Written by Justin Scott

The coolest thing about the HPDO is the high performance sailing camaraderie at this regatta. If you have never been to the HPDO, you have to visualize this beautifully manicured yacht club on a stunning point of land overlooking LIS with a Manhattan skyline, except it is totally overrun by this crazy event. There are hulls everywhere. A cats and F18s on the lawns, 5-05s, Fds, K6s, Vipers, 14s, moths and those wacky intl canoes filling every conceivable piece of the property (and it’s a large property)…..and spinnakers drying , and people in wetsuits and harnesses and everyone carrying free beer, ogling at each others boats and helping fix boats and talking tuning. Its hard to describe how American Yacht Club got this event so right. I guess you just had to be there!

And this was definitely the year to be there. OMG, the conditions were awesome.

Two days of big breeze and super close racing in the Viper fleet. Sometimes the racing got a little too close!

Kay Van Valkenburgh from Marblehead teamed up as Middleman to race with Charles Goodrich from Stamford YC on El Toro. This seemed to cause confusion among the visiting boats from Marblehead. The Headers are used to Kay in the back of the boat and when we do a port tack dip we aim to be about four feet aft of Kay’s flying pony tail. This turns out not to be enough when Kay is in the middle of the boat.

At least this is the only excuse we can come up with for two port tack Marblehead boats on two succesive races colliding into Charles on starboard. We all felt deeply for Charles who was doing so well in the regatta. The silver lining to the story is that the members of the Viper fleet pull together in a crisis and we had another hull down to AYC by 7 am on Sunday. The crews pulled the rig of El Toro and put it on El Toro II and everyone was back on the water for day 2.

Hole in Viper

Here is one perspective from one team in the fleet.

“We had to sail Viper#54, “Mambo Kings” from Stamford YC (scene of the Viper NAs three weeks ago) to Rye, getting up at crack of dawn and sailing 10 miles with 15 knots on the nose so we were pretty tired by the time found the start line . All that vanished when the racing started and the breeze kicked up with gusts up to 30 knots. A North Westerly on LIS gave us that rare combination of relatively flat water and big breeze so all the Vipes sheeted hard, hiked hard and drove for shifts. We’d arrive at the windward marks with barely 3 boat lengths between the top 5 boats and then turn the corner for whooping sleigh rides downwind. The breeze built all day until the last race was solid mid twenties with some good size gusts coming down the course. Dave Nickerson from Stonington, Lee Shuckerow from Detroit and  Mambo Kings were on their game on Saturday. Jonathan Nye from Greenwich was always dangerous upwind. Charles Goodrich with Kay Van V on tactics were on our heels sailing bullet proof 3rds and 4ths. The finishes were scary close but Lee and the boys from Doyle/Boston pulled off slightly better mark roundings and caught the edge of one or two winding shifts a fraction better than the rest of us, so after 4 races they were the winners for the day, often by less than a boat length. We were in second. Dave/Moise in third and Charles/Kay in 4th.

There was a fair amount of carnage around the race course. The 5-0-5s had some broken rigs . They play the game hard and fast. It was the first time that I have seen a Tempest upside down. Even Ben Hall broke something on his A Cat.  When we called for a damage report In the Viper fleet we had one dislocated shoulder on their way to hospital from Thin Ice. On Mambo Kings we had pulled out the retrieval patches on the chute (which severely affects takedowns). Sadly there was a large hole in the side of El Toro (Charles/Kay) from a high speed collision at the start of Race 4, but everyone was back on the water for day 2.

Sunday was forecast to be lighter, but it was never below 12 knots and again gradually built all day. Sunday was Stu Hebb/Ched Proctor’s day on Thin Ice. With Charlie Proctor as their replacement third they came out thirsting for revenge for their ignominious opening day and they delivered with aggressive tactics. The overall battle plan was the same for all of us. There was plenty of power all around the race course but with big shifty gusts. You had to be inside the wind ups on the gusts, and they could be as much as 40 degree wind ups. We would get close to Stu and Ched but they would stick a cover on us that was harder to shake off than crap on a blanket. Five races, we finished right next to Stu in all five but they got us in 4 out of 5. El Toro II got a well earned bullet and we got one bullet. The other three races went to Stu and Ched.

We were beaten fair and square by Lee on the first day and thrashed pretty good by Stu on the second day but we finished every race in the top 3 and that was enough to give us the regatta.”

Carina, John, Sally, KM, Donny, all the RC, waterfront staff at AYC, Heineken – Thank You for a hell of a weekend. Thank you for hosting an “Open” which brings back the essentials of racing fast sailboats. Thank you for high performance camraderie………….and of course a very big thank you to the membership of American Yacht Club for welcoming us to your gorgeous club and turning it for one weekend into a messy, fantastic mecca of high performance small sailing boats.

So many people make this happen but we have to say something about John Wyles from the 5-0-5 class. he has built this event from a good idea and 20+ boats to a high performance mecca with a 100 boats participating. It has a totally different and cool atmosphere from any other event on the circuit and in the process it has turned one of the Long Island Sound’s most prominent yacht clubs into a dinghy racing club. John showed up from Tanzania with his 5-0-5 several years ago when his wife, Sally got posted to NYC. This is his last year as co-host because John and Sally are retiring and will live in Ireland. He has left a legacy with this regatta that many others will build on. Of course he will be back. He has too many friends here and I think AYC plans on saving him a dry sailing spot for many years to come.

Vipers will be back next year!