Team Viper Strikes Again

Published on November 5th, 2015

by Dave Reed, Sailing World
Whenever Dr. Jim Sears, the two-time Helly Hansen Caribbean NOOD defending champion and Viper 640 sailor from Long Beach, Calif., placed his straw beachcomber hat upon his head before a race his alter ego appeared. Whether it was Dr. J., Jimbo, or someone else at the helm, I’m not exactly sure, but whoever it was, there was an instant transformation from laid-back So Cal dude to one heck of a fiercely competitive sailor.

The moment the starting whistle split the air, the pediatrician and television doctor was in his element behind the stainless wheels of the white Sunsail 41. His “real” boat has a tiller and weighs many thousand pounds less, but the guy knows how to make a bareboat go. He drives with hands at 10 and 2, his stance is wide and his co-ed pick-up crew is practiced and cat like across the deck.

Sears’ Team Viper, having earned its entre to the Caribbean NOOD Championship by winning the Viper 640 class and the overall San Diego NOOD in 2013, has always gone for the gusto. For his first NOOD championship, Sears chartered a catamaran to shadow the team around the racecourse, loaded it with booze, buddies, wives and girlfriends. He won the party hands down, but finished second overall.

But Team Viper avenged its loss in 2014, this time as a full-freight “Open” competitor, racing against the select NOOD champions. Again, The Viper mothership rocked the BVI’s sleepy anchorages, lit up with flashing LED disco lights and laughter. A victory in ’14 earned them an automatic defender’s berth this year (courtesy of Sunsail), and Team Viper showed up in Tortola in October ready to defend both of its titles.

There were plenty of potential spoilers in the championship fleet, however, including San Diego YC’s commodore, John Laun, who earned his berth as the skipper of the top J/120 team at the San Diego NOOD. The Commodore, too, rolled into Sunsail’s Road Town base with an entourage and a mother ship stocked with crew and friends.

From the St. Petersburg NOOD came skipper Grant Dumas (pronounced Doo-mah). The software specialist trounced the St. Pete PHRF fleet in February with his Tripp 38 Warrior. His crew pool was fairly deep so he too enlisted a mother ship from which he could rotate fresh crew and willing volunteers. There are worse benches to sit than that of a charter cat trampoline, rum-drenched beverage in hand.

Representing the Chicago NOOD was a co-ed foursome led by Colleen Feeny. Her skipper, Ron Buzil, couldn’t attend so he put her in charge of carrying the Vayu battle flag. Team Chicago came lean and light on crew, confident the Sunsail 41’s jib-and-main combination could be handled by eight hands. From the Marblehead NOOD’s Rhodes 19 fleet was Jamie Holley, who pulled his teenaged son and daughters from school so they didn’t miss out. While the adults cracked beers and rum handles, Mr. and Mrs. Holley ensured the kids cracked the books.

Finally, and certainly not least, there was Terry Hutchinson, a Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and winner of the Annapolis NOOD’s J/70 fleet. – Full report

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