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On the Bay

It seems that match racing is making a big splash this season on the east coast and elsewhere. While most people are familiar with fleet racing, where all boats in a division gather at the starting line and wait for the starting signal, match racing is a bit different.

The basic game of match racing consists of a race between only two boats, each trying to gain controlling position at the start, and maintaining that position around the course. The two dueling boats try to “steal wind” from their opponent, causing them to lose speed. The boat that outwits their opponent, wins the match. Protests are handled differently in match racing, too. Instead of protest hearing back on land, a jury boat follows each pair of racers throughout the match, with two umpires who make on-the-water decisions together. If there is an infraction of a racing rule, the perpetrator knows immediately and must do their “turns.” Match racing, while sometimes difficult to understand for the uninitiated, is a challenging game of skill and tactics on the water–and a ton of fun to race.

Sonar Fleet #11, right here in Manhasset Bay, realized how much fun match racing could be and over the past few years has been having a match racing day in their Sonars. The Sonar sailor who was instrumental in getting the fleet into match racing is Bahar Gidwani, owner of Sonar #573, Selhun. He was the event chair for the match racing that took place this past weekend. From all accounts, this year’s contest was a very tightly contested event: going into the last flight three boats were tied with the same number of points for first place. According to Bill Simon in an email, “There were a lot of tie breakers used to determine the actual finish positions.” The Race Committee had their work cut out for them, as the day dawned with relatively light winds, but six flights or 24 races were completed by the end of the day. The last flight to complete a full round robin for all eight teams could not be started in the light swirly winds as the southerly came in and we ran into the time limit. Many thanks are due to Umpires Henrik Pederson, Judy Hanlon and David Storrs, along with their umpire boat drivers including Nan Barry and the RC volunteers. Winner of the John Barry Award for Match Racing was first place skipper Greg Danilek, Housemartin. Other top boats included: 2. John Browning, Ping!, 3. Bahar Gidwani, Selhun, and 4. Robert Baskind, Laurie B.

Another upcoming match racing event is the Knickerbocker Cup, which has moved over to Manhasset Bay YC this year. The KCUP is a qualifier for the World Match Racing Tour, with the winner gaining an automatic entry to compete in the King Edward VII Gold Cup, in Bermuda, one of the most prestigious match racing events on the tour. Top seeded match racers from around the world will be testing their skills against some top match racers in the US. Skippers for this year’s event hail from Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, US Virgin Islands, Argentina, Poland and the US. Two teams have women skippers, Sally Barkow, who made history by winning the 2009 Ficker Cup match racer and becoming the first women to sail into a spot in the Congressional Cup; and Anna Tunnicliffe, the 2008 Yachtswoman of the Year, and winner of the Laser Radial Olympic Gold Medal. Other US match racers at the Knickerbocker Cup are Dave Perry, collegiate All-American and two-time Congressional Cup champion, and well-known author of books on racing rules. Chris Van Tol, from Bayview YC, Detroit, MI, will be back this year to try to win back his Cup title, which was taken away from him last year by Takumi Nakamura (JPN). The Cup is scheduled for Aug. 26 -30. Thomas Reuters has signed on to be a major sponsor this year, with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty.

What is really exciting this year is the beginning of a match race series across the US. This year the Knickerbocker Cup has joined with two other match racing events: the Chicago Match Race, Chicago Match Race Center, Chicago, Illinois, Aug. 21-23, and the Detroit Cup, a qualifier for the Brazil Cup on the World Match Racing Tour, hosted by the Bayview YC, Detroit, Michigan, Sept. 2-6. The idea was to entice international match racers to the United States with “back-to-back” events to make traveling easier. It seems to have worked because about ½ of the skippers have registered for all three events. Organizers are hoping to build on this early excitement and grow the series next year.

Nominations are now invited for the 2009 ISAF Rolex World Sailor of the Year Awards, the most prestigious award of recognition in the sport of sailing. Nominations may be made by anyone and the only criteria are that sailors must have performed an “outstanding achievement in the sport of sailing” during the qualifying period of Sept. 1, 2008 to Aug. 31, 2009. The 2008 winners were Ben Ainslie (GBR) and Alessandra Sensini (ITA). Nominations should be sent in to ISAF by 12.00hrs (UTC) on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2009 on the Official Nomination Form which may be found at http://www.sailing.org/29171.php

Port Washington was the home of the first Star boats, one of the most successful one-design boats ever. She was designed and built right here on our bay. It is fitting, indeed, that at the Star Worlds, in Varberg Sweden, that Americans George Szabo and Rick Peters, clawed their way back from finishing 54th out of 86 boats in the first race to become the 2009 Star World Champions. “Back on the dock after that first race, we joked that we could still win the regatta,” said Szabo. “But we just wanted to finish in the top ten.” Szabo and Peters hadn’t finished in the top ten since their first World Championship together in 1994 when they finished seventh. “We just kept plugging away,” he said. “It’s exciting,” he continued, “It’s a real treat to be on that trophy with the names of other World Champions, like Sweden’s Fredrik Lööf, USA’s Mark Reynolds and Magnus Liljedahl.” Reynolds and Liljedahl won the Star World Championship nine years ago in 2000, and an American has not won the title since. The last time an American medaled was in 2001 when Vince Brun and Mike Dorgan finished third. Nice to bring the trophy home to the country that started the Star class. For the results: http://www.starclass.org/search.cgi?Action=view&Event_id=1654