PHOTO: Better than putting lipstick on a pig

Published on September 29th, 2013

When an Etchells looks like a cow. Photo by Ann Blanchard. Here is the event report by Ralph Carpenter…

Etchells racers from all over the country converged on the host Portland Yacht Club and Casco Bay, Maine for the Etchells Lobster Bowl  on September 20-22 to enjoy some competitive racing combined with Downeast hospitality, and beautiful sailing waters.

The fleet was equally divided between local members of fast growing Etchells Fleet 27, and a great mix of “away” boats coming to experience Etchells sailing the Maine way.  On Thursday evening, after a day filled with travel, rigging, launch and registration, the event was kicked off by welcome gathering. Regatta chair, Sarah Helming Stern welcomed the sailors and introduced the event sponsors, led by Atlantis Weather Gear.  She also made sure all competitors were up to speed on the busy schedule of events crammed into the three days, both on and off the water.  Fleet27 Captain, Ralph Carpenter, reminded everyone, that the 3 goals for the weekend were to:

1.  Drink Beer.  Featured at the regatta were locally crafted microbrews, provided by our sponsor Rising Tide Brewery, which were available, along with soft drinks, at all on shore regatta activities. In addition ice cold microbrews and soft drinks were served to competitors immediately after finishing the last race each day from the unbelievably popular “Beverage Boat”.  The competition to be first in line to get refreshments from the beverage boat was almost as intense as the competition to be in the first line at the starts!

2. Eat Lobster.  All competitors were treated on Saturday night to a traditional Maine Lobster Bake, featuring fresh Maine Lobster, clams, locally grown corn and potatoes.  The lobsters were cooked in seaweed over an open wood fire, right at the Yacht Club, with its beautiful view of Casco Bay for all to enjoy.

3.  Sail Wicked Fast.  Even though this sounded simple on Thursday night, doing this consistently all weekend proved to be a difficult challenge for all 24 teams.  The strong tidal currents combined with varying pressure challenged every team’s sailing and tactical skills.

Friday offered up a beautiful fall Maine day, and the activities were kicked off by a skipper’s meeting, featuring a welcome address from PYC commodore Kristen King, and instructions from PRO Gretchen Sullivan, an experienced one-design racer and recent Etchells Worlds driver.  Even though the morning breeze was virtually nonexistent, Gretchen got the racers out to the course on time, ready and waiting for what proved to be a light air day with a slowly building breeze.

As the racers gathered for the start of the first race, the uniqueness of the fleet was evident.  Black, blue, and grey colored hulls blended with the more recent white ones.  Sail and hull numbers varied from hull number 3 all the way to hull 1388.  Veteran Etchells sailors were competing with many boats that were sailing in a large fleet for the first time.  The PRO was aware of the diversity of skill and experience and so took extra precautions and set a long starting line for the first day.

Shortly after the first gun of the first race, the fleet realized that old doesn’t necessarily mean slow.  Chris Morin, sailing hull number 50, More Cowbell and Scott Thomas, in hull 597, Foto Finish broke out with a couple of other boats into an early lead at the first mark rounding.  Both held strong throughout the race and obtained top 5 finishes.  In the end the bullets in the two Friday races went to veteran, tactically skilled teams, LionHeart and Riva, skippered by Steve Girling and Wade Edwards.  Gary Gilbert and his team on Annie sailed very consistently and shared the lead with Riva, after day one.

On Saturday, the skies were cloudy, but the breeze had built to moderate levels and held consistent for the day.  The PRO decided to shorten the line, and got off 4 good races in the nice sailing conditions.  The first race of the day was won by Natasha, sailed by the Hardenbergh brothers, followed closely by Alan Kelly, with current world champion Ezra Culver on board.  Finishing In 3rd was veteran Etchells sailor Pat Stadel, the only female skipper in the event.  The second and third races of the day were both won by LionHeart, as they found some favorable current and breeze on the left side of the course.  Natasha, repeated their bullet from earlier in the day with another in the last race.  After a couple of general recalls, PRO Gretchen decided to get tough on the aggressive racers , by putting the P flag away and getting out the I flag for the last couple races of the day.  At the end of day two, Gary Gilbert and Annie, proved the value of consistent sailing sitting atop the score sheet despite not taking a bullet.  LionHeart sat a single point behind with 6 or 7 boats still having a chance to claim victory depending on how Sunday’s races went for them.

Sunday morning the racers awoke to strong winds and rain, which abated by race time, and soon after the start of the first race, the sun broke out into another beautiful fall New England Day.  The breeze was light to moderate, and a strong incoming tidal current was running down the course.  Playmaker led the fleet around the first mark, followed closely by Panache, Riva, Crapshoot, and the pesky More Cowbell.  At the leeward gate, Riva chose to go course right, a move which proved smart as she gained and then passed Playmaker to take the bullet.  Panache finished a strong 3rd, Chris Morin, with his wife Becky, and daughters Audrey and Anna crewing finished a g 4th, and Todd LaLumiere in Indefinitely came in hot from the left side at the finish to pass Crapshoot for 5th.

The second race Sunday and last race of the regatta, was set up by the PRO as a course 5, allowing the boats to have an upwind finish.  Destiny, skippered by Tomas Hornos took the lead and held on for the bullet, but was closely followed by Hat Trick, sailed by Mark Toso, with Mainers Terry Naylon and Tim Tolfords as his crew.  The second place finish was Hat Trick’s best of the regatta.

After derigging and pulling out the racer’s enjoyed a great BBQ and awards ceremony on the pier at race sponsor, Handy Boat.  Once again Sarah thanked the sponsors, volunteers, PRO, and race organizers.  Every boat in the regatta was recognized and received a prize, which was fitting as amazingly all participants sailed near the front in at least one race, and all racers but 3 finished in the top half of the fleet in at least one race.

The Corinthian Trophy, recognizing the Top Finishing all amateur team went to Lion Heart.

The Generations Trophy was presented by the most senior competitor in the event, Patricia  Stadel, to the race team with the youngest member, More Cowbell.

In the hotly contested Heritage Division, open to all boats with hull numbers 900 and below, 3rd place went to Daniel Brouder and his crew in hull number 3, Hustler.  2nd went to Foto Finish, skippered by Scott Thomas, and to culminate a terrific regatta, the first awarded Heritage Division Champion was Chris Morin, skippering hull #50, More Cowbell, and his terrific crew of wife Becky, and daughters, Audrey and Anna.

Overall, 3rd place went to Annie, skippered by Gary Gilbert, 2nd to LionHeart, skippered by Steve Girling, and the overall winner of the first annual Lobster Bowl regatta was Riva, skippered by Wade Edwards, and his able crew of Ben and Tim.

As the awards BBQ closed, every competitor had a smile on their face.  All agreed they would be back next year, cause, Drinking Beer, Eating Lobster, and Sailing Wicked Fast, is a great way to have fun in Maine in September.

A full list of sponsors, as well as the final race results can be found on fleet 27’s website,

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