Going the (mixed) distance at Oakcliff
Published on July 17th, 2020
Ariel Nachemia and Erica Lush won the second edition of Oakcliff Sailing’s Doublehanded Distance Race held July 14-15 in Oyster Bay, NY. With six teams in a matched fleet of Melges 24s, the race was designed to aid World Sailing with the mixed-gender offshore event at the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Oakcliff’s Acorn and Sapling programs train athletes of all ages but the shorthanded is especially effective for younger sailors who want to explore shorthanded offshore sailing, which typically has a high barrier to entry.
“Unless you own the boat, it is extremely difficult to get quality offshore experience when you’re young, even more so when you’re trying to sail shorthanded,” said Executive Director Dawn Riley. “With this event, we’re able to let young sailors push themselves, find their limits but always having an almost invisible safety net in place such as home base monitoring the live feeds and a mother ship with a high speed RIB following the fleet.”
Four of the 12 competitors were under 21 and six were under 30. Last year’s winners, Cat Chimney and Ethan Johnson, who are now Oakcliff staff, partnered with an under 21 sailor, neither of whom had raced offshore before. Still competitive, the new parings finished in 3rd and 4th.
Though this July’s race was focused on training and learning, the top two teams have professional aspirations.
For second place co-skipper Tucker Atterbury, this event marked a key step towards his doublehanded campaign for the 2024 Olympics. Co-skipper Abby Preston is a top level match and team racer, looking to make a leap into shorthanded offshore sailing. Both are living in Newport and exploring options.
First place co-skipper Erica Lush, also a Newport resident, has spent most of her sailing career sailing 12 meters and as part of the Maiden Factor project, creating awareness of the nearly 130 million girls worldwide who currently are not afforded an education. Winning this event gives her a springboard for her shorthanded sailing career.
Showing the breadth of goals, first place co-skipper Ariel Nechemia’s Men’s Sansa Project has the goal of being the youngest Chinese-American to sail singlehanded around the world and is raising money for the Ronald McDonald House charity, which helped his sister fight brain cancer. The win in this event brings him one step closer to his goal.
Now in their tenth year of operation, Oakcliff’s team continues to learn on all fronts, including technology.
This year’s race encountered some new challenges as Wifi hotspots coupled with cell phones, which operated consistently in last year’s cold and wet conditions, overheated this year in the July sun resulting in intermittent streams.
Oakcliff’s tech-team is working on rectifying these issues before the next test event on August 25-26 which will be held in conjunction with the US Olympic Development Program
Despite this, coverage of the race continued to fanfare on Facebook and Instagram . Oakcliff’s media team provided text race updates, photos, and video to keep spectators up to date on the racers.
Source: Lexi Pline, Oakcliff Sailing