It all came down to the Last Race

Going into the sixth and final race of the 2011 Viper North American Championships we had an unprecedented three way tie for first place.

Tied with twelve points each after discard were;

Jackpot – Brad Boston, Lee Shuckerow and Erik Vinglass. Team Jackpot are two time North American champions going for the hat trick. They are also the hosts sailing on their home turf.

Mambo Kings – Justin Scott, Ched Proctor and Peter Largess from Connecticut and Newport. .

ANIMAL – Jeff Jones, Drake Borer (aka the Sea Monkey) and Jeff.  The hard charging, hard partying team from Texas.

Only three points back and still very much in contention was the British/Australian team of Fer De Lance:- Glyn Locke, David Chapman, and Ian Nicholson. Aka “The Brits”. Glyn had shiipped over his boat from the UK for the Pan Am series and the same team flew over and sailed together in Miami, Newport and now Sarnia, Canada. Winning in Miami, the Brits were leading the Pan American championship series and going into the last race of the North Americans they were still in a position to wear both crowns.

The weather served up one awesome finale.

The  breeze was 18 knots with steepening waves at the warning signal. It was 20 knots at the gun and built to 25+ knots during the race.

Jackpot owned the pin at the start with the Brits on their weather hip. Mambo Kings started near the committee boat. The Texans were late at the boat after halyard problems in the pre start.  It was breeze up and game on for the final show down.

The locale

Sarnia Yacht Club at the South West corner of Lake Huron was an inspired choice for the 2011 North Americans. The Blue Water bridge crossing the US Canadian border at Point Edward is aptly named. The lake has clear and suprisingly blue water bordered by sandy beaches. The resemblance to a fresh water version of the caribbean stopped abruptly with wooly hats and thermal underwear to cope with temperatures that fell steadily as the week progressed. It was beautiful though.

“If this is the Caribbean of Canada, why are we wearing wooly hats and long underwear?”

Two years ago, a major regatta in the great lakes would have struggled to attract a dozen Vipers. The fleet has started to get real traction in the Mid West and Canada. For the regular road warriors it was a real pleasure to meet new owners from Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and Ontario.

Downtown Point Edward consists of three family restaurants, a bar,  a hardware store, a variety store and a sail loft. Everyone knew we were coming and the welcome mat was rolled out.  At Salvatore’s, there is no need for a menu. The owner sat us down at a table, asked if there were any allergies, and then kept the home cooked Italian food coming lubricated by copious bottles of red wine until we cried for mercy. The Club hosted a fish fry. The Boston sail loft hosted an impromptu party on the loft floor. The professional caterers for the banquet on Saturday bore a close resemblance to the family that ran event registration on Wednesday which bore a close resemblance to the family which owned the local sail loft. Everywhere we turned was a helping hand. Can’t find the club when you pull into town at midnight? You dont just get directions from the locals, they leap into their car and insist in leading you there, opening the gates for your boat and asking you if you know the way to the hotel. Forgot your tiller? No problemo, Bill Abbot will have one fixed up for you in time for the start. This town loved us and we loved them.

On the race course, it was all business. Bill Abbot runs a tight ship and the RC work was world class.

Day One – The First Five Races

With a fearsome forecast for Friday afternoon and Saturday, our PRO warned us that the sequence would start promptly at 10.30 am and the “R” flag would be flying for repeat races as soon as each race was finsihed. Bill was true to his word sending off a sequence of technically demanding races in an oscillating breeze that built over the day from 7-12 to steady 10-15.

Different boats had their moments. The peleton was very tight and competitive . The Texans looked consistently fast and smart until they imploded in the fifth race and got spat out without mercy by the peleton.

Mambo Kings stole the first race from the Texans with a personal puff from heaven in the final 10 boat lengths. Brad and team Jackpot won the second race with the Texans close behind in second again, and a very fast Tony Chapman in third.

Tony is another Brit, but living in Arizona. His crew had driven the boat 3,200 miles to be at the North Americans on condition that Tony drove it home.

