Shekinah comes from behind

To take North Sails Race Week, reports Rich Roberts

Monday June 30th 2003, Author: Rich Roberts, Location: United States
A lot of things can go wrong in sailboat racing, and most of them did at the 19th North Sails Race Week concluding Sunday. The spoils went to those who overcame their bad luck or blunders (take your pick) or simply waited for fate to make their days.

Jim and Lori Thompson, sailing their new J/109, Shekinah, from Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club in nearby San Pedro, didn't even finish the first race of the three-day weekend when they sailed over their spinnaker after it tied itself in a knot worthy of a Boy Scout's merit badge. But later they were able to discard that result as the worst of the seven races, win two races and then a tiebreaker with Dick Velthoen and Paul de Freitas' J/35, Rival and - shazam! - collect additional honours as PHRF and event Boat of the Week for winning the most competitive class.

They also shared the Lydia Kent Family Trophy with PHRF 3 winner Paul Kent, one of eight descendants of the trophy's late namesake on board. "We are surprisingly pleased," Jim Thompson said. "We were just here to learn and get used to using an asymmetrical spinnaker." So they weren't distraught over their opening disaster. "We didn't even know there was a throwout," Lori Thompson said.

That wrinkle was introduced this year, but it didn't help Samba Pa Ti. John Kilroy's Farr 40 from California YC, with Paul Cayard as tactician, twice recovered from jumping the gun in starts Saturday to share first place with Peter Stoneberg's Shadow from St. Francis YC going into the last race.

But then a third misstep Sunday was fatal, and that was compounded when Samba Pa Ti failed to return back across the line completely to clear itself, requiring a second restart. By that time, a fickle 4 knot breeze that greeted the fleet of 130 boats on the final day had built to a brisk 15 swinging hard right for the second race, leaving few passing lanes to play catch-up.

Stoneberg said a match race was shaping up in the pre-start maneuvering when "they came at us on starboard. We were thinking about going back at 'em, but then we thought if we did that it might be a mistake."

Caution became the wiser move. Shadow, with Ed Baird calling tactics, sailed to its third consecutive win and fourth overall as Samba Pa Ti fought back to fourth place to save second overall.

Another San Francisco boat, Tom Coates' Masquerade, also overcame a setback to run away with the largest class where 25 J/105s contested their Pacific Coast Championships. Coates wasn't on the boat. He cut his left hand severely last Wednesday so, on 48 hours' notice, tactician/mainsail trimmer Chris Perkins became skipper and helmsman.

"It's an amazing team," Perkins said, "and I have a J/105 so it was about like sailing my own boat."

They also were strong at staying out of trouble and changing gears in the wide range of conditions, although, Perkins noted, "Since we're from San Francisco, we're certainly more comfortable with the [stronger] breeze."

In similar style, Jed Olenick, stuck on business obligations in San Diego, had Joe Cramer sail his J/120, Doctor No, the first two days. Then, with three new crew members plus himself on board, he returned Sunday to win the last two races and wrap up the class title with a one-point win over John Laun's Caper, also from the border city.

The key, Olenick said, was the first, fluky race Sunday. "It was tough," he said. "But there was a big shift and a course change to the left, so we're thinking, 'Oh, the wind went left.' So we took the right-hand side of the [leeward] gate and went left when most of the other boats went right. We moved from third to first."

Sounds easy, but such conditions are difficult even for Dave Ullman, who with one race remaining found himself even with Don Jesberg of San Francisco and Newport Harbor YC rivals Argyle Campbell and Bruce Ayres dogging their transoms.

"Any one of those four could have won this," said Ullman, who sailed with Olympic silver medallists Jay and Pease Glaser on board and represented the Balboa and Alamitos Bay YCs. "We had real trouble in the light air." But when the wind kicked in for the last race, they beat Jesberg by about a minute for their third win.

Other winners included Cita Litt's lemon-yellow Schock 40, Cita, in PHRF 2 and Jim Demetriades' sky-blue Transpac 52, Yassou, in PHRF 1. The win marked Cita's return to bigtime buoy racing after a year's hiatus. Cita helmsman George Twist said, "we were a bit rusty . . . " "And a little lucky," Cita Litt added.

With Roy E. Disney's Pyewacket bowing out after four races to slip into its Transpac mode, Yassou cruised to first place in PHRF 1, although Dale Williams' ILC 46, Wasabi, and Oscar Krinsky's 1D48, Chayah, corrected out in Race 6 and 7, respectively, after collecting 37 and 38 seconds per mile.

The Yacht Club Challenge Trophy was won by St. Francis, based on the class wins by Masquerade and Shadow and a second place by Bill Wright's Zsa Zsa behind Fanger and Mario Yovkov in the 1D35s.

Class winners (7 races):

PHRF 1 (7 boats)---Yassou (Transpac 52), Jim Demetriades, Los Angeles YC,
1-2-2-1-1-(3)-2, 9 points.

PHRF 2 (11)---Cita (Schock 40), Cita Litt/George Twist, Newport Harbor YC,
3-(4)-1-2-2-1-2, 11.

PHRF 3 (8)---Chance (Farr 395), Paul Kent, San Francisco YC,
2-2-1-1-1-1-(4), 8.

PHRF 4 (11)---Shekinah (J/109), Jim and Lori Thompson, Cabrillo Beach YC,
(12)-5-1-2-01-3-3, 15 (wins tiebreaker from Rival (J/35), Dick Velthoen/Paul
de Frietas, Ventura YC).

PHRF 5 (9)---Kiwi Boat (Young 88), Chuck and Brad Mercord, NFYC,
(3)-3-2-3-3-2-3, 16.

FARR 40 (9)---Shadow, Peter Stoneberg, St. Francis YC, 1-2-(6)-6-1-1-1, 12.

1D35 (8)---Sensation, Fanger and Mario Yovkov, San Francisco,
(5)-4--1-1-1-1-3, 11.

SCHOCK 35 (11; Pacific Coast championships)---Piranha, David Voss, Channel
Islands YC, 2-1-2-1-(4)-4-1, 11.

MELGES 24 (16)---USA 399, Dave Ullman, Balboa/ABYC YCs, 1-2-3-1-3-(7)-1, 11.

J/120 (6)---Doctor No, Jed Olenick, San Diego YC, 1-1-(2)-2-2-1-1, 8.

J/105 (26)---Masquerade, Chris Perkins, St. Francis YC, 1-1-(5)-1-1-1-1, 6.

J/80 (7)---DNA, David Hammett, Bahia Corinthian YC, 1-1-1-1-(2)-1-1, 6.

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