Bringing together all the elements that appeal to a generation of sailors brought up on short attention span programming, team racing pits one three-boat team against another in races that take, at most, seven minutes to complete. Internationally flavoured (16 teams representing ten nations), visually striking (coloured sails on the Vanguard 15s made following the action easy), and imbued with its own peculiar lingo (boats were double-teamed or gapped), the 2005 Grey Goose ISAF Team Racing World Championship hit all the right notes, like favourite tunes on an IPOD.
The field of play was Narragansett Bay off Goat Island, located just a short walk from downtown Newport and home to the oldest lighthouse in the city, the Newport Harbour Light, which provided a historic backdrop for the boat rotation. A festival atmosphere prevailed there during the Championship and competitors could watch the action and mingle with the locals who turned out in force during lunchtime. Live commentary provided by Tufts University sailing coach Ken LEGLER (one of the sport's most enthusiastic cheerleaders) left no doubt as to what was taking place a mere 50 yards away on the water.
After five days of round robin racing, the final day was a first to three wins format that saw the original 16 teams winnowed from contention for the Championship crown. Australia 2, in 13th place overall, won the Grey Goose League sailed among the first four teams to be knocked out (the Czech Republic, Japan 2 and Canada finished, respectively, 14th through 16th). The pulse of the event quickened during the quarterfinal rotation as both Irish teams were eliminated followed by New Zealand 1 and Italy. Those teams then completed a sail off that determined their overall positions for the championship with IRL 2 coming in fifth, followed by IRL 1, ITA and NZL 1.
The quarter final results then set the stage for a showdown between the two superpowers of team racing Great Britain and the USA in the semi finals which paired USA 1 against GBR 1, each sailing with ISAF Team Racing World Champions, and USA 2 against GBR 2. Although the USA teams cleaned up in both pairings, with win loss records of 3-0, Great Britain did not go down without a fight. The American teams had come into this regatta very well prepared, having spent a considerable amount of time training and competing in Vanguard 15s, the boat that was supplied for this Championship.
In the end, the all USA final was a nail biter. USA 2, with Patrick HOGAN, Carlos LENZ, Pete LEVESQUE, Liz HALL, Colin MERRICK and Amanda CALLAHAN showed plenty of speed. But the defending champions, Team Whishbone, a.k.a. USA 1, with Tim FALLON, Karen RENZULLI, Mark IVEY, Matt LINDBLAD, Tim WADLOW and Ery LARGAY demonstrated both composure and skill in the light to moderate breeze with their decisive moves. After USA 1 led the finals with back-to-back wins, USA 2 returned to win a thrilling race three. USA 1, adept at anticipating umpire calls and moving right to the next play came back in the fourth race to clinch the championship.
'There was some classic team racing strategy and whoever executed better would win,' said TEAM WHISHBONE's FALLON of the final series in which USA 1 beat training partners/friends/rivals USA 2, the Silver Pandas. 'That was definitely the highlight of the event, and it was especially nice to be able to win a regatta while our friends and family were there.'
After 270 races, the celebration that concluded the Championship included two special recognitions that perfectly complemented the racing awards. Receiving the Most Improved Award was the team from Italy, which included an Olympian and several Opti champions. With little team racing experience, ITA made steady progress over the course of the event, eventually climbing out of the silver fleet to finish seventh overall in their first world championship. The Spirit of the Regatta Award was given to Ireland 2's Fergal O'SHEA. A leprechaun of a skipper, with endearing charm and endless enthusiasm for the competition, O'SHEA was nominated by his fellow sailors to unanimous approval.
Off the water discussions during the regatta, among not only competitors but also organizers, ranged from using the team racing format to interest more kids in sailing (taking the emphasis off individual abilities by pairing sailors) to limiting the number of teams entered in the regatta (i.e. whether to follow the one boat per country scenario of other World Championships). The underlying question of how to draw more sailors to participate in this format of racing comes down to spreading the word, because who does not want to have this much fun?
'All those who have been touched by the 2005 Grey Goose ISAF Team Racing World Championship have seen and felt the growing passion within this strong sport,' said GBR 1's Steve TYLECOTE, who collected his fifth medal at this event, his sixth World Championship. 'The human development rewards are high and commitment to help this truly special sport move ever onward has been energised. Future high level international competition and grass roots activity will benefit from this powerful and exciting event experience as we all spread the mantra that Team Racing is a precious jewel in the crown of sailing activities.'
In addition to title sponsor Grey Goose, supporting sponsors were North Sails, Vanguard Sailboats, Ribcraft Inc., Ronstan, Sailing World and Sentient Jet Membership. Suppliers were American Lighthouse Foundation, Bagel Boys, Barry Motors, Challenge Electronics, Conanicut Marine Services, Crystal Spring Water Company, Heineken, Hyatt Regency Newport Hotel and Spa, International Yacht and Athletic Club, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Jailhouse Inn, Jamestown Ferry, Newport Harbor Hotel, Newport Lobster Company, Newport Tent, North Flags, R.I. State Yachting Committee, Rolex Watch U.S.A., Sailing Foundation of New York, and Team One Newport. The organizing authority for the championship was NYYC, ISAF and US SAILING, the United States' Member National Authority (MNA) of ISAF.
1. USA 1
2. USA 2
3. Great Britain 1
4. Great Britain 2
5. Ireland 2
6. Ireland 1
8. New Zealand 1
9. US Virgin Islands
10. Australia 1
11. New Zealand 2
12. Japan 1
13. Australia 2
14. Czech Republic
15. Japan 2