2010 Melges 17 Bluewater Regatta Recap

2010 Melges 17 Bluewater Regatta Recap

24 June 2010

By Sean Fidler

Crystal Lake Yacht Club, Frankfort, MI - The 2010 Melges 17 Bluewater Regatta is in the books and was, by any account, a resounding success. 21 boats, including 5 brand new, made the trip to Crystal Lake near Frankfort, MI. The Bluewater Regatta is event 3 of 6 in the 2010 Season Championship and a favorite of many throughout the scow community. This year delivered almost perfect sailing conditions and some of the best sailing we have seen in the class yet.

Known for its phenomenally beautiful blue green water, large size and being almost totally devoid of powerboat traffic, Crystal Lake is definitely a highlight of the Melges 17 travel circuit, as well as the scow racing circuit at large.

Bluewater competitors began arriving this year as early as Wednesday to begin practicing and enjoying a long weekend with their families in the area. By Friday lunchtime, CLYC already had 12 boats set up and practicing at the club. Registration and pre-party keg and snacks were a hit, as another 10 or so boats arrived throughout the evening. CLYC members provided housing for many of the competitors who generally live a short distance away from the sailing club.

Crystal Lake is situated on Point Betsie which jets out a mile or so into Lake Michigan. Crystal Lake edges up very close to the Lake Michigan shoreline as part of this “point.” This positions the sailing club, and even the racing area, basically out into Lake Michigan itself. This geography is responsible for a predictable SW seabreaze on the warm sunny days throughout the summer at CLYC. On Saturday, this classic sailing condition was delivered in abundance when a southerly gradient combined with the seabreeze to build up a fantastic 13–18 mph for the entire day, in which 5 races were completed.

Race one was started right on time, 10:30 am. Peter Lane and Molly Carapiet set the early pace in “San Fran big breeze style” with a convincing wire to wire win in 14-18 mph breeze. Sean and Tiffany Fidler managed to squeek out second place from an ultra fast Jim Hilgard with JP Del Solar Goldsmith crewing. Fourth place was CLYC E-Scow veteran and Regatta organizer Rob Terry with long time crew Jon Palmerlou. Fifth place was M17 veteran Brian McMurray.

Race two saw the seabreeze predictably coming up just a bit. Rob Terry started near the pin end and showed excellent upwind speed and impressive tactics to win the race to the slightly favored left hand side of the course. Rob was challenged but never really threatened and won the race easily, followed by Hilgard, Fidler, Lane and McMurray.

After race two, in traditional “Scow fashion”, the 21 Melges 17 teams headed in for a catered lunch. The warm summer day made it easy to dry off and relax on the club deck and soak up the spectacular view of Crystal Lake with friends and family. The breeze very slowly increased throughout the day, but PRO Mike Terry ensured the group that it was still well within the class wind range. Even though the fleet was looking “extremely comfortable” on front deck of the yacht club overlooking the lake, racing was announced for 1:30 and no complaint was offered. The group was clearly excited to get back out and sail.

Race three was again started right on time (1:30 pm) and this one was Jim Hilgard all the way. With the ability to slightly sail lower and significantly faster than everyone else upwind, Jim and JP punched out immediately off the pin end of the line and were launched. They were never threatened and clearly had found a new gear upwind in 14-19 mph. Jim was ocassionally sailing above 7 knots upwind and over 15 kts downwind (as was most of the fleet per the Velocitek units) during these races. Lane and Molly also began to demonstrate a similar ability to sail lower and significantly faster than the others and used that speed to take second. Fidler, Mike and Stephanie Dow and Terry rounded up the top 5. Several capsizes occurred in the fleet on this race and the breeze was gusting to a true 20 mph at times. Still within the wind limit, and extremely fun to sail in but breezy enough to offer some solid wipe outs when mistakes were made!

Race four. Breeze still around 17 with gusts just above 20 occasionally. Hilgard jumped everyone, this time more off the middle of the line, and again left the pack behind early in the first leg. Jim and JP were sailing very flat, slightly lower and much faster than their competitors upwind. They were fast and comfortably downwind. It was starting to look like a clinic. Fidler did all he could to catch Hilgard but never had an opening followed by Terry/Palmerlou, a consistent Lane/Carapiet and Team Dow.

Race five, the final race of Saturday. Peter Lane and Molly Carapiet had apparently enough of Jim and JP’s transom. They won the left end of the line and with tremendous speed sailed forward and lower via left side pack and then over the top of the fleet on the port tack layline. It was an impressive display of upwind sailing in the biggest breeze of the day (3:30ish pm). Hilgard was flushed out early in this race and was 5-8th position out of the middle. It looked as if they were human again. Rob Terry was close to Lane followed by Fidler. Higard rounded the weather mark roughly 6th. Lane, shortly after the weather mark and at absolute fully speed (15 knots +) had what appeared to be a sudden rudder stall. The boat yawed 40 degrees to windward in a flash, tripped on its side force and rolled over instantly. Later it was discovered that some loose rudder head bolts had caused the rudder head to let go of the bottom rudder bracket causing a loss of control. This cost Lane what was beginning to look like a second race victory. Terry took advantage and squeaked out a second race victory of the day followed by Fidler, Hilgard who battled back to third, Dow and McMurray.

