The International Etchells Atlantic Coast Championships, graciously hosted by Shelter Island Yacht Club, Shelter Island, NY got off to a flying start on Saturday June 24th, after a short delay to allow for a band of heavy storms to cross the area. The fantastic RC team, led by John Storck took the fleet down to Orient Bay for the days racing, which turned out to be a great call, as the breeze rapidly built from 15kts into the 20’s from the SW.
In the first race Steve Benjamin and team were towards the pin end of the line and held on out there with more consistent pressure to lead the fleet around the first weather mark. The runs were quite exciting, with fanning puffs bouncing across the water, inside larger bands of strong pressure. There were big gains and losses and a huge emphasis on slick crew work. Benjy’s crew took the right gate looking downwind and extended on Kauffman and Duncan for a relatively comfortable victory. All crews thought this was a great opening to the regatta, while contemplating race 2 in the breeze-on conditions.
The PRO got race 2 underway quickly, with the necessary adjustments to the track for the left trending breeze. Proctor, Girling, Duncan, Cross and Benjamin were all pin third of the line, but it was Duncan who had the best start and a controlling position early. As the fleet extended left, Duncan, Benjy and Girling stretched ahead, each knowing that the team who could balance the left side best, would have the advantage. Benjy led around the weather mark again, followed by Duncan and Girling, with Cross and Connor Needham’s Youth team close on their heels.
At the leeward gate Benjy and Duncan went right, while Girling split left in a 10 degree right shift. The wide gate meant that an early tack back from Girling, gave him the leverage to get back level with Duncan. It was neck and neck behind Benjy who lead at the top, with Girling, Duncan, Evans, Cross, Needham and Kauffman in hot pursuit.
With Benjy out ahead, although the breeze was starting to moderate and there were still some big bands of pressure and relative difference. A slow set by Girling allowed Duncan to roll over the top and then gybe early but then fell into a lighter breeze allowing Girling to get back level. It was neck and neck into the finish line as Duncan tried to squash Girling at the pin. Girling hit the pin and had to re-finish, allowing Evans into third, Cross into 4th, Kauffman into fifth and Needham in sixth.
Race three, with the course axis moved left by the PRO also looked more left track than right track. Girling was at the pin, but Cross and Duncan got better starts and were ahead. Cross led the left and stretched his lead downwind, extending in nice bands of pressure, although Benjy, Kauffman, Duncan and Girling were right on his heels. Competitors noticed that the early morning pressure was becoming less reliable with larger holes starting to appear. Cross extended further left upwind and they finished in that order.
Race four showed the same trends overall, but conditions were getting tricky. This time it was Girling who led from the middle of the line as a slight right shift rolled in at the start. Benjamin was called OCS in the pin third of the line and went back. Girling held to the left edge to round the top mark ahead, followed by Needham, Kauffman, Alan Kelly, sailing with Cowes fleet member, Rob Goddard and Duncan, hot on their heels.
Down the run, things got tricky as the pack created a nice snow fence in the breeze that was now more 8-14 KTS. Girling squeezed ahead at the left gate and Kelly led around the right gate, with Kauffman hot on his heels. Kelly had jib halyard issues out of the gate, allowing Kauffman to take his lane and lead the left as a strong left shift and pressure rolled in. Girling came across the middle and couldn’t quite get to Kauffman, tacking to leeward as they both extended nicely on the fleet.
Kaufmann’s sharp crew work gave him a nice jump on the last run and despite some pressure from Girling, they finished in that order, with Kelly taking a commendable third and Benjy making a lazarus-like recovery to sneak across the line fourth just ahead of Proctor and Duncan.
In race 5 (!!!) of the day, with the breeze more 6-10 kts and some tricky conditions and it was finally the turn of the right side to pay dividends. Kauffman was called over early and went back. Duncan made the most of this, by leading the fleet from the middle right, consolidating nicely to round ahead of Benjamin, Proctor, Girling with Needham and Cross hot on their heels.
A tricky run and final beat on this 3-leg course ensued as the pressure looked even less certain. Kauffman, making an incredible recovery of his own, sent it right to end the day with a pair of aces…! Duncan, Proctor and Benjy had a great fight to the top, but they finished in that order. Peter and Andrew Rowsom, confirmed the local knowledge in the top right corner for an excellent fifth, Girling crossed sixth.
Top 5 after Day one are Kauffman, Benjy, Duncan, Girling and Cross.
Day two forecast looks flakey, so fingers crossed for good racing.
The fleet was treated to an excellent dinner at the beautiful Shelter Island Yacht Club accompanied by a lovely sunset and a couple of beverages!
Results are online at: