Y-Flyer for Championship of Champions
Published on October 17th, 2018
Two-time event champion Mike Ingham (Rochester, N.Y.) and International Women’s Keelboat Champion Megan Ploch (Pelham, N.Y.) headline the 44th Championship of Champions regatta. Best described as a melting pot for one-design class champions, the regatta begins Friday, Oct. 19, at the Atlanta Yacht Club (Acworth, Ga.) with 17 teams set to battle for the Jack Brown Trophy.
A US Sailing Championship event, the Championship of Champions pits world, North American or national class champions from a wide array of one-design classes in a boat that is unknown to many and typically on a body of water with challenging, and sometimes bewildering conditions. It’s a formula intended to upset the status quo, and often does.
“It’s really cool to meet up with people who are all champions in their class from all over the country,” said Ingham, who previously won the Jack Brown Trophy in 2005 and 2014. “Often they’re people you’ve never met before so it’s a whole different world from your regular class association. Everyone there has won something, so there aren’t many marshmallows in the fleet.”
In total, this year’s fleet features 11 national champions, three North American champions and one world champion. Besides Ingham there are two other past champions: Bill Draheim (Royse City, Texas), who won in 2002, and Brian Keane (Weston, Mass.), the 2013 champion.
Ploch was just 17 last year when she won the International Women’s Keelboat Championship in Mexico, becoming the youngest to ever win the championship. She’s currently a sophomore at Georgia Tech, where she is the captain of the sailing team.
In honor of winning the championship, Ploch is this year’s guest skipper. One of the unique features of the Championship of Champions regatta is the guest skipper, a sort of wild card entrant invited to race based on their notoriety or outstanding success.
Ploch is the youngest female guest skipper ever invited to the regatta and joins luminaries such as Paul Cayard and Betsy Allison, both past recipients of US Sailing’s Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year award. Her crew is father Mark Ploch (Bronx, N.Y.), the longtime sailmaker from Doyle Sails.
“I’m super excited,” said Megan Ploch, now 19. “I’ve been planning my class schedule around this event. And I get to sail with my dad. I haven’t sailed with him in over a year. It’s humbling to sail this regatta. Looking at the list of competitors, it’s amazing to get an opportunity to sail against them. For them to see me as equal and a champion is amazing for me.”
This year’s regatta will be raced in the Y-Flyer, a doublehanded, 1930s era lake boat from designer Alan Youngquist. Originally marketed as an ideal boat to build in your garage, the Y-Flyer has a square bow, low freeboard, chine hull and large sail plan. At first glance the 18-footer looks like a cross between an A Scow and a Fireball, two go-fast one-designs. It’s a boat that few in the fleet, other than the locals from Atlanta Yacht Club, have rarely seen, much less raced.
“There’s a saying in the class that the Y-Flyer is the fastest two-person, non-spinnaker boat in the U.S.,” said Paul Abdullah (Jacksonville, Fla.), a four-time Y-Flyer National Champion (2014-’17) who’ll crew for Ingham. “It’s a lively boat when the breeze comes up, gets on a plane downwind, goes ripping fast. In light wind it has to be sailed with heel.”
Ingham, who’s racing the Championship of Champions for the eighth time, is aiming to win the Jack Brown Trophy a third time. Besides the two victories he has also placed second three times (1997, 2002, ’08) and third (2010). Only once has he not finished in the top three, and he would appear well set for another run. In Abdullah he has a crew who won the Y-Flyer Nationals three times as a skipper and once as crew.
“It would be great to pull it off,” said Ingham, who’s had a busy year as a coach for the US Sailing Team. “I have zero knowledge of the Y-Flyer. It’s got some sail area, so if it’s windy it could be a handful.
“Paul’s a really good friend of mine,” Ingham continued. “He’s my super crew, going to drag me through the regatta. We’ve teamed up in the J/24 and other boats. We’re good friends and fierce competitors in Thistles. He’s the reason I was able to pull it off this year with no time to prepare.”
Draheim and Keane are prime candidates to derail Ingham and Abdullah. Besides their past championships, Keane was the 2017 J/70 Corinthian National Champion and Draheim won the VX One North American Championship.
The Atlanta Yacht Club founded Y-Flyer Fleet #1 in 1952 and is well represented in the fleet with five sailors: Bryce Dryden (Kennesaw, Ga.), the 2018 Y-Flyer National Champion, Tarasa Davis (Atlanta, Ga.), the 2018 Snipe Women’s National Champion, and Lucy Spearman (Atlanta, Ga.), the 2018 Y-Flyer Junior National Champion, are all skippers.
Crews include Shelby Hatcher (Woodstock, Ga.), a multiple winner of the Y-Flyer Junior and Women’s National championships who’ll race with Davis, and Sammy Hodges (Musella, Ga.), crew for Spearman. Hodges is the 28-year-old great grandson of E.O. “Smitty” Smithfield, a founding member of Atlanta Yacht Club and Y-Flyer Fleet #1.
Racing will be held on Lake Allatoona, an 18-square-mile lake created and managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, on October 19 to 21.
• Mark Beaton (Mt. Pleasant Beach, N.J.), 2018 Sandpiper National Champion; Russell Lucas (Mantoloking, N.J.)
• James Bowers (Winchester, Mass.), 2017 Snipe National Champion; Julia Marsh Rabin (Salem, Mass.)
• Tarasa Davis (Atlanta, Ga.), 2018 Snipe Women’s National Champion; Shelby Hatcher (Woodstock, Ga.)
• Bill Draheim (Royse City, Texas), 2017 VX One North American Champion; Rod Favela (Heath, Texas)
• Bryce Dryden (Kennesaw, Ga.), 2018 Y-Flyer National Champion; Mandy Hofmeister (Nashville, Tenn.)
• Mike Ingham (Rochester, N.Y.), 2017 Thistle National Champion, 2018 J/24 North American Champion; Paul Abdullah (Jacksonville, Fla.)
• Walter Johnson (Newport Beach, Calif.), 2017 Harbor 20 Class Winner; David Wood (Corona Del Mar, Calif.)
• Brian Keane (Weston Mass.), 2017 US Corinthian J/70 National Champion; Thomas Barrows (St. Thomas, USVI)
• Mike McCaffrey (Reading, Mass.), 2018 Day Sailer North American Champion; Erik McCaffrey (Lexington Park, Md.)
• David Parshall (Gilbert, S.C.), 2017 San Juan 21 North American Champion; Amber Phillips (Cayce, S.C.)
• Megan Ploch (Pelham, N.Y.), 2017 International Women’s Keelboat Champion; Mark Ploch (Bronx, N.Y.)
• Brad Russell (Pineville, N.C.), 2018 Thistle National Champion; Scott Gise (Mount Pleasant, S.C.)
• Joe Schroeder (Minneapolis, Minn.), 2017 M Scow National Champion; Helene Schroeder (Minneapolis, Minn.)
• Lucy Spearman (Atlanta, Ga.), 2018 Y-Flyer Junior National Champion; Sammy Hodges (Musella, Ga.)
• David Starck (Buffalo, N.Y.), top American at 2017 Lightning North American Championship; Tom Starck (Cleveland, Ohio)
• Alan Taylor (Greensboro, N.C.), 2017 Isotope National Champion; Joel Blade (Mooresville, N.C.)
• Jim Ward (Bay Village, Ohio), 2018 Interlake Class National Champion; Stu Fisher (Columbus, Ohio)