There is no better example of sailing as a family sport than winter frostbiting. Possibly because of the nature of a small boat, a skipper looks for a rather lightweight crew to meet the boat's class weight requirement. But many of us who are committed to winter sailing think it is the sport itself, not the boat, that is the motivation for families to sail together. There are many examples of father-and-son teams that sail together even when the son is in his teens and almost full-grown. And then there are the husband-wife teams that are out sailing in the winter together, year after year, and enjoying the time together. So it is not necessarily the boat that promotes family togetherness, but the fun of sharing a wintertime experience with a family member that draws skipper and crew together.
The Manhasset Bay YC 76th Annual Frostbite New Year's Regatta is a perfect example of family members sailing together. There were several husband-wife teams on the course, as well as husbands competing against their wives. There were father-son teams and father-daughter teams. The ages ranged from 10 years to mid-80s. So not only is frostbiting a family sport, it has longevity, too.
The regatta started on Sunday, Dec. 31 in little to no wind, a big disappointment for those who traveled from distant harbors to compete. Three divisions competed this year: IC dinghies, Ideal 18s and the Penguins. After a few "floaters," the teams headed for shore - to the surprise of the Race Committee who had not cancelled racing. But just as the first few boats neared the dock, the "mooring breeze" filled in, and one by one, the little dinghies returned to Kraus' Kastle for two more races. Day two of the regatta, Jan. 1, had everyone back for what was predicted as winds gusting to 30 mph and a heavy rainfall. Both the rain and the wind tempered, and there were some great competitive racing before the end of the day.
At the end of the second day of racing, all teams retired to Manhasset Bay YC to enjoy the traditional Wassail Bowl, attend the Frostbite Annual Meeting and the Awards Ceremony. Mimi Berry, commodore of the Frostbite YC, welcomed the group and eight bells were rung for those who have "sailed their last race." Then after the youngest sailors (4-10 years) distributed good cheer from the Wassail Bowl, the high jinx began. First was the report from Steve Moore who read the Treasure's Report, submitted by Commodore John "the phantom" Mitchell, who again did not appear at the meeting, leading many to think he is a figment of our imagination. This report was followed by John Browning, giving a full and detailed accounting of his duties as Measurer. This year John discussed his worries about global warming, and he admitted to those gathered that he feared his job as measurer was clearly in jeopardy (his compensation must be really good!). Next up came Steve Moore with his special awards. These are given each year, and Steve goes out of his way to highlight (read: skewer) some of the mistakes seen out on the water. This year he started with the Royal Order of the Mudbath with Smelly Clusters, awarded to Mark du Moulin and Dan Pine (Larchmont YC), who after "having had a very good last race, these two brilliant college men decided to celebrate, but they got too rambunctious and capsized. After flailing their arms around believing they were treading water, they discovered they were standing in the mud....." Several other sailors received these, um, awards, including Jonathan North (MBYC), Chip Whipple (MBYC), and Rich du Moulin (Larchmont). It was all a lot of fun, and the recipients accepted their "honors" in good spirits.
