Written by Drew Harper

Yup, Upside down yet again (me and Mmmmmmmmm)
Dew and mmmmmmmThe Eastern Seaboard is the hotbed of Viper sailing, at least for now. Large fleets are very active all along the coast. It seems there’s a container that flows into that area every couple of months with a whole new load of boats for enthusiastic sailors. You’ve gotta love the old-style East coast Yacht Clubs. They all bear a striking resemblance to the West Coast’s golf clubs. Opulent and expensive. Part of the tradition I suppose.  Indian Harbor Yacht Club and Stamford Yacht Club are no different. Amenities like swimming pools, beach clubs, clay court tennis and full fitness facilities set these clubs apart from the typical yacht club you might see in the west. The second you walk into Indian Harbor YC the smell of aged oak, walnut and maple fills your senses. Dozens of sterling pickle dishes and trophies are mounted on every wall imaginable. What spaces don’t host an age-old award are filled with models, half models and photos of long gone commodores. It’s amazing that these clubs are filled with Vipers and Viper sailors. Pretty cool actually.

This years regatta promised atypical conditions for West Long Island Sound…wind !!

I took the o-dark-thirty redeye from San Francisco to La Guardia then fumbled my way up the 95 to Stamford. I found Justin Scott, Viper class president, in the dry storage area working on his boat. As he’d kindly invited me to spent the night at his house, I helped him finish up a whole list of jobs he needed to complete pre-race. Just getting off from their third practice in as many days were the team Doyle Boston guys on their new boat “Jackpot.” I’ve sailed against these guys a few times and they are all about preparation. Don’t get me wrong, they also work equally as hard at having loads of fun…trust me on this!

doublestack trailersThursday brought the load of the fleet arriving at the two clubs, Stamford being the larger host. My team, Harvey Barnes’ ‘String Theory’ was based out of Indian Harbor Yacht Club. Harvey is the Canadian Rondar Raceboats rep. He pulled into the car park towing his boat and spotted his two new boats sitting on the new Rondar doublestack Viper trailer. Pretty cool stuff there. It takes two regular combi trailers, pulls the axle from one of them, throws it under the other giving you double axle boat hauler. Ingenious and it takes less than an hour to pull both boats from the stack, mount the keels and be off sailing.

As these were new boats, all the normal commissioning details needed to be attended to. This took up the majority of the day and our team only had time for a brief practice in very light air. The Yacht Club rolled out the red carpet for the Viperers with a huge feast and free-flowing Goslings rum !!  The annual members meeting was convened and everyone called it a somewhat early night.

Friday morning found the wind up and plenty of activity on the docks. There was a 45 minute sail from both clubs to the race course in the middle of West Long Island Sound.

The fleet was filled with talent…too many to list. This will only build in the coming years as the Viper becomes the 3 man boat to compete in.

Multi-Olympian and world champ in a couple of classes, Barry Parkin registered last minute. Barry’s wife Sue, blew her back out on the first race, so long-time friend, Paul Young, jumped aboard. For those that don’t know this legendary guy, Paul owns Rondar Raceboats, builder of the Viper. He regularly shows up at all the major regattas, charters a RIB and coaches the back of the fleet to keep them pressing forward…always with much success.

brad bostonBrad Boston of Doyle Boston (Sarnia, Canada) and his crew were impeccably prepared. That would keep them always in the hunt and give them the overall win. Simon Strauss is notorious for being fast, smart and too many, was the favored to win. Bora Gulari, fresh from his Moth Worlds win up in the Columbia Gorge, brought his huge talent to the team always putting them in the right place, right time.

Dave Guggenheim, winner of the 34 boat Charleston Race Week, was always in the hunt.

Another team that was fast and perpetually smart. Fleet president and odds-off favorite, Justin Scott, kept his “Mambo Kings” team up front but the competition ground him down to a 5th place finish.

The starting line was just long enough to squeeze in 37 Vipers. Fresh breeze of 14-16 knots filled in made for some interesting pre-race calls…all in a day on the race course.

Four races were run with loads of position changes all around the fleet. The first windward and first leeward mark roundings were, um, er…interesting J

Day two found the winds running Northerly, but still in the 12+ knot range. The course was set up against the shoreline throwing wild shifts into the mix of race tactics. Sometimes a flip of the coin put you on the right side with a huge arcing lift to the layline…no rhyme, no reason.

Sadly, day three was a legendary Western Long Island Sound shutout. 1-2 knots of breeze kept everyone on the shore. Race was called and the fleet broke down, had some beers, swapped some lies and headed home.

kitesCongrats to the Doyle/Boston team and all the others listed below. Way too much fun and an honor to compete against some of the best sailing talent on the planet.

The next Viper North Americans are going to be legendary, in and of themselves. Since 1927, the Bacardi family (yes, the rum makers) have hosted the Bacardi Cup. Racing Stars and limiting it to one race per day over the five day event harkens back to another era of yacht racing. The Bacardi family has invited the Viper to be a part of that legacy so the 2010 Viper North Americans will be held March 10-13. First look at the roster appears to have 40+ boats with talent coming from every corner of the globe. An epic event in Viper land.

Yours truly will be there, slugging it out with some of the best sailors in the world…learning, laughing and loving every minute of it.

  1.             Jackpot              Lee Shuckerow                            Chesterfield, MI, USA
  2.             Simplicity            Simon Strauss                              New York, NY,
  3.             USA 116             Barry Parkin                                 Riverside, CT, USA
  4.             Black Mamba       David Guggenheim                         Savannah, GA,
  5.            Mambo Kings      Justin Scott                                  Greenwich, CT, USA