It has been a very exciting week for sailing. While this statement appears to be an oxymoron, with most of the boats pulled from the bay and prepared for their winter respite in their respective boatyards, two major events took place, outside of Port Washington, but with ties to our community. At the recent Colorcraft Gold Cup in Hamilton, Bermuda, the Match Racing Association (MRA) and the Swedish Match Grand Prix Sailing Tour held their annual meetings. Events in attendance included representatives from the Steinlager/Line 7 Cup, Sun Microsystems Australia Cup, Knickerbocker Cup, Congressional Cup, ACI Cup, Swedish Match Cup, Danish Open, Colorcraft Gold Cup, Nippon Cup and York Cup. While the Swedish Match Grand Prix Sailing Tour reviewed their first year of the Tour, the MRA held elections for new 2001 officers. Ted Weisberg, past commodore of Knickerbocker YC, was elected president, Russell Frame, Royal Perth YC (vice president), Brian Billings, Royal Bermuda YC and past commodore of MRA (treasurer) and Bill Uniak (secretary). In addition to this very prestigious position, Mr. Weisberg is also a director of the Swedish Match Grand Prix Sailing Tour. A man not new to match racing, he crewed for Arthur Knapp in the Congressional Cup in 1975. Seven years later, in 1982, match racing was brought to the east coast, through the efforts of Ed du Moulin and Arthur Knapp. Thus was born the Knickerbocker Cup, a Class 1 event, one of two in the entire U.S., the other being the Congressional Cup. The Knickerbocker Cup is now part of the World Match Racing Conference. It was Mr. Weisberg's participation in the management of the Knickerbocker Cup that became the springboard for his involvement in match racing on a worldwide level.
The Swedish Match Grand Prix Sailing Tour and the MRA are two separate entities, both involved in match racing. The former was formed in November 1999 to establish a consistent and recognizable sailing series by consolidating top match racing events under a single name, the Swedish Match Grand Prix Sailing Tour. Their goals include developing an annual sailing series that represent quality, integrity and professionalism. They also wish to attract the top sailors in the world, and to be the training ground for the world's best sailors and America's Cup teams. There are three partners in the tour: Swedish Match, a conglomerate that is the title sponsor for the tour, Octogon Marketing and MRA.
Many readers may be unfamiliar with match racing, even though the Louis Vuitton Challenge Series and the America's Cup use this format. It is actually quite a spectator-friendly sport. In Europe, whole towns gather on the shore to watch these events, and up to 50,000 people have watched match racing in Sweden. The concept of match racing is simple - sailors compete head-to-head in identical, event-supplied boats, testing the true skill of each skipper. Two boats meet on the starting line, coming from opposite directions and jockey for position to be at the starting line first and on starboard tack. The pre-start sequence looks very similar to a cat chasing its tail. The upwind legs (leg 1 and 3), the lead boat will attempt to control the other boat by "covering" or blocking its wind. The second boat is forced to tack and sail for clear air. In the downwind legs (legs 2 and 4), the trailing boat, with spinnakers flying, can block the wind of the lead boat. The ultimate winner is the first to cross the finish line. The above simple explanation does not factor in wind shifts, skill and tactics of skipper and crew, and all the other variables that make watching match racing so fascinating.
The other exciting news: It's official - Dennis Conner will sail for the New York Yacht Club in its challenge for the 2003 America's Cup. George M. Isdale, Jr., commodore of the New York Yacht Club (NYYC), announced today that the club has completed an agreement with Dennis Conner and his Stars and Stripes team to represent the club in America's Cup XXXI in 2003. The NYYC has also formally challenged the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, the keeper of the cup. Mr. Conner's connection with the Port Washington community is through Ed du Moulin, who has managed Dennis Conner's successful defense of the Cup in 1980, Dennis' unsuccessful attempt to keep the Cup in 1983, and his success in returning the Cup to the U.S. in 1987. Ed was also involved in the defense effort in San Diego in 1992, and the 1995 defense against the successful challenge by New Zealand. Dennis visits the du Moulin home so often that one could hardly call him a guest, a better term might be "member of the family." So with Ted Weisberg at the helm of the MRA and Dennis Conner representing the NYYC in another America's Cup challenge, match racing on the east coast is in very good hands. Exciting times ahead for all east coast sailing enthusiasts!
The frostbite season has begun. Originally scheduled to begin on Sunday, Nov. 5, the first day of sailing was actually Sunday, Nov. 12. Fifteen boats competed in five races on a beautiful sunny and windy afternoon. There were family teams sailing together, two families with spouses sailing in different boats, and several teams coming from SUNY Maritime College. The large number of boats on the starting line bodes well for a terrific, and competitive season. An observation: the last time many of us saw the blue and white frostbite burgee flying, it was at half-mast in honor of Louise Haney, who had recently died. Louise was a great supporter of frostbiting and she always looked forward to another season of winter sailing. So thoughts were with Louise on this first day of the winter season. The winners: Division A: 1. Pedro Lorson/Mimi Berry (#536), 2. Beth Danilek/Felicity Ryan (#530), and 3. Kevin Morgan/Robyn Dally (#90). Division B winners: 1. John Browning/Laura Browning (#537), 2. Ericka Amon/Adam Blackwell (#628), and 3. John Silbersack/Nichols Silbersack (#007).