and Whipple/Strube were close, but at the end there was only one boat and that was the one of Howie Schiebler and Rick Peters. It is nice when you can go out and win the last race and the regatta. Joe Londrigan and Jon VanderMolen came from little ways behind, past a few boats, including us, and posted a third for the day and it vaulted them to fourth in the final standings. Nice job!

I mentioned the social agenda and all the generous staff and club members. Well, the "open house" at the home of Jon and Courtney VanderMolen was my favorite, even though the dinner at the golf club with a shooting and putting contest and the incredible visit to the Gilmore’s car museum were amazing events as well. Tom VanderMolen did an excellent job in putting this event together. He received tremendously help form many, but in the minds of most, Kristi Tyler was extra special. Thank you all, I hope to be back soon.

*Rick Peters also won a Silver Star with George Szabo, winning the 2001 Star North American Championship.

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