Ron Sherry (USA) Clinches 2002 North American Championship Regatta at Millie Lacs
A rather belated report on the 2002 North American Championship which were held at Mille Lacs, Minnesota from 26-27 January.
Ninety sailors came from as far away as Marthas Vineyard, North Carolina, and New Mexico to attend the Regatta. Mille Lacs is a large lake, and the ice was thick enough (20+ inches) to allow the sailors to drive trailers onto the ice. Not only were we able to drive trailers onto the ice, we were able to drive to the starting line to set our boats up! This was a first for all the sailors I talked to, and it was really enjoyable to be able to sit in the car and warm up between races. The ice was mostly smooth and 85% clear, but was dotted with sticky snow drifts up to a couple inches deep. This resulted in racers looking for the best lanes through the snow patches when the wind was light, just like the Western Regional Championship.
The ninety boats were divided into two fleets (50 Gold and 40 Silver). Racing got under way on Saturday with very light winds. The first mini-qualifier was a bust after the lead boat failed to make the time limit. After waiting for the wind to build a little, the Silver mini-qualifier was successfully completed. The wind did not cooperate for the rest of the day, and only the one race was completed on Saturday.
On Sunday, the racers were greeted with good wind in the morning, and everyone was tuning their boats for the increasing wind. This was a fleeting bit of excitement however, since the wind lightened up by the time a course was set. The first Gold Fleet race was pretty tough going for a lot of sailors, with wind shifts and lulls making it a bit of a crap shoot. However, John Dennis seemed to be able to sniff out the zephyrs and showed us that he still knows how to sail by finishing in time to park his boat and watch the second place boat finish! John was followed by Ron Sherry, Greg Smith, and Matt Struble, setting the stage for the battle at the top of Gold Fleet.
The wind lightened further, and it was a depressing sight for most of the day as boats were parked facing all directions and not a single telltale was flying. Late in the afternoon. the wind suddenly filled in from the opposite direction, and the Race Committee hustled to set a new course and get the sailors on the starting line.
In order to insure a successful regatta, the Race Committee decided to start another Gold Fleet race. This race was held in freshening winds, and there were a lot of smiling faces once again. Ron Sherry sailed an excellent race to finish first, followed by Matt Struble. Greg Smith passed Paul Goodwin just before the finish line, and Bernd Zieger, John Harper, and Bruce Williams followed in close succession. Meade Gougeon put on a show for the spectators when he did a full spin right before the leeward mark, demonstrating the awareness and control that iceboaters have since everyone was able to steer clear and not a single splinter was left behind.
As the second Silver fleet race started a very light sprinkle of rain developed, and the racers looked more like snowmen than sailors as they crossed the finish line. A few sailors chose to stop racing due to icing on their goggles and sail windows, but there were no collisions on the course. Rick Lemberg Sr. sailed a great race, and finished with a respectable lead. Rick Kaiser came in second, followed by Ken Mitchell. When I talked to Rick Kaiser later, he said he couldn't see the marks, so he just followed the boat in front of him. The good news was -- that boat was the leader!.
The Race Committee waited to see what was going to happen with the rain, and used the time to reset the course. Bart Reedijk had an excellent idea, and sent one of the Silver Fleet sailors up to the weather mark in his car. The headlights helped the sailors locate the weather mark, and it was soon decided that it would be prudent to try to get a third Gold Fleet race in to insure that the regatta would be complete.
The wind was good, but there was still a slight mist which made visiblility somewhat poor. The good news is, all the sailors stayed on their toes and left plenty of room, so there were no collisions. Ron Sherry sailed another nice race to finish in the lead, followed by Greg Smith and Bryan Breiden. Next in line were a couple Swamp Rats, Matt Struble and Jan Gougeon. It must be good training to dodge cattails and reeds during practice, since the Gougeons and Strubles are always in the hunt at the big regattas.
Overnight the temperatures dropped to below zero (Fahrenheit), and it looked like an arctic air mass coming down from Canada would prevent the temperatures from getting into the double digits. The low temperatures coupled with some stealthy cracks in the ice lead the Race Committee to decide to throw in the towel and let the sailors start the long drive home.
Once again the Race Committee did a fine job. Dan Heaney, Debbie Goodwin, and Jane Sherry were the Race Committee, and with the aid of a lone volunteer managed to make the whole process look easy. The scoring was handled quickly and efficiently, which is more of an accomplishment than most racers realize. With the introduction of the "Bart Rule", results are much more fair for the sailors, but it creates a great challenge for the scorers. Bob Pegel was on hand to act as the Chief Judge and handle any protests, but luckily there were none.
This was a fun regatta to attend, even though there were only a few races. It was gratifying to see so many sailors make the commitment to get out to Minnesota for the regatta, and all agreed that it was better than postponing in the hopes of finding a different venue.
1. US44 SHERRY, RON - 2, 1, 1 - 4.00
2. US3662 SMITH, GREG - 3, 3, 2 - 8.00
3. US183 STRUBLE, MATT - 4, 2, 4 - 10.00
4. US4691 DENNIS, JOHN - 1, 8, 10 - 19.00
5. US3283 WILLIAMS, J.BRUCE - 10, 7, 6 - 23.00