Connecting college sailors to big boat racing

Published on October 15th, 2014

Over 430 college sailors raced on 52 owner-coached keel-boats over Columbus Day Weekend (Oct. 11-12) in the Storm Trysail Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta (IOR) sailed in Western Long Island Sound. The team from the University of Toledo sailing the Express 37 Troubador was the overall winner after winning three races and finishing second in two races in the 10-boat PHRF class.

The first day brought cool temperatures, pouring rain at times and a northeastly that blew 14-16 knots with some higher gusts. As a result of the wind fighting an ebbing tide, sailors had to deal with a nasty short, steep chop that gave fits to some but did not slow the Toledo team. Their helmsman, Colin Mackay said, “The chop was an advantage for us since we sail in those conditions all the time on western Lake Erie.”

Toledo’s first race started disastrously as a borrowed and tired mainsail’s clew ring blew out just after trimming in to cross the starting line. Wes Bemus, one of the owner’s representatives/ coaches, quickly called for the team to reef to mainsail, which was smart thinking as it removed the heavy load from the lower portion of the damaged sail. But shortly thereafter the reef clew failed. The crew stripped the mainsail and rigged a spare main. With that feat of good seamanship and terrific crew work, the team came out on top in race one as they would in the next two races beating two other Express 37s, two J/120s, a Farr 30, two C&C 115s, a J/88 and a Tripp 37.

The second day of racing was sailed in a dying northerly breeze and the race committee led by Storm Trysail Club Principal Race Officer Charles “Butch” Ulmer skillfully got in two races – both of them “bonuses” considering the forecast.

The Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta is organized by the Storm Trysail Foundation (STF) and the Larchmont Yacht Club and this year was led by Regatta Chairman Barry Gold. The goal of the IOR is to introduce dinghy sailors to the fun and teamwork of big boat racing, which is a new aspect of the sport to many dinghy sailors. It also gives college sailors with big boat skills a chance to compete in some of the best-prepared boats around. The 52-boat fleet was divided up into five classes: 12 IRC 32’-43’ boats, five J/44s, 13 J/109s, 10 PHRF boats and 12 J/105s.

A team from the US Naval Academy won the IRC class sailing the J/133 Antidote. After 6 races their score line read 1, 1, 1, 2, 1, 4. Finishing second was Ohio State sailing the Sydney 43 Christopher Dragon while third place went to Michigan Technological University sailing the Swan 42 Quintessence.

The J/44 one-design class was won by the University of Michigan sailing Beagle; the College of Charleston won in the J/109 class sailing PAX 3 with three firsts, a second and a fourth, while Roger Williams University won the J/105 class sailing Conundrum. Rick Lyall, the owner of the J/109 Storm, which was sailed by Mass Maritime said, “Over the years I have watched the talent level of the sailors grow. This year the top three J/109 teams were unbelievably well-sailed. The College of Charleston team was not only flawless in their boat handling, but also superior in their tactics. It seemed like every time our boat and their boat came together, the Charleston team had the advantage. They definitely deserved to win the biggest class of the regatta.”

The J/109 class had the most international entries, which included three of the four Canadian teams and two teams from France. Finishing third in the J/109 class was the team from Arts et Métiers from Paris. As the winners of the 46th EDHEC Sailing Cup raced last April in Les Sables-d’Olonne France, their team won an all expense paid trip (except for air fare) to the IOR thanks to the joint venture between the STF and the EDHEC Sailing Cup.

The EDHEC Sailing Cup is the world’s biggest college sailing regatta that draws over 1,500 sailors and 180 boats and the joint venture with the STF is designed to bring the top college sailors in the world together. As a result of being the overall winner of the IOR, the team from the University of Toledo has won an all expenses paid (except for air fare) to the 47th EDHEC Sailing Cup in La Rochelle, France to be sailed in April, 2015. All US collegiate teams are welcome. When talking about the invite to the EDHEC regatta, one of the Toledo team members said, “I guess I’ll have to get my first passport.” Now that’s what you call an education.

Nicolas Degroote, who represented the EDHEC Sailing Cup at the IOR said, “Toledo University Sailing Club has proven to have a really good level of sailing; they defeated some varsity teams that were favorites to win the IOR. It is with pleasure that we will host Toledo during the 47th EDHEC Sailing Cup from April 24 to May 2 in La Rochelle, France.”

The IOR is extremely popular with both the sailors and boat owners. An example comes from Bob Schwartz, owner of the J/109 Nordlys who wrote, “The regatta was a great, as well as an important event as usual. The nicest part is that you immediately realize that college age sailors are the most wonderful kids you would ever want to meet. Smart, polite, capable, etc. Our sport attracts the best and we have to keep them involved.”

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