Who said over 50 was over the hill? Dennis Conner and Dave Ullman were more like over the horizon when their boats sailed into irst place on the second day of the 18th North Sails Race Week Saturday.
Conner drove Dale Williams' ILC 46, Wasabi, to two wins in the PHRF 1 big-boat class, while Ullman's expertise guided Brack Duker's Revolution to a third and a first for a three-point lead among the fiercely competitive Farr 40s.
The overnight addition of three J/24s boosted the entry total to a record 171, topping the 170 that sailed in 2000. The regatta winds up Sunday with two races for each class.
The J/24s, starting a day later, are contesting their Western Regionals as a world championship qualifier. They showed up just in time for a clinic.
At the end of a sunny day when the wind never lived up to expectations, Williams said, "The boat is set up for lighter breeze. It's the smallest boat in the fleet. When the wind's up the rest of them can waterline us."
But there was more to Saturday's successes than that. The wind topped out at 12 knots but never swung far enough right to mature into Long Beach's traditional sea breeze. That played right into the hands of veterans like Ullman and Conner.
"In the first race we worked the middle," Ullman said, "and in the second we went left pretty hard"---when most of the competition was going right as if it were the Promised Land.
"The shift was going right," Ullman said, smiling a wily smile, "but not very far. There was more pressure on the left, and the pressure beat the shift."
Ullman will fly back to Auckland Sunday night to rejoin Oracle's America's Cup campaign. Duker didn't try to explain his wizardry.
"He just tells everybody what he wants to do," Duker said. "I have enough trouble driving without worrying about everything else."
Williams, of San Francisco, said Conner agreed to drive Wasabi only two days before the regatta.
"Dennis has always wanted to sail on the boat," Williams said. "He wanted to buy it a few years ago before he got Morning Glory.
"DC is a very funny fella to sail with. He'll ask a question, [such as] 'Do we want to trim the main?'---meaning he wants to trim the main. Or before a race he'll say, 'We'll cut their hearts out.' He's a man's man."
Another sailing superstar, Paul Cayard, tactician for John Kilroy's Samba Pa Ti, also recovered from a middling opening day by guiding the defending Farr 40 champion to a fifth and a second and a tie for third overall.
"But it's still tough out there," Cayard said. "It's so tricky."
One of his world-class peers, Robbie Haines, would agree. Haines, tactician on the Alexandra Geremia/Scott Harris Crocodile Rock, saw the Santa Barbara boat go from a win Friday to a 13th and 10th Saturday---the latter crafted on an early start.
On the other hand, form somewhat settled into the largest fleet, 29 J/105s sailing in the protected outer harbor. Mike Pinckney drove Carolyn Hardy's Mischief to a second and a first for a three-point lead over Dennis and Sharon Case's Wings.
That would seem to set up a Sunday showdown between two former Schock 35 class leaders, but in reality the J/105s are a tightly packed fleet that at times rounded the weather mark four abreast and often arrived at the leeward gate like shoppers at a Macy's sale.
Mike Segerblom, the race officer for that course, said, "I'm glad we had a gate or it would have been a mess."
The only anomaly was Howard Lewis' Pendragon from Dana Point, Calif., which won Saturday's first race to go between a 23rd and 24th.
North Sails Race Week is produced by Golison & Golison. Premiere Racing,
Inc., the event organizer for Terra Nova Trading Key West 2003, is
co-producer for this event.
In addition to North Sails and Nautica Watches, North Sails Race Week is
joined by supporters Team McLube and J/Boats. Nautica is a leading global
fashion and lifestyle company with products ranging from men's, women's and
children's sportswear and accessories to a complete home collection.
Leaders through Saturday (2 races remaining):
PHRF 1 (9)---Tie between Wasabi (ILC 46), Dale Williams, St. Francis YC,
8-1-1, and Grand Illusion (Santa Cruz 70), Ed McDowell, King Harbor YC
1-3-6, 10 points.
PHRF 2 (11)---Cita (Schock 40), Cita Litt, Newport Harbor YC, 1-2-1, 4.
PHRF 3 (8)---Pendragon II (Davidson 33), David Gray, South Shore YC, 1-2-2,
PHRF 4 (12)---Defiance (B-32), Scott Taylor, Cabrillo Beach YC, 1-4-3, 8.
PHRF 5 (14)---Intense, Allan Rosenberg, Alamitos Bay YC, 3-1-1, 5.
FARR 40 (14)---Revolution, Brack Duker, California YC, 2-3-1, 6.
1D35 (9)---Tabasco, John Wylie, San Diego YC, 2-4-2-1, 9.
J/120 (16)---Indigo, Scott Birnberg, Long Beach YC, 2-3-1-7, 13.
MELGES 24 (14)---Rock N' Roll, Argyle Campbell, Newport Harbor YC, 3-1-1,
SCHOCK 35 (10)---Piranha, David Voss, Oceanside YC, 1-1-2-4, 8.
J/105 (29)---Mischief, Carolyn Hardy/Mike Pinckney, Bahia Corinthian YC,
J/24 (10)---Jaded, Dave Klatt, Ventura YC, 1-2-1, 4.
SANTANA 20 (12)---Altitude Sickness, Infelise/Bell/Infelise, 2-2-1, 5.