Photos from Friday and Saturday, by Erika Johnson
Photos from Sunday, by Sol Marini
US 5o5 Fleet 8, Hampton Virginia, hosted the 1997 East Coast Championship at Hampton Yacht Club, on the 6th - 8th of June.
Hampton's reputation for warmth and light or medium breezes was badly tarnished, as a high and an adjacent low combined to make this part of the Mid Atlantic region one of the coldest places in North America. Instead of 85 Degrees F, it was 55! Wind was quite a bit more than normally experienced in Hampton, with 18-22 knots on the Friday and Saturday. Sunday's weather was slightly closer to normal, with 8-12 knots, and temperatures nudging into the 60s.
With many top East Coast teams loading their boats next weekend into a container bound for Long Beach and the North American Championship, the ECC was one of the last opportunities to test speed and boathandling prior to the NAs. Most - but not all - of the top East Coast teams attended.
Friday race 1- 18-21 knots, cold, windy, old Olympic course, 1 mile legs. Ken Elliott/Mark Wheeler in 7092 were the pathfinder.
Meller/Johnson, sporting new Kevlar/mylar North main and jib, had excellent upwind and downwind speed to win this race, with lightweights Moore/Ikle sailing very fast to pull through into 2nd. Lightweight Hampton aces Jim Englert/Thad Melton were 3rd, Macy Nelson/Mark Mendelblatt 4th, Naval Academy stars Ryan Cox/Carl Smit - who were racing their first 5o5 regatta together - 5th, Tom Kivney/Todd Johnson 6th. The 505s revelled in the conditions, planing fast over the top of most of the chop upwind, and planing downwind rather faster than the waves. Most teams were raked far aft to depower the rigs. Collins/Smith broke their mast on the way out to the race when a vectran line in their shrould adjustment system broke where it was tied to a shackle. They were able to repair the mast with a sleeve in time to Race Saturday morning. Phillips/Schumpert broke their 11 year old rudder on the way out to the start, but were towed back to the club and grabbed a spare in time to make the start.
Friday race 2 - 18-22 knots, cold, windy, building ebb, old Olympic course. Neal Fowler/Dave Dyson in 8083 were the pathfinder.
A tighter battle at the front, with Meller/Johnson breaking through for the win, and Moore/Ikle 2nd again, a very fast Cox/Smit team 3rd, Englert/Melton 4th, and Nelson/Mendelblatt 5th.
For both the Friday and Saturday racing in the breeze, many of the top teams chose to sail the runs at very high angles, with the pole foreward, the crew on the trapeze, and the boat planing very fast. The much greater speed allowed these teams to catch and pass waves, getting them down the run faster than those sailing lower and trying to surf on individual waves.
The Race Committee had mercy on the fleet and sent them in rather than trying to run a late afternoon 3rd race... The fleet adjourned to the bar to warm up and soothe aches and bruises. Once warmed up, showered and comfortable, most of the fleet went out for dinner together.
Saturday Race 3, 18-22 knots, cold, wet and windy, old Olympic course. Latane/Robert Montague in 7346 were the pathfinder.
The left, closer to shore, was favored early on. Cox/Smit powered upwind for the win, with Nelson/Mendelbatt a close 2nd, and Meller/Johnson pulling through from a bad first beat into 3rd, Fowler/Dyson 4th, Moore/Ikle 5th.
Saturday Race 4, 18-22 knots, cold, wet and windy, old Olympic Course. Henry/Doug Amthor in 8012 were the pathfinder.
The left, closer to shore, seemed favored on the first beat. A close pack rounded the weather mark and hoisted. Meller/Johnson almost flipped while hoisting, and spent some time trying to keep the mast out of the water before regaining control of their swamped boat. Moore/Ikle sailed a great race to win, with Cox/Smit 2nd, Nelson/Mendelblatt picking their way through into 3rd, Collins/Smith 4th, and Meller/Johnson recovering to 5th.
Saturday Race 5, 18-22 knots, cold, wet and windy, Worlds Course. Jonathan Phillips/Monty Schumpert in 7879 were the pathfinder.
Cox/Smit were going very fast after gating late, and appeared to be leading early on. Meller/Johnson, who gated early, drag raced left for the shore and tacked just short of the layline, where they were joined by several other teams hoping for the left shift. The back came through in time to put Meller/Johnson around the mark first. They set immediately and lead the fleet down the first reach, 30 degrees below the rhumb line. Moore/Ikle managed to stay high, probably by 2 sail reaching first. The boats carrying spinnakers either doused or uncleated their halyards and two sail reached up to the mark. Moore/Ikle gained considerable ground and were into 2nd behind Meller/Johnson at the mark. These two teams stayed close, with Meller/Johnson gaining a little ground upwind, and Moore/Ikle gaining a little downwind. For the second triangle, Meller/Johnson chose to two sail reach first, only to hoist in a lull and broad reach down to the gybe mark, while Moore/Ikle carried the kite for the full leg and sailed through into the lead at the gybe mark. On the gybe their tiller extension caught in the boom and spinnaker pole, forcing Moore/Ikle to gybe back, free the extension and then gybe again, allowing Meller/Johnson to regain the lead. The second reach was memorable, with poles on the forestay, boards most of the way up, and the 5o5s flying back to the leeward mark and RC boat. Members of the RC were heard afterwards saying they had never seen boats go so fast. Meller/Johnson loose covered Moore/Ikle for the win, Moore/Ikle were 2nd, Nelson/Mendelblatt 3rd, Fowler/Dyson 4th, Amthor/Amthor 5th. Cox/Smit fell back when they sailed over their spinnaker sheet at a leeward mark, and finished 10th.
