As all local sailors know, come the new year, the first sailing event of importance is the Annual Frostbite New Year's Regatta. Next up on the agenda is Acura Key West 2006, which started last Monday, Jan. 16. With the weather predicted to be great, with good winds, and only one day of rain, and with Peter Reggio as the PRO, the week is shaping up to be another great race for the 286 boats that have registered from 14 countries and 37 states. There are 19 classes of boats competing on four courses over the five day race week. The Race Committee hopes to get in at least nine races, which should give all the competitors a chance to shine. The Swan 45 class will have their inaugural world championship as part of the event. And, not surprising, the Farr 40 class is again filled with name sailors, Russell Coutts, Mark Reynolds, John Kostecki, Vince Brun and Tom Whidden. Many readers may be familiar with Tom Whidden, who was the tactician on Dennis Conner's Stars and Stripes for many America's Cup campaigns, and was recently inducted into the America's Cup Hall of Fame. He has joined local sailor John Thomson, Jr. on board Infinity, along with his son, John Thomson, III; Ralf Steitz, and Tony Reaper. Your reporter caught up with Ralf Steitz and Jamie Gross, and John Thomson, the son, over at Manhasset Bay YC the night before they left for Key West. They were hyped and ready to take on the Farr 40 class, which will take some doing, considering the scratch list of rock stars in a fleet that is boasting 25-plus boats. We wish them well.
Other notable sailors that may be of interest to readers include Tom Stark, who grew up in Port Washington and is out of Knickerbocker YC. On board his boat, Rush, is Ed Baird, who is one of the leaders in the match racing circuit. Ed's been to Manhasset Bay several times in years past to compete in the Knickerbocker Cup, winning it three times, in 1993-94 and again in 2000. They are competing in Division 2, TP52 class. The largest class is the Melges 24, with 60 boats registered, but none from our area. New this year at Key West is the IRC rating rule with IRC 1 (10 boats) and an IRC 2 (7 boats) classes. All 17 boats will be vying for the inaugural US-IRC National Championship Trophy, which will be awarded to the top finisher in the combined fleet.
Racing was delayed about two hours for Division 1, which included the Swan 45s and the Farr 40s, waiting for the breeze to build. At about noon, the wind filled in from the southeast at 11-12 knots and the race committee was able to get off two races. By the end of the first day, Norwegian Steam, owned by Eivind Astrup, is at the head of the leader board in the Farr 40 class. On board with Astrup is Morten Henriksen who is calling tactics for the team, and is one point ahead of the Italian entry Calvi-Gameon owned by Carlo Alberini. So Infinity is up against some great competition, but the week has just started and one never knows the outcome until the last boat has crossed the finish line. In the Transpac 52 class, Tom Stark is leading. They won Race 2 and placed second in Race 1. According to Stark, "Whenever you've got Ed Baird by your side you're usually going to be in the right spot."
Nick Scandone (Fountain Valley, CA) and Sally Barkow (Nashotah, Wis.) today were named, respectively, US Sailing's 2005 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year. From a short list of nominees determined by the membership of US Sailing, a panel of noted sailing journalists with national and regional perspectives selected the two sailors for the distinction. During their deliberations, one panelist remarked that the strongest candidates for this award primarily fall into two categories - the class expert and the versatile sailor. Established in 1961 by US SAILING and sponsored by Rolex Watch U.S.A. since 1980, the Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year Awards recognize outstanding on-the-water achievement in the calendar year just concluded. The winners will be honored and presented with specially engraved Rolex timepieces at a Feb. 24 luncheon at the New York Yacht Club in Manhattan.
Nominated for the first time, US Sailing's 2005 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year Nick Scandone was recognized for his win of the 2.4 Metre World Championship in Italy. His remarkable performance in the 88-boat fleet included besting seven world champions as well as three Paralympic medalists who were among the 34 disabled competitors going head-to-head with the class's best able-bodied sailors from around the world. Scandone chalked up two first-place finishes in the eight-race series to edge out his closest competitor-an able-bodied sailor and the class' three-time world champion-by 10 points for the championship crown. Only two other disabled sailors finished in the top 10 at the event. Additionally, Scandone successfully defended his U.S. Independence Cup/North American Challenge Cup title and won the America's Disabled/Open Regatta. At the 33-boat IFDS Disabled Sailing World Championship in Denmark, Scandone won the final two races of the nine-race series to finish sixth overall in the 2.4 Metre fleet.
Sally Barkow, the selection panel's unanimous choice as US Sailing's 2005 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year, was recognized for her "versatility and consistency, both abroad and at home" after winning a string of noteworthy international events-including two world championships-in four different keelboat classes. At the Virtual Spectator ISAF Women's Match Racing World Championship, held in Bermuda and sailed in J/24s, Barkow recovered from two penalties-not to mention the mid-race loss overboard of one of her crew who she quickly pulled back on board-to come from behind twice in three matches to post a 3-0 sweep of the final round. In France, Barkow overcame a strong local contingent to win the ISAF St. Quay Match Race sailed in Beneteau First Class 8 before heading to Annapolis for US Sailing's Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship where she successfully defended the title she first won in 2003. This time it was with one race to spare after a consistent performance in the 42-boat J/22 fleet that featured several Olympians, world champions and three previous winners of the Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year title. "There was Sally, and then there was the rest of us," said two-time Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Jody Swanson (Buffalo, NY) about Barkow's impressive victory. Berkow also won the world title at the Yngling Women's World Championship in Austria with teammates Debbie Capozzi (Bayport, NY) and Carrie Howe (Grosse Pointe, MI).