Behind the Scenes, March 2021
Published on March 16th, 2021
‘Talk about chasing rainbows! My ongoing, eternal quest is to capture the ‘Ultimate Sailing’ image: the perfect composition, light, action and angles. It’s just like chasing rainbows: a seemingly elusive and implausible task, searching for that pot of gold at the end … But sometimes – like this magical shot – it does happen!
The March feature photograph in the 2021 Ultimate Sailing calendar showcases the Melges IC37 Pacific Yankee sailing beneath a vibrant rainbow. It was taken off Hollywood Beach in Ft. Lauderdale as co-owners Drew Freides, Bill Ruh, and crew were practicing for the Lauderdale Cup regatta.
I love this area because of the wind conditions, sea state, and magnificent colors. The Gulf Stream hugs the coast here and that snaking river of warm water (traveling at 2 to 4mph!) shakes it up, and adds to the challenging tactics of the race! It is one of my favorite places to shoot and often delivers stunning calendar shots.
And the IC37 is a new, exciting boat from Melges Performance Sailboats. The black composite main and beamy white chassis create dramatic lines against the sea and sky, and the high-level competition is just as dramatic too! Introduced two years ago, this stripped-down boat is raced with only one set of sails and just the essential instrumentation, to make it a true one-design class.
“Brutally one-design,” Drew called it, from the helm of Pacific Yankee. “One suit of sails, and you can’t even adjust the rig tension or shrouds. You race it pretty much as-is,” – a genuine test of strategy and skill.
Drew is a long-time sailor who grew up doing ‘fun family sailing’ in his youth, but admitted it wasn’t until he began studying Naval Architecture at Massachusetts Institute of Technology that he got serious about competition. After a spell as a yacht designer at Nelson-Marek he switched to investment banking, which gave him the opportunity to race on more boats.
A champion Melges 20 and Farr 40 sailor, Drew had raced aboard Tom Stark’s newly launched IC37 Rush, and he and Bill concurred it would be a blast to get one of their own. Drew said that time onboard Rush boosted his mastery of the model, as Pacific Yankee went on to win the IC37 US Nationals.
“I’ve sailed more days on the IC37 than anyone else in the planet!” Drew explained. “I did the entire prior season with Tom, the NYYC Invitational with San Diego Yacht Club, and once we got our own boat, a lot of practices.”
Combine that with great coaches and an excellent (amateur) team of sailors, he revealed, and that was his winning formula.
“Thank goodness my friends happen to be good sailors,” he laughed. “I just love sailboat racing and am very competitive by nature. I love racing and sailing with my friends, and the whole sailing community: what a great bunch of people.”
I agree! And Drew is a terrific competitor: he’s very focused and sails with immense precision, and surrounds himself with great sailors. It’s always a pleasure to shoot competitors racing at peak performance, and I knew I would find that at the Lauderdale Cup.
The morning was spectacular and quite fresh and I was excited to get out on the water and get to work. The all-star crew of Andy Burdick, Harry Melges III, and Morgan Kinney from Melges Performance Boatworks picked me up with all my gear and chauffeured me in the Melges powerboat.
We headed out the entrance to Port Everglades, straight into the wind and rollicking seas. It was blowing 20 to 25 knots, with 4 to 8-foot seas, and I was intercepting the fleet and shooting as they made their way to the racecourse, where they were scheduled to do several practice starts.
They had just completed one start when I could see the sky darken and this insane rainbow burst out of the sky. It was just as intense in person as it appears in the photo and everyone was absolutely captivated by it.
Drew told me later that when the rainbow appeared, everyone on his crew whipped out their cellphones to try to get a shot. But he told them, “Don’t waste your time: Sharon’s in that RIB over there and she’s going to get a shot better than any of us can. And you didn’t let us down.”
Thank you Drew! I was shooting away like a maniac hoping the images would look as amazing as it did in real life: using with my Canon EOS 1D X body and 100-400 lens at f/4. Firing away, I finally captured the image I knew would be a spectacular calendar shot. Mission accomplished!
I went on to cover the rest of this thrilling regatta, where Pacific Yankee won the championship after three days of close and exciting racing. They are eager to get back for more competition once the world ‘returns to normal’ and I hope to be there to capture them!
But first: I cannot ignore the vertical shot on the March 2021 pages of the Ultimate Sailing Calendar. Taken in another one of my favorite destinations, this image shows the J/105 fleet on a downwind leg during the Rolex Big Boat Series at St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco Bay.
Another popular one-design class, the J/105s are also known for lively competition – as you can tell by this tightly-packed fleet and the explosion of colorful spinnakers!
And if colorful spinnakers float your boat (pardon the pun), check out my Flying Colors puzzle! This limited edition, 1,000-piece puzzle been a huge hit this past year and inventory is getting low. Order yours now: you’ll love the challenge, and the reward of this stunning image when you’re through!