Hilgard led by two points over Fidler as the boats hit the beach for the day. Dow and Terry lurked a few more points back. It was a close regatta and with lighter air forecasted for Sunday many teams had realistic chances of winning the regatta.

Saturday post race included an assortment of drinks, snacks and light dinner at CLYC. A large regatta pack then headed to a local Frankfort ice cream shop and the late night crowd (25 or so) headed to Pt. Betsie for a traditional Lake Michigan sunset bonfire, smores and drinks. Good, good times!!! Thanks Rob Terry for the great idea.

Sunday morning. The forecast was accurate and NW winds of roughly 6-10 mph developed and slowly increased throughout the morning. This was a more than welcomed change from the 15–20 mph SW on hand for Saturday. Melges 17’s still perform extraordinarily well this 6-10 mph flat condition and the racing became incredibly tight as the boat handling became less critical.

PRO Mike Terry set a slightly pin favored and rather short starting line which drew several general recalls this day. Racing on this day was aggressive, fun and very close. Racing started “almost on time” as PRO Mike Terry allowed (via VHF radio announcement to the fleet) a couple “tardy” boats to stagger out to the course slightly late clearly due to Rob Terry’s perhaps too successful bonfire party to previous evening.

Race six (Sunday race 1). After an aggressive early morning start a very “weird” first weather leg unfolded as both sides eventually were forced to finally tack for the mark from 30 degree lifted headings after being unable to find any shifts whatsoever to utilize and get back to the middle of the race course. The hard left and right lead packs were nearly pointed back at each other from their respective “corners”. Each pack, undoubtedly frustrated, simply could not find a better angle and continued to essentially aim at each other when coming back to the middle of the course. Eventually, the left side won out by 10 lengths and the poor angles for both sides remained nearly all the way back into the weather mark. The wind stabilized somewhat after the first mark and a close, crowded downwind run ensued. Fidler managed to pass Coye Harrett and Meg Six near the end of the final run with Dow threatening both of them and finishing third. Rob Terry managed a forth and Jim Hilgard rounded out the top five.

Race seven. Rapidly improving Jr. sailor Jack Kirby-Miller started at the pin end of the line and displayed outstanding speed up the left side of the course to round first ahead of Dow, Fidler and Hilgard. Jim Hilgard, again with outstanding overall boatspeed, constantly threatened Fidler and Dow throughout the race. On the last run Fidler and Dow (also with exceptional light air speed) jybed on a small shift shortly after the weather mark. Hilgard took the opportunity to split with them and go for the win. Fidler and Dow’s windshift worked out however and Dow, who trailed Hilgard slightly at the weather mark, was able to squeak by Hilgard for second behind Fidler who won again. Brad Sprouse with wife Jandy sailed a very solid race to finish fourth. Coye Harrett rounded up the top five.

Race eight. Fidler managed to start well of the pin end of the line and worked a small lead at the windward mark from the left hand side of the course. Hilgard, again with great speed, was able to catch Fidler by the next windward mark by working the right hand side of the course and assumed a small lead. A close battle down the final run resulted in a virtual draw as Fidler took the right hand gate and Hilgard took the left. Both boats split aggressively and looked virtually even. Dow followed Fidler to the left and eventually benefited from left pressure and shift dropping Hilgard back to third. Those positions maintained to the finish with Peter Lane taking fourth followed a rapidly improving Brad and Jandy Sprouse in fifth place.

Sean and Tiffany Fidler won the regatta, followed by an impressive Jim Hilgard and JP Del Solar Goldsmith in second. Mike Dow, third, barely edged out Rob Terry in fourth. Peter Lane, absorbing a DNF with a broken rudder from Race 5 ended up an impressive fifth!

Huge thanks go out to Rob and Jules Terry (Organizers), Mike Terry (PRO) and the many, many volunteers and supporters from the Crystal Lake Yacht Club who made the regatta possible and ultimately so successful. Huge thanks to all that took the time to plan to attend and support our young and growing Crystal Lake Yacht Club Melges 17 Bluewater Regatta. You all make it what it is! Thank You!

Crystal Lake herself truly delivered an incredible event and is one of the best sailing venues on the planet. This year we had literally ideal sailing conditions and some of the best sailboat racing I have seen in years. The people of the Melges 17 class are what truly make it special. It is the people of the class who are attracting more and more sailors to the class. The boat itself is an impressive machine that is incredibly fun, affordable, and easy to sail.

We all look forward to seeing you at the remaining 4 events this season: Inlands, Westerns, Nationals and the highly anticipated 1st Annual Indianapolis Melges 17 Regatta in October!

Tons of pictures are posted on the Melges 17 Facebook page as well as The Crystal Lake Yacht Club website.


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