The Mambo Kings came back with a win in the third race again pursued by the Texans in second and Tony Chapman with a repeat in third. The fourth race was won by Glyn Locke and team Fer de Lance. In second was Ron Schute from Ottawa who had sailed two very shrewd weather legs, then the Texans rounded out their fourth consecutive top three finish to lead the regatta.

Jackpot and Mambo Kings Duel

In the fifth race Mambo Kings and Jackpot duelled up the far left of the course. Mambo Kings rounded the windward mark narrowly ahead of Jackpot, only to have a fouled hoist and get rolled by Jackpot. In the next two legs Jackpot extended while the Mambo Kings and Jonathan Nye fought for third and fourth place and Fer De Lance snuck into second. Meanwhile, the Texans had sailed off the map shopping for duty free and only managed thirteenth.

When the dust settled three boats were tied for first if a sixth race was sailed allowing for a discard.

The Final Race

The first shift came from the left. Jackpot and Fer De Lance (aka the Brits) tacked onto port. Mambo Kings was forced to dip a boat that tacked and crashed, but quickly flipped onto port to stay to the right of Jackpot and the Brits. Jackpot tacked back, the Brits followed but Mambo Kings held on to find a right shift before coming back. It looked like Mambo Kings was bow out on the Brits but slightly behind Jackpot. Meanwhile the Texans were sailing their hearts out and grinding through the fleet with compelling boat speed as the breeze picked up and the waves grew in size. The rehearsal at the M24 worlds at Corpus Christie was paying off.

There was a final left shift as the leaders came to the weather mark. Jackpot rounded first. Then the Brits closely followed by Mambo Kings. The Brits had a problem with the hoist and gybed to avoid getting rolled by Mambo Kings. Mambo Kings held on and rode a big puff before gybing just above layline in hot pursuit of Jackpot.

The building breeze and waves started to take its toll on the fleet on the downwind leg. Jonathan Nye’s team had a hard broach and came up with a boom that just didnt “look right” with a right angle bend. Mambo Kings surfed down a wave into the back of the following wave and cartwheeled. By the time they were back on their feet the Texans sailed by with shit eating grins on their faces.

Jackpot and the Brits were extended in first and second respectively and could not be caught. But it was game on between the Texans and Mambo Kings on the final upwind leg. The Texans had awesome upwind speed in the big breeze and Mambo Kings matched them. Carlos Proctorini, the devout man of the cloth, placed Mambo Kings bets on the right. The bets paid and the distance closed. The Texans rounded the last windward mark in third followed by Mambo Kings. Drake Borer describes a brief discussion on ANIMAL as to whether they should hoist or survive. Jeff Jones looked at Mambo Kings and made the decision for both boats- “Hoist!” and both boats hoisted.  This was the best downhill sleigh ride of the regatta, screaming down steep Lake Huron chop in 25 knots of breeze…….Yahooooo. The Texans were very fast, nailed third place and a well earned second in the regatta.

Jackpot held their lead to become three time North American Champions. The Brits finished the race in second , the regatta in fourth and won the Pan American Championship series. Mambo Kings came fourth across the final line, third in the North Americans and second in the pan Americans. Tony Chapman finished the race and the regatta in fifth and collected the adjusted handicap award in the Pan Ams.

Saturday morning was a non starter for racing. There was a barge capsized in the harbor and when Bill Abbot tried to hoist the “racing abandoned” signal from the flagstaff, the wind snapped the halyard.

Every boat collected glass trophies at the awards and every boat got a standing ovation. If you sail a Viper regatta, newbie or champion, you are a winner in our eyes.

Winners Sarnia

After thanks to our sponsors, Doyle Boston, EFG Bank and Doyle catering, we all bid farewells and promised to see each other again soon. Then the travellers hooked up trailers and headed out.

On the long drive home, the Texans and Mambo Kings texted each other. There will be a rematch!

At every level through the fleet we hope that similar promises are made to get together and have a rematch.

For some of us that starts this weekend at HPDO. See y’all soon.