16 Soling teams sailed for the Atlantic Coast Soling Championship held on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. An event typically marked by consistent, strong breeze, 2004 brought just about every possible condition to the sailors.
The three day event was shortened to two days with the approach of Hurricane Charlie. Even so, six races were completed which awarded teams a throw out.
Due to forecasted thunder and lightning, the race committee held the first three races within the Vineyard Haven Harbor where conditions tend to be shiftier and where currents can play a major factor. The breeze picked up all morning to 12-15 knots out of the South for the first start. By the third race, the wind had picked up to 18 knots with the approach of a tropical depression. The action became very intense around the top mark as the relatively short legs kept teams pretty close. There were a couple of torn spinnakers as teams pushed for the extra edge around the mark. Those who caught the first puff first around the mark were able to extend from the pack. At one point, the crew on Greg STEVENS' boat was sent aloft to fetch a spinnaker halyard, much to the delight of John MORGAN (ISV) who was able to take advantage and sail into third place. 15 degree oscillations ruled, as did consistent starts and boat speed. Dave FRANZEL proved to be the master of all three as he cruised to three first place finishes on the day. Don COHAN and Greg STEVENS were second and third, respectively, separated by a point. Everyone seemed to have a poor finish except Franzel who was able to keep just ahead of the main pack in all conditions.
With the passing of the tropical depression in the night and the arrival of Hurricane Charlie on Sunday, Saturday's racing was in doubt. Luckily, the weather pushed through quickly on Friday night and Charlie slowed greatly as the storm headed north along the East Coast. With a clean forecast, the fleet headed out to Cow Bay, the traditional location of the event. Cow Bay is a wide expanse of Vineyard Sound which is known for its strong sea breeze, light boat traffic, and beautiful coast lines. The first race started out with five knots out of the West, an unusual direction for this area. The fleet split, heading for two different wind cells on the left and the right hand side of the course. The left won by a large margin as the breeze dropped to about three knots. John MORGAN led at the top mark with Tom DAVIES in second and the Spielvogel team in third. Stevens and Franzel were of the group that tried to make the right work. Both were deep halfway up the first leg. Stevens decided to dig back left to catch the dieing sea breeze on the shore while Franzel kept to the right. They rounded in 6th and 9th at the top mark. Heading downwind, the wind shifted 30 degrees to the right and freshened as the right finally filled in. John MORGAN held on to win while Davies, being on the left downwind, slipped to third. Cohan finished in second, Ed TROMBLEY was fourth, Stevens sixth, and Franzel ninth.
After a brief wait for the wind to fill in, race two started in five knots of wind. Greg STEVENS and Don COHAN started at the pin and sprinted to the port lay line. They were able to stay in the dieing breeze the longest and rounded 1-2 with a comfortable lead. All would change heading down wind as a 50 degree righty filled in. Stevens and Cohan fought to get to the right side, but the fleet had closed the gap. Around the leeward mark, Stevens led, followed by Cohan with Franzel a boat length behind. The last beat was basically who had the best boat speed and that again proved to be Franzel who managed to get a half boat length lead over Greg Stedvens at the finish. Third place through tenth was a shoot out. The breeze shut off and Tom DAVIES, Chris DULEY, Fred SEELEY, Don COHAN and Ed TROMBLEY all had a chance at third. Seeley, riding a private puff down from above the lay line took third, a huge comeback from their position at the leeward mark.
The third and last race of the regatta was sailed in a 15 knot sea breeze. After a general recall, the fleet split into two groups heading to opposite sides of the course. Stevens led at the top mark followed by Seeley and Davies who all benefited from the stronger pressure on the left. Cohan and Franzel coming from the right were in eighth and ninth place. With a largely consistent breeze, the order of the fleet did not change much. Stevens extended out on Seeley and Davies as they fought for second. Cohan and Franzel finished sixth and seventh, with Cohan being eventually scored OCS.
The strong performance on the second day was not enough for either Cohan or Stevens to catch Franzel who set a fast pace on day one. Franzel won the 2004 Atlantic Coast Championship with ten points, followed by Greg STEVENS with twelve points and Don COHAN with 14 points.
Boats were hauled Saturday evening to prepare for tropical storm Charlie. After the work was done, the participants sat down for a clam bake at the Vineyard Haven Yacht club for an awards ceremony. Dave FRANZEL noted that after twelve attempts he was pleased to have finally beaten perennial favorite, Don COHAN.