Old is good at Shields US Nationals
Published on September 10th, 2022
Apollo 11, the oldest boat in the 34-boat fleet, won the six-race series to capture the 2022 Shields US National Championship held September 8-10 in Newport, RI. Skipper Andy Green, of Newport, sailed with fellow owners Joe Bardenheier and Dale Harper, as well as Jon Howland and Geordie Shaver.
Apollo began the final day of the three-race series close behind the Mike Toppa family team in Bomba Charger and Glenn Darden/Bill Shore on Karasalet, and close ahead of Grace, co-skippered by three-time champions John Burnham/Reed Baer. In what could have been the final race of the series, Apollo and Grace pulled well ahead and finished one-two after an extended jibing duel, leap-frogging the others into the top two spots.
Working quickly, the Ida Lewis Yacht Club race committee signaled a sixth race starting just before the series time limit of 2pm. In a building seabreeze, the series leaders emerged near the front and traded positions twice with Burnham/Baer on Grace finishing just ahead of Green on Apollo, but without the margin needed to overtake the leader.
“To the moon!” is Green’s motto for what he describes as his team’s “pandemic purchase,” rescuing Hull #11 in 2021 at an auction that could have sent the boat to the scrapyard. “We’ve put in a lot of time and had a lot of fun already with the boat,” he said, “culminating in a hard-fought battle for the win at our home Nationals.” He described summer Shields sailing in Newport as “sailing with friends, against friends, in a very competitive fleet.”
The turnout for the 58th edition of the championship was well above the norm for the nearly 60-year-old keelboat class, which was designed by Sparkman & Stephens in 1963 for Cornelius Shields of Larchmont, N.Y.; the Class held its first Nationals in 1965. In recent years, championship has typically attracted 15 to 24 boats.
Perhaps encouraged by the easing of the pandemic or the fun of competing in Newport, 14 teams trailered or borrowed boats for the regatta from Edgartown and Marion in Massachusetts; Greenwich, Connecticut; Larchmont, New York; Oxford, Maryland; and Monterey, California.
They were welcomed by 20 local boats from Newport’s Fleet 9, which has increased in size from the low 20s to the low 30s since the beginning of the pandemic and routinely draws 25 boats to the starting line on Wednesday nights.
Ida Lewis race committee PRO Peter Gerard felt the fleet was outgrowing the available course areas inside Narragansett Bay and elected to stage the racing in the open but choppier waters of Rhode Island Sound, which also featured a southeasterly storm swell. The starting lines for the 30-foot keelboats were a quarter-mile-long and the upwind legs were close to 1.5 miles—challenging conditions for both locals and visitors.
With Newport boats winning the podium positions, the top finisher among all the travelers was two-time national champ Bill Berry in seventh place, followed by Shields class president Ken Deyett’s Bit~O~Honey in 13th. Both sail in Fleet 10 in Marion, Massachusetts, which will host the 59th Nationals on the breezy, choppy and tide-swept waters of Buzzards Bay next year.
Winners of 2022 event awards included the Sparkman & Stephens Concourse Award to Tom McManus’ Circe (Greenwich, Conn.), the Moore Trophy for top Senior Skipper to Mike Toppa (Bomba Charger, Newport), Junior Skipper Award to Grace Adams (Meander, Newport), and Gordon Benjamin Memorial Newcomer Award to Lindsey Turowski (Sirene, Newport).
The Shields Class’s Nationals Regatta dubious achievement award, the Take A Bow Trophy, is a mounted bow section of a Shields that takes two people to lift, and this year it was awarded to Class VP Ron Oard (Glory 158) for sailing too far by the lee at the downwind mark and tossing his mainsheet trimmer overboard.
Fortunately, as Mitch Kempisty recounted at the awards ceremony, despite being 40 feet behind the boat, he held onto the sheet. Kempisty’s day job is as a rescue swimmer for the Navy and he used his training to good effect. He trimmed the main in at the appropriate time, then swam faster than the boat and “levitated” himself back aboard. “We didn’t lose a place,” he said. But his skipper got the trophy!
• Results: https://yachtscoring.com/event_results_cumulative.cfm?eID=14824
• Class website: https://www.shieldsclass.com/index.php
Source: John Burnham