Written by Andrea Watson Friday, 11 December 2009 00:00
Now that the holiday season is upon us, a really great story has emerged and is appropriate for this time of year. It’s all about wishes that just may come true. Imagine for a moment, what it would be like to sail with the best of the best. All sailors have had that fantasy at one time or another – and if anyone denies it, don’t believe them. So what would you readers hope for? Would you go for something modest or ask for the ultimate? Well, there is one sailor who went for the gold, so to speak. George Huntington, a Manhasset resident and member of Manhasset Bay YC, has always wanted to race against the best, something he does quite well, as we will soon find out. George and his wife, Debbie, have been attending the Pro-Am Regatta at the Bitter End YC for several years. This year, though, topped all the others.
Before we continue the story, though, a little bit of background on the regatta is in order.
The Bitter End Pro-Am Regatta website explains their event: Picture yourself teamed with Serena Williams or Roger Federer in the doubles final at the U.S. Open. Few, if any, sporting events in the world offer the fan an opportunity to participate at such lofty levels. The Bitter End Pro Am Regatta is different from any sporting event or regatta on earth. A world-class sailing event with 22 years of history, the Pro Am has matched up countless amateur and first time sailors with America’s Cup skippers, Olympic Medalists, Around the World Race Winners, and World Champions. Due to its uniqueness, the Pro Am has been featured in The New York Times, the Financial Times, Sports Illustrated, Sail, Fortune Small Business, on the Fine Living Network, T2P.TV, and countless other travel, lifestyle, and sailing publications. And the match-ups are for more than just a friendly daysail – egos are on the line. For the serious sailors in the group, it’s like a “Fantasy Camp.” For the non-sailors, it’s a chance to learn a new sport right at the top.
Experience the thrill of victory or grace in defeat. However, the Pro Am is not just about racing — it is also about fun. During your free time you can snorkel, windsurf, relax on the beach, or swim in the pool. An excursion to Norman Island or Anegada is always scheduled for Wednesday, the layday, which is devoted to non-sailing. One can join in, or just kick back. In the evenings, “am” crew join “pro” skippers for cocktail parties, wine dinners, Pub gatherings, organized Q&A sessions, and other social functions. The week is finished off with a rousing awards banquet, highlighted by prizes for the top teams, and great gifts for the rest of the group.
The list of pro sailors included Keith Musto, Paul Cayard, Ken Read, Zach Railey, Morgan Larson, Tom Leweck, and Craig Albrecht, from Port Washington YC. Craig won his division at the Storm Trysail Block Island Race Week, and pulling the winning card in a lottery among all class winners to become the wild card amateur entry for the Pro-Am Regatta. (For more on this, see On The Bay online from 7/02/09)
Getting back to George Huntington, who was definitely in the “Fantasy Camp” group of serious sailors. For one of his races, George was pitted against Paul Cayard. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this top-notch sailor, Paul was the first American skipper to win the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1998 on EF Language. In 2005-06, Paul skippered the Disney entry, Pirates of the Caribbean, in the Volvo Ocean Race, winning the final leg into Gothenburg (Sweden) and placing a commanding second overall. Paul is a seven-time sailing world champion, a five-time America’s Cup veteran and two-time Olympian. The Star World Championship in 1988 is Paul’s most treasured prize. Cayard’s accolades include election to the Sailing World Hall of Fame in 2002 and Rolex Yachtsman of the Year in 1998. He is a three time Pro Am winner, most recently in 2006. And guess what? George beat him! Could a fantasy get any better than this? As is typical with George, who is modest when it comes to his sailing achievements, when asked how it felt to beat this sailing hero, he very quietly said, “Oh, he probably let me beat him.” While we may never know if that was the actually the case, history will show that one really great Manhasset racer beat one of sailing’s greats down at the beautiful Bitter End Yacht Club. Summing up his vacation, George said, “You know, the best thing about the whole event was meeting new friends. I had the opportunity to chat with Anna Tunnicliffe and all the other masters. That was the best part!” Needless to say, George is signed up already for next year’s Pro Am Regatta, as is Paul Cayard, Ken Read, Anna Tunniciffe and Zach Railey. One has to wonder what fantasies are running through George’s head at the moment.
Trying to think of a gift for your racing spouse, friend? Why not think about Key West 2010. It is one of America’s premier international regattas. This year it will be held from Jan. 18-22, and features IRD, PHRF and One Design racing, great professional management and even better conditions. First entry deadline is Dec. 18. For more information, go to http://www.PremiereRacing.com.
Scuttlebutt, the daily online sailing newsletter, highlighted a college freshman at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, who has developed a crewing guide. According to Brooke F. Thomson, her first year of college sailing felt like everything was different from high school, but that nothing was specifically new. How she changed as a crew wasn’t a matter of learning new things, but of refining the skills she already had from high school racing.
In the boat, there is very little that a college sailor knows that would be beyond the comprehension of someone in high school. However, college sailing requires a lot more consistency and not letting little things slide in order to make a boat go fast. It’s about being ready to do the same thing every practice, every race, but keeping a fresh perspective. It’s about the transition from knowing tactics to making those same decisions intuitively.
Most of the changes Brooke made from high school to college weren’t difficult, and most of them were things she had heard of in high school. The biggest change was that all of the details that are considered the extra mile in high school are suddenly what’s expected of a college crew to do for every race, every practice. To help with this transition, or to help any high school or college crew refine their skills, Brooke has written a technical guide of everything she wished someone had told her. To see the crew guide: http://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/news/09/crew_guide/.