At the conclusion of the Frostbite Annual Meeting, the event that everyone was waiting for - the Award Ceremony - began. First up was a new perpetual, the Edward I. du Moulin Memorial Trophy. Ed, who died in March 2006, was an Honorary Member of MBYC, and his major connection with the club was through frostbiting. In addition, his birthday was Dec. 31. It made sense to convert the 1/2 model of Stars and Stripes, the boat that will forever be linked to Ed as he was her syndicate manager for so many years, into a perpetual frostbite trophy. Rich du Moulin, Ed's son and a competitor in this year's regatta, read the deed of gift, "Awarded to the Frostbiting participant who in the opinion of the MBYC Frostbite Committee best exemplifies the spirit of the Annual New Year's Regatta and the traditions of the Frostbite Yacht Club of America. This memorial award, dedicated to the memory of Edward I. du Moulin, lifelong sailor, racing proponent, and dedicated crash boat skipper in Manhasset Bay's Frostbite series, is purposively inclusive of any person whether skipper, crew, Race Committee, or enthusiast who has advanced the cause of Frostbiting Racing in America." The first recipient of this award was a very surprised - and honored - Andrea Watson. Other perpetuals: Paul-Jon Patin, sailing with his wife, Anne, received the Baker-Taylor Founder Trophy, awarded to the highest percentage in any class sailing in the Annual New Year's Frostbite Yacht Club Regatta. The Patins also won the Sam Wetherill Trophy, given to the outstanding skipper (Interclub since 1958) in the Annual Frostbite Dinghy Regatta. Bob Kirtland, sailing an Ideal 18 with Alan Thompson, won the Henry A. Alker Perpetual Trophy, given to the outstanding Manhasset Bay YC skipper. Pedro Lorson won the Commodore Robert W. Fraser Memorial Trophy for winning the Past Commodore's Race on New Year's Day. The Geoffrey C. Hazard Frostbite Trophy, for outstanding performance in the Penguin Class went to Teresa Hendry. And the Anchor Light Trophy, for participation year after year in the Frostbite Regatta went to Claude Chozotte and Flo Paterno.
Top boats in this year's regatta: IC dinghy class (19 boats): 1. #17, Paul-Jon Patin/Anne Patin; 2. #50, Steve Benjamin/Charlie McHugh (Larchmont YC), 3. #516, Pedro Lorson/Mimi Lorson Berry (MBYC), and 4. #762, Fran Charles/Sue Charles (Hyannis YC). Steve Benjamin and Paul-Jon Patin actually tied, with same number of points (13) but Paul-Jon had more first-place finishes. Top boats in the Ideal 18 class (5 boats): 1. #171, Bob Kirtland/Alan Thompson, 2. #175, Einar Haukeland/Ruth Haukeland, and 3. #44, Vince Syracuse/Steve Moore. In the Penguin class (3 boats): 1. #9667, Teresa Hendry/Danielle Cummings, 2. #9681, Malcolm Hendry/Alyssa Bouchard, and 3. #11, Kenneth Nilsen/Matt Nilsen.
In addition to all the awards handed out at the ceremony, there is another award that deserves mentioning. Steve and Heide Benjamin, who won the IC Dinghy Nationals three times in Wharf Rat, have founded the Wharf Rat Challenge, to be awarded to the skipper who receives the highest points over the 2006-2007 frostbite season. Each team competes in three of five regattas to earn high points. The five regatta are The Massachusetts Bay Championships, The MBYC Frostbite Annual New Year's Regatta, the Mid-winters in Annapolis, the Stanley Bell at Larchmont, and the IC Dinghy Nationals, held this year at Manhasset Bay YC. The skipper must sail in the Nationals and has his or her pick of the other two. High point wins the trophy. Steve said, "We wanted to generate interest in the IC dinghies - we're very excited about it." Right now Steve is in good position to win this trophy, but Fran and Sue Charles, who won the Massachusetts Championship, and Paul-Jon and Anne Patin, who won the New Year's Regatta, plus the team of Pedro Lorson and Mimi Berry, will give Steve a run for his money. It looks like the Nationals, due on Manhasset Bay in April will be a very exciting event!
Your columnist caught up with the youngest crew in the regatta. Ten-year-old Gregory Stebbins, who sails an Optimist in the Junior Sailing program at MBYC, sailed with Dan Coughlin in an IC Dinghy. He has sailed with his parents since he was a young lad of 4 or 5, but this is his first year sailing in an IC Dinghy. Does he like it? "Yes, I would say this regatta is a lot of fun and educational, too. My skipper talked a lot, told me why he did stuff, and when to do it." All the skippers and crew would echo Gregory's sentiment and agree that this regatta was a lot of fun. And every single one of them is looking forward to the Nationals. Knowing what we do about the shifty wind on Manhasset Bay, this regatta will definitely separate the men from the boys - and the women from the girls.