Words that limit a lot of spending

Published on September 29th, 2022

The 34-boat fleet at the 2022 Shields US National Championship was a remarkable gathering for the 58th edition held September 8-10 in Newport, RI. The turnout was both notably deep with talent but also 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, NY.

Among the competitors was WindCheck magazine publisher Benjamin Cesare who shared this observation:

I really like to compete. But as the greats have taught us, from Lowell North, to Dennis Conner and Buddy Melges to Ken Read, preparation, especially in one-design racing, is critical if you want to have a shot at doing well. Unfortunately, in the period we live in, money is critical to preparation.

New sails (multiple sets), bottom and blades professionally faired (cleaned/polished daily), boat at minimum weight (dehumidifier is key) are usually the ante, followed by perfect control systems and some customized set-ups.

And don’t get me wrong. It is really fun when you have all those boxes checked, you have the time committed to max those out in practice, and then you go do battle at the top of a championship fleet that has prepped as well as you have. But again, to reach that level takes time and funds. So, when I read the Shields Class rules, a big smile broke out.

Qualification requirements for each entered boat:
1. Must be a Registered Yacht as defined by By-Law Section II 2.0
2. Must be certified by a Fleet as conforming to the class specifications
3. Must have antifouling bottom paint and be wet-sailed
4. Must have competed in ten or more sanctioned races in the calendar year of the Regatta, as certified by a Fleet or Fleets (this can be waived for chartered boats)
5. Must carry only qualified sails

And then the section about the sails for the regatta:
1. Sails must have been acquired by the entrant in compliance with Section V Rule 1.0 – Basic Rules Governing Acquisition, measured by a Fleet Measurer and marked as prescribed. Each entrant must produce a Sail Inventory Card [or web site substitute if adopted by the Governing Board].

2. All entered sails must have been used in at least ten sanctioned Shields races in the calendar year of the Regatta on the entered boat or (in the case of a chartered boat) on the boat in which at least one skipper qualified for the Regatta. The words “in a calendar year of the Regatta” do not apply to the backup spinnaker.

Those words have limited a lot of spending. What’s left are the sailors, their skills, and how much time they have committed to sailing their boats.

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