Once again, the RC had mercy for the fleet, and sent the 5o5s in rather than trying to run a 6th race (4th for the day) on the Saturday. After liberal dosages of muscle relaxants, painkillers and alcohol - for medicinal purposes only - the fleet had dinner at the Hampton Yacht Club, and re-lived the day's adventures.
Sunday Race 6, 7-12 knots, old Olympic Course. Shifty and puffy.
In the lighter breezes, the fleet was rather closer. Albacore ace Harris/Falsone gated early and came out of the left looking very good early on, Jonathan Phillips/Monty Schumpert were also fighting for the lead with Englert/Melton and Elliott/Wheeler close behind. Most of the fleet chose to go left and then right, but some interesting shifts and puffs mixed the fleet up as it approached the windward mark. Englert/Melton got by Harris/Falsone. After some nerve racking reaches, a close pack rounded the leeward mark, with most teams opting to go left towards shore again. However a slight veer and a puff allowed Meller/Johnson to pull though from 4th into the lead by the windward mark. The fleet closed down the run, with Meller/Johnson just holding onto their lead over Fowler/Dyson, Englert/Melton and Elliott/Wheeler. Once again most of the leaders chose to go hard left, with Meller/Johnson loose covering.. Close to the left corner, Fowler/Dyson squeezed off Meller/Johnson and took the lead. The two leaders were coming in almost on the port tack layline but were blocked from the finish line by two tug and barge tows coming through the barge channel. With the choice being 1st or perhaps 10th or worse, the stakes were high. Dave Dyson could be heard saying "I don't know about this, Neal!", but Neal Fowler had brass balls and sailed between the two tows, crossing the 2nd one easily. Realizing it could be done, Meller/Johnson followed and were also able to cross the second tow. Fowler/Dyson won, Meller/Johnson were 2nd, Elliott/Wheeler 3rd, Englert/Melton 4th, and Moore/Ikle 5th.
Sunday Race 7, 8-14 knots. Worlds course. Nelson/Mendelblatt in 8191 were the pathfinder.
Once again Harris/Falsone led early, but were unable to hold on. Englert/Melton and Amthor/Amthor broke away into a big lead, with Harris/Falsone 3rd and Meller/Johnson 4th with a pack of four more immediately behind. Some problems at the leeward mark dropped Harris/Falsone by a couple of places, letting Meller/Johnson and Nelson/Fry through. While the leaders - with the exception of Englert/Melton - went hard left, Harris/Falsone, Nelson/Mendelblatt, Collins/Smith and Moore/Ikle went a little right first and then left. A gradual veer pulled them past Meller/Johnson and got them closer to Amthor/Amthor. While the first two teams were slightly punched out, the next five places were very close at the windward mark and down the run. Up the penultimate beat places changed again, as a slight veer and puff from the right came through. Englert/Melton led, Amthor/Amthor were in 2nd. Nelson/Mendelblatt were rolled at the hoist by Meller/Johnson, who pulled into 3rd at the gybe mark. Another memorable blast reach caught the Amthors and Englert/Melton low of the mark, struggling to get up to it. While most leaders carried their kites, Fowler/Dyson went high first and then hoisted. Englert/Melton doused early and retained their lead. Amthor's, sailing a bag boat, could not douse easily, but managed to carry the kite into the mark, while Meller/Johnson also sailing a bag boat pulled into an inside overlap. Frantic last minute douses got both teams around the mark, with Meller/Johnson in front. Close behind were Nelson/Mendelblatt, Collins/Smith and Moore/Ikle.
Englert/Melton loose covered to the finish line for the win. Amthor/Amthor, Nelson/Mendelblatt and Collins/Smith went hard left, with Meller/Johnson going right early and then left to loose cover. Moore/Ikle went harder right looking for more favorable current and were able to take advantage of a puff and veer. Amthor/Amthor bailed out of the left corner early to pick up Moore/Ikle. Meller/Johnson crossed 2nd and watched as Collins/Smith led Nelson/Mendelblatt into the finish from the left side, and Amthor/Amthor led Moore/Ikle in from the right. Collins/Smith crossed 3rd, but Nelson/Mendelblatt had to duck both Amthor/Amthor (4th) and Moore/Ikle (5th), crossing 6th.
Finishes of 1,1,3,5,1,2,2 (11.7 points - bonus point system) gave the East Coast Champion title to Ali Meller/Allan Johnson for the second straight year. Moore/Ikle's 2,2,5,1,2,5,5 (29 points) put them solidly in 2nd, ahead of Nelson/Mendelblatt's 4,5,2,3,3,9,6 (44.1 points). Cox/Smit faded in Sunday's lighter conditions; their 5,3,1,2,10,13,11 (51.7 points) was good for 4th, while Fowler/Dyson's 7,9,4,7,4,1,7 (55 points) put them very close behind in 5th.
Jim Englert's parents, owners of Hi-Tech Engraving, had done a beautiful job restoring the 5o5 East Coast Championship trophy - dating back to 1961 - and bringing all the engraving up to date. Hi-Tech Engraving also made some gorgeous keeper trophies, engraving the 5o5 line drawing on a plaque.
Thanks to Joe Hallissy and Clyde Winters for yet another great job as Race Committee, and thanks to fleet 8 for their hospitality in billeting almost all visitors.
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