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On the Bay: July 17, 2009

When Olin Stephens sat down at the drafting table at the young age of 19 to design what has now become the Manhasset Bay One Design, little could he have known that 80 years later, these graceful wooden boats with their beautiful sheer line would be still actively racing? Not only are the MBODs racing, they are racing internationally. For four days last week, Manhasset Bay YC (MBYC) and the MBOD fleet hosted teams from the Royal Burnham YC (RBYC), from Burnham on Crouch, Essex, a historic town situated on the banks of the River Crouch in the East Coast of England. These two one-design racers have been team racing against each other since 1992, and this most recent race celebrated their 10th meeting. The America’s Cup, which is billed as “a friendly competition between nations,” which we all know hardly describes what is going on in that arena, captures pretty well what went on in Manhasset Bay from July 9-12.

Let the games begin! First up was a practice race on Friday morning, which is the only fair thing to do as many of the Brits were here for the first time and were unfamiliar with the boat. The Brits took the practice race handily. Things were not looking good for our local team. Dispensing with hospitality, the Americans got serious and took the next two races, ending the day with a score of 2-1, USA. It should be noted at this point that the Brits have been victorious in this series more times than the MBOD teams, and our friendly American teams wanted to even up the score a bit. They even went so far as to try to wear out the Brits with a cruise down the East River to the Statue of Liberty, keeping them out late with wine and song until the wee hours of the night.

Manhasset Bay was resplendent on Saturday morning, with bright, sunny skies, and wind – a precious commodity in this part of Long Island Sound, especially in the morning. Life was good! Out to the starting line went all teams, PRO George Graf, MBYC and Essex YC, and his race committee, support boats and spectators. It doesn’t get much better than this. Racing was close, competitive and the mark roundings were wild. Lots of “friendly” conversation at those marks. Great finishes too, some too close to call if not right on the committee boat. By lunch time, MBOD had won all three races and potentially the event, but there were several protests pending. While everyone enjoyed another good lunch, protest hearings were taking place. In the end, the MBODers were victorious and the official racing was over. But with the wind up, many went back out to enjoy a great southerly, just for the fun of it all.

One might wonder how this event began back in the ’90s. As with most of sailing, there is always a story to be told. Adrian Alley, a member of Manhasset Bay YC and the Royal Burnham YC, and owner of an MBO, is a Brit, having raced in England, specifically, the RBYC. And yes, he raced their RBODs on the River Crouch. When he joined MBYC, he noticed the beautiful wooden MBOD were very similar to his boat back in England. He bought one of them and, as they say, the rest is history. He and his friend from England, Tim Herring, organized the first regatta in England, which the Brits won. In fact, they won most of these early match-ups. It has only been in the last several years, that our MBODers have managed to be triumphant. But they seem to be on a roll, and are already planning the next team racing in Burnham in two years.

While racing was the main event for four lovely days, it is so much more than just racing. As anyone in the sailing community will attest, sailing is about making friends and building relationships. These two teams, one very American and one very, very British, come together every two years to enjoy the bonds they have formed over the years. These are guests that do not stay at hotels, but in each other’s homes. Holiday cards are exchanged; weddings and births noted and celebrated, and proud mothers and fathers talk of their growing family, and of grandchildren. All this was quite apparent at the awards dinner at the waterfront home of Chris and Adrian Alley, in Port Washington. With skits and songs, each side roasted each other, with side-spilling humor. Will Dallimore, team captain for the Brits, stole the show. With typical deadpan British delivery, he told stories about getting lost on Long Island in his quest to find celebrities and glitz in the Hamptons which had the audience just about rolling in the aisles –which due to propriety cannot be revealed. But if you happen upon an MBODer and mention anything to do with “Shinnecock,” do not think that they have lost their mind when they dissolve into uncontrollable laughter.

Will Dallimore, mentioned above, is the grandson of the designer of the RBOD. Norman E. Dallimore was an amateur designer and drew up what he thought would be a good boat for the Crouch River and submitted it along with other designs. His design was chosen and 22 of these lovely boats were built in 1932-33. According to Will, “they are 20’ 6”, made of mahogany planking on oak frames, and carry spinnakers. While similar to the MBODs, they are much heavier and can sail in 30 knots easily with five people.” They are very popular at RBYC because, “it is not just sailing, but the kids can come out sailing with their parents. We have a lot of family activities.” Tim Herring, RBYC, has been to every team race since its inceptions, and when asked how the event has evolved over the years, said, “We are getting a little slower and older really – old chaps,” to which his friend, Adrian Alley, added, “smarter and better looking.” Both agreed that it is the camaraderie that makes this match up so very special, to which Tim added, “It is the excitement of meeting a whole new group of people across the water.” Ask anyone who was participating this year, and they would all agree.

So each team will practice their skills for the next two years, until the time they meet again in Burnham on Crouch. And, as Will Dallimore said with a twinkle in his eye, “We’ll be back with a vengeance.” Hmmm…. “Friendly competition among nations?”