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On The Bay: January 3, 2012

As the year draws to a close, I thought it might be fun to take a look back at some of the highlights of the sailing year here on Manhasset Bay with a sprinkling of activity across the country and around the world that have either had impact on our corner of the world or merit repeating just because….

January, that month of cold weather and freezing temperatures, does not stop a group of intrepid sailors who can’t seem to stay home each Sunday afternoon, no matter what the temperature. Some think it may be due to those “honey do” lists, but that, of course, would never be admitted. We are talking about our local frostbiters who sail in little boats in all kinds of weather, and sometimes capsize. The year starts with the Annual New Year’s Regatta and continues until the end of April. Last year’s season was especially harsh…remember all that snow? Past Commodore, Claude Chazotte, reminds us of what frostbiting is all about, “Yesterday, with ice inside the launching area and extending 25 feet out from the dock, with WNW breeze at 15-18 knots, and a temp of 33 degrees, two Interclubs and two Lasers still managed to have a great time sailing! It was a sight to see: dinghies and Whalers getting soaked while beating through waves, and IC dinghies skillfully avoiding death rolls. After some truly exhilarating racing, everyone was back in time for the game. Now THAT’s a great day!” One has to wonder about the sanity of this sport, but it really is fun.

Ralf Steitz, a well-known sailor in our area, and the USMMA Sailing Foundation President and Offshore Sailing Coach, announced the launch of an All American Ocean Racing Team, with a mission to create seaworthy, high-performance, offshore training opportunities for the next generation of American ocean racing leaders. Steitz’ longtime vision has been endorsed by many individuals including Oakcliff Sailing Center, Storm Trysail Club and the New York YC Trans-Atlantic Race.

Anna Tunnicliffe, Plantation, FL, the Snipe Women’s World Champion and top-notch match racer, has become the first woman in the history of US SAILING’s Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year Awards, to earn it three consecutive years. Anna received her award in the perfect location – the Model Room of the New York YC, so full of history with models of graceful boats of yesteryear to the modern, up-to-date technology driven rockets built for speed. In 2009, Tunnicliffe committed to a match racing campaign and in two years went from an ISAF match race ranking from 36 to fourth, an amazing feat considering this ranking is a world ranking. Readers may remember Anna from her appearances at the Knickerbocker Cup here in Manhasset Bay.

Each year, right after Memorial Day, third grade children from local elementary schools build their own little sailboats and test them at one of the ponds down by the bay. For those volunteers (which are many) and onlookers who have watched this “introduction to sailing” year after year, this was a banner year. Each year this event gets better and better. Spending a few hours down at Baxter Pond reminds us, once again, of why Port Washington is such a fantastic community. The Model Boat Regatta is part of HarborFEST, and this year about 400 school children participated in building their boats, and 223 boats raced. Each child received a T-shirt, compliments of the Tepper Intergenerational Program, Port Washington Public Library. The team spirit award went to Sousa Elementary School, with 58 percent of their third grade class participating. The winners: Grand Champion, Abigail Weinstein, Daly; First Runner-up: Connor Lam, Guggenheim, and Second Runner-up: Jean-Paul Pearson, Salem. Rest assured, while this is called a regatta and there are winners, every single entrant went home feeling like a winner. Also winners were the parents, siblings, grandparents, neighbors, and family pets who came out to spend a wonderful morning celebrating our spectacular waterfront.

If it is summer, it means that Matt Meyran, Port Washington Water Taxi, is out and about on the bay. It also means that the Port Washington Library’s Nautical Council sponsors bay tours for the community. These take place during the summer months and for the past three years or so, the Nautical Council has partnered with the Water Taxi to take people on a tour of Manhasset Bay. These sold-out tours are offered to Port residents who register in person at the library and are offered for a small fee. Special to the tours last year was the addition of Jennifer Wilson-Pines, who is the Director of the Manhasset Bay Protection Committee. She came on board to speak about the bay and its ecological history. Full of information that captured her audience’s attention, Jennifer came armed with information that would have kept the tour out all day long! For more information about the Protection Committee, see www.manhassetbayprotec

Port Washington YC is known for their charity work. This past year, following in the tradition of their parents, the junior sailors at the club participated in the 10th Annual Junior Regatta to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. 79 sailors from around Long Island Sound with the following capturing top honors: Erin Condon (PWYC), 1st, Laser 4.7 class; TJ Danilek (MBYC) 1st Blue Fleet; Jack Haberman (PWYC) silver in the White Fleet. As a result of everyone’s contributions, PWYC raised almost $25,000. With an average wish costing $7,500, that’s enough for at least three wishes. Way to go juniors!

What has become an August tradition on Manhasset Bay is the Knickerbocker Cup. This international match race attracts racers from around the world and is a qualifier for the World Match Racing Tour, with the winner gaining an automatic entry to the Argo Gold Cup, one of the most prestigious match racing event on the Tour. This year, the KCUP was part the Grand Slam, a series of four consecutive match races, including Chicago Match Race Center, Bayview YC (Detroit, MI), the Knickerbocker Cup and the Oakcliff Sailing Center, Oyster Bay. New this year was the addition of the Swedish Match 40’s, on loan from Oakcliff to Manhasset Bay YC, the regatta organizing authority. The Cup is by invitation only, but Mother Nature must have missed that email and sent Hurricane Irene to leave her calling card. By end of day Friday (the regatta was scheduled for racing from Wednesday –Sunday), the local Office of Emergency Management had closed the bay to all activity and began evacuating residents with homes on the perimeter of the bay. Then New York City officials announced plans to shut down airports, subways and bridges by 2 p.m. on Saturday. It was time for the sailors to “get out of Dodge.” With a shortened regatta and the winner chosen based on point accrued during the few days of racing, Laurie Jury (NZL) was declared the winner. More information at:

Port Washington’s waterfront just got better. Port Washington North’ Bay Walk Nautical Art Museum, under the leadership of Mayor Bob Weitzner and in partnership with the Town of North Hempstead, dedicated the beautifully landscaped walk full of artwork and historical information. In the works for several years, it is well worth your time to stroll down to the waterfront and see what many volunteers have done to improve our bay.

With fall comes the removal of boats to their winter resting spot. But not before the Manhasset Bay Fall Series. This year included the Melges 24 class that was sailed right here on the inner bay so for all who happened to be strolling on the new Bay Walk were treated to a backdrop of sails on the horizon. This four-day event started with an idea from John Thomson III back in 1979 who wanted to offer racers great sailing with the best winds from Long Island Sound. The event has evolved over the year, and is still going strong.

Saving the best for last… nothing that happened during 2011 could trump a group of sailors from two boats returning from an evening of racing with Thirsty Thursday. Turns out that one unfortunate racer was hit in the head and thrown overboard, unconscious, into the bay after dark. Through the efforts of the crews of Vision and Serenity, the MOB (man overboard), who was NOT breathing, was rescued and delivered to the hospital and is alive and well because of the efforts of the following people: on Serenity: Jacques Blinbaum, skipper, Klaus Marreck and Peter Hirschhorn; and on Vision: Marc Epstein, skipper, Mike Beck, Steve Harkavy, Mary Lu and Bill Palafox. All are from North Shore YC. Good on all of you!

And with that… may all of you have the best New Year’s ever! May you have fine winds, fun regattas, enjoy your family, meet new friends, and be safe in all you do.