At the invitation of the Viper 640 Class Association and Rondar Raceboats, the current Commodore of the Gulf Yachting Association, George Goodall from Fort Walton Yacht Club, and Vice Commodore, Cathy Cromartie from Fairhope Yacht Club, traveled to Larchmont, NY and spent four days as part of the Viper 640 community. While they were there to learn more about the Viper, which the GYA has recently designated its new inter-club boat staring in 2018, they were also interested in meeting Class officials and the Viper sailors themselves.

The following articles were posted in a recent GYA member e-newsletter. Vice Commodore Cromartie’s letter is a particularly fun read as it retells her first ride on a Viper.

From the Commodore…

As most of you already know, at the semi-annual meeting of the GYA BOD in September, the Viper 640 was selected to be the boat to replace the Flying Scot as the Capdevielle competion boat.  The flying Scot has been our competition boat since 1967 ( I think ) when it replaced the Fish boat.  The Viper Class Association invited Vice-commodore Cromartie and I to attend their North American Championship.  The event was held last week at Larchmont YC, NY.  Larchmont is 30 minutes drive north of LaGuardia.  They sail on the Long Island sound.  The club is an updated mansion dating from 1880.  With 5 ft daily tides they sail off moorings supported with a floating dock. Check them out at http://larchmontyc.org/About-LYC/Club_History.aspx

With 53 registered contestants, the regatta ran from Thursday thru Sunday 15-18 October.  I noted one teenage skipper, a number of guys in their 70’s and a lot of  younger sailors.  I saw six female skippers including Michelle Lee from our newest GYA club at Sarasota Sailing Squadron.  One boat sailing double handed, a half dozen  or so with four but most boats were sailing with three on board.

The Viper Class Association appears to be a very strong organization and is independent of the builder Rondar.  In fact, the class picked Rondar to be their builder after troubles with the original builder.  Rondar is a long established builder having been in business for 30 years. Rondar’s build fleet includes the 505, firefly, K1, Sonar, & K-6.  Rondar took over as the Viper builder around 2005.  Boat # 245 +/- is now under construction.  The build rate has been steady for some time at around two boats a month.  The rep states that they could easily go to one boat a week if the demand is there.  Boats are built “to order” and current delivery time is estimated at about two months.

The Viper class association is promoting a “strict” one design philosophy which you can read more about at  http://www.viper640.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Viper_640_Class_-Association_Rules_12_29_14.pdf

The class association is working hard at helping sailors new to the boat improve.  There was a technical talk session every afternoon over beer & … chowder, chili, dogs, etc.  They are standing by to assist us in any way we would like.  For me jibing an asymmetric chute in 20 knots is going to be a new skill.  Judging the jibe angle is going to be another one as the boat slows dramatically during the jibe.  Its also interesting to note that the class works hard at strict one design control.. No fairing of the hulls, etc.  Competition is between sailors and not who can make their boat go faster.

For those interested in more about the regatta and the Viper check out the articles on Scuttlebutt.     http://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/?s=Viper+640+North+americans

George Goodall, GYA Commodore 2015

From the Vice Commodore…

Commodore Goodall and I attended the Viper 640 North American Championship at Larchmont Yacht Club in New York, Oct. 15-18. I must say if you get an opportunity to visit Larchmont YC you should. It has a very fascinating history and is a beautiful facility on the west side of Long Island Sound. One of my favorite pictures I took was of Vipers on the course with the Manhattan skyline in the background.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I headed to Larchmont and was, admittedly, a little apprehensive. After all I had only briefly met some of the Viper Class Executive Committee and a few of the Rondar Boat reps. Any concerns I had were quelled almost immediately upon arrival at LYC. Not long after getting settled in my room at LYC (yes, they have guest rooms at the YC) Commodore Goodall and I were on the club veranda taking in a gorgeous, northeast, fall afternoon. Ed “Buttons” Padin, Viper Class Administrator, greeted us shortly, asked if we needed anything, gave us a guest card to use while at LYC, gave us a run-down of the week’s events and invited us to his home that evening for beer and pizza. Most, if not all, of the Viper Executive Committee were there, Dan Tucker (Rondar Boats) and a number of Viper competitors (including Michelle Lee from Sarasota, and Mason Sheen, PontYC, who was part of Dan’s crew). It was a wonderful evening, giving us a chance to talk with those present and gather, at least for me, more information about the Viper. During one of my conversations with Dan I mentioned that I personally had not sailed a Viper. Dan offered to swing by RC the next day after racing to get me and give me a chance to sail the Viper. More on that later.

Commodore Goodall and I were both fortunate enough to be on the Signal Boat for the next few days. On Day 1 of racing the winds were moderate, then gusty, then non-existent, then moderate, then gusty, then … well, you get the picture. After 1 general recall under the Prep Flag, the rest of the races got started under “I” with only a few Individual Recalls. Winds picked up over the next several days which made for some exciting racing. These boats are really, really fast. Watching them come planing across the finish line was fascinating. I have some great video which I showed to my husband when I returned home. Like me, his response was mostly “Wow!” Sometimes there’s just nothing else to say.

Back to day 1: True to his word Dan swung by the signal boat after racing so I hopped on the Viper. I thought I was just going for a ride, but Dan handed me the tiller and said “You drive.” Yikes! The last thing I wanted to do was make a bad impression, broach in a puff and dump Dan and his crew in the Sound. Dan stayed on the main sheet and coached me on the tiller – broaches avoided. At some point Mason looked at me and said “You’re knuckles are white. It’s an easy boat to sail. Relax your grip and try steering with just 2 fingers.” Reluctantly, I relaxed my grip and tried his suggestion – but with 3 fingers instead of just 2. Mason was right – I didn’t need that death grip on the tiller. We sailed for about 45 minutes, threw in some tacks, set the chute, gybed several times, doused the chute and then headed in. My focus while on the tiller was on the tell-tells – again, not wanting to dump the crew in the Sound – and at one point Dan said “just cruising along at 10 ½ kts.” Wow! Really? It certainly didn’t feel like we were going that fast (for this mostly PHRF sailor, 10 ½ kts is fast).

The Viper was much easier to sail than I had anticipated. While I was on the boat the winds were probably 10-15kts sustained, but we had some really decent gusts and the boat responded well. I’m not ready to jump on the tiller in a race, but as I said, sailing the Viper was easier than I had anticipated.

The rest of the week proved equally enjoyable and informative. The entire Viper Class and Rondar Boats were very welcoming and more than happy to talk about any questions or concerns I had. I sat in each night on the debriefing following racing – to listen to concerns, hear what the more experienced Viper sailors had to offer, and gather whatever info and knowledge I could.

Honestly, the Viper or the VX One were both fine with me. Both are great boats, with some similarities and, of course, some differences. Either boat would have been a good choice. But, I saw nothing during this event that made me think the GYA has made a mistake by selecting the Viper. We have selected the Viper and from what I saw and experienced in Larchmont, we’ve made a good choice in moving our sport, and our interclub competition, forward.

Cathy Cromartie
GYA Vice Commodore