Coach Ken Legler of Tufts University was an “all course coach” at the 2017 Secor FIS Volvo race. Below are his notes of what happened, when and why. Couple this with some great drone footage and the leg trackers from day 2, and what we have here is some awesome whiteboard coaching material.
This years event was a six leg (races) series, seven races including the regatta result from the Area B Champs at Niantic the day before.
Race One: Course A (off NBYC) to E (Mouth of Jordan Cove), 1.6 miles. Wind generally 140 degrees at four knots but shifting to 200 for most.
With a SE wind and the mark just around and outside the SE corner of Niantic Bay, this is a windward start with a left shift in the final minute favoring the pin. Pleon’s William Bedford/Anders Kearney port-tack the fleet barely crossing defending champs Zach Champany/Peter Cronin. Seeing the locals heading left William and Anders tack to starboard after crossing a third of the fleet. That tack is too late as four fast boats get left to play the far left shore of Niantic Bay for current relief. Meanwhile, most of the fleet heads right out to sea. Left pays for the leaders as they continue short tacking along the shore by the power plant in the Southeast wind.
A giant right shift hits the bulk of the fleet that sent it right. Spinnakers pop up all over for a starboard beam reach except for the small group of leaders still in the SE wind. Despite dropping to third, Zach and Peter win a tacking dual and win leg one. Stefen Brechter/Lena Wolf and Drew Wolf/Luke Reich, both of Shelter Island, lead the spinnaker pack passing William and Anders to take 5th and 7th respectively.
Race Two: Course E to J (Goshen Reef), 2.6 miles. Wind about 160 degrees at six knots, a close reach but freeing to a beam reach.
The skilled RC sets another long line where the right end is more upwind but the left end is closer to the mark. Most boats make the mistake of piling in at the right end trying to get to windward of everybody else. Zach/Peter set their spinnaker with 20 seconds to go and begin the reach just slightly low of the mark. The slight veer is a lift and the current is either on the nose or a slight lee bow. In any case they pull away for an easy win sailing the entire race under spinnaker. Only about ten boats set early, others were trying to beat before realizing it was time for spinnakers.
Towing across New London harbor mouth: With anticipated ferry traffic heading in and out in different directions, the call was made to tow across. Good thing, part way across three Navy gun boats appeared to protect an inbound nuclear submarine. Still fighting a strong flood tide in light wind, the fleet continued under tow to Seaflower Reef halfway across the West end of Fishers Island Sound.
Race Three: N (Seaflower Reef) to S (off Flat Hammock) to FI (West Harbor of Fishers Island), 3.0 miles. Wind is 180 degrees at five knots but dying a bit while veering to 270 by the finish.
Thunderstorms are visible and audible to the North. Radar indicates the first cell will not cross I-95 and spill onto the water, despite the noise. A second cell further West does not look to be as predictable. The race is shortened to the turning mark, making all three races today one long leg each. The fleet is better about spreading out down the line but once again, Zach and Peter are among the leeward most starters and among the first to set spinnakers on yet another tight reach. William and Anders make the mistake of starting at the windward end but they bite the bullet, set spinnaker, and sail past the transoms of many boats trying to beat to the Hammock Islands looking for tide relief. As the wind veers, high becomes behind by the picturesque North Dumpling Island, and the low and left boats fetch the shortened finish line.
With three bullets in three races, twice defending champs Zach and Peter appear to have an insurmountable lead. With consistent top tens Stonington’s Even Spaulding/Jonathan Glander are in second, one point clear of Eli Gleason/Kristen Healy from Madison and Niantic. a tiny rain shower greets the fleet of Fishers as all head for the event tent for the snacks and de-brief. Drone footage highlights the de-brief that includes comments from the winners and a slide show of all boats.
By six pm all are at the Pequot Inn for an abundance of dinner, games and dancing. Meanwhile pouring rain covers the island including the outdoor corn hole game but play continues. by ten pm rides form to take the 90 kids and a dozen or more adults to the high school gym for slumber with pads and bags ferried out earlier in the day. By 0830 100 kids and volunteers hit the beach on the South side of Fishers for litter clean-up. They do an incredible job cleaning the beach and social media is abuzz with praise from all over the continent.
The last of the showers could be nasty causing a brief postponement until it becomes clear the threat of lightning is gone. All launch for race four through six with Mystic, CT the final destination.
Race Four: FI to T (next to Pulpit Rock) to X (big Ram Island Bell at mid-Sound), 2.4 miles against a very strong flood tide. Wind is 070-100 degrees.
Trackers arrived on Fishers this am, and the results were outstanding to share!
Again the RC sets a long line with pin favor but again the windward end entices many. Zach/Peter abandon a plan to start at the pin and opt for a windward start instead. This fails as the leeward group gets lifted to the first mark. Penelope Weeks/Liv Streeter from Sachems Head take a huge lead while Zach and Peter round 16th. A number of boats find current relief sailing through the rocky Clumps. Penelope and Liv continue straight into the Sound almost but not quite fetching the finish. They have pointing issues but worse, they hit more tide and less wind. Surviving the journey through the rocks, Vanessa Lahrkamp/Katherine McNamara find less current and more pressure to ride over the early leaders into first at the finish at the current swept bell. William and Anders take 2nd to close the gap a bit for the series as does Eli and Kristen with a 4th. Zach and Peter comeback through the pack for an 11th, still comfortably in the lead overall but a bit shaken.
Race Five: The RC moves to the East side of Ram Island to avoid the strongest current. The course is short; a half mile windward leg to a drop mark and a reach to can “7” at the North tip of Ram. Wind is backing to 070 and goes further left after the start at only four knots.
With more foul current out right, and the wind backing, the leaders crowd the pin. Both William and Zach are over early, both return quickly, play the left briefly then fetch the mark on port. The spin reach home turns into a douse for fear of not making the finish mark. William and Zach finish 1-2 but Eli is 4th. Given the additional score from the Wednesday Area B champs that Eli and Kristen won, it becomes a three-way battle for the title with one to go.
Race Six: Ram Island to Mystic Shipyard, 1.8 miles, wind is NE varying from five knots in the channel to as low as zero along the edges of the narrow harbor. Zach and Peter need only a 7th to win their third straight Secor Volvo Fishers Island Sound Race.
For the 6th straight race, the RC sets a long line with slight pin favor. Actually the boat end is a bit further upwind but the pin end is a bit closer to the finish. The current pushes a dozen boats either onto the pin or past it on the wrong side. The rest of the fleet spreads out nicely and the two ends come out even a half mile up the course. Then the harbor gets narrow. Eli/Kristen are in 4th, Zach/Peter are in 5th, and William/Anders are in 8th. The leader is Sofia Segalla/Oliver Hurtitz. In race one Zach/Peter won by playing the current relief then tacking past two other boats with superior roll tacks. This time they play the current by hitting the edges. The current does start to ebb but only at a tenth of a knot. The best breeze is in the middle of the channel. Zach and Peter die on the right then die on the left and drop to 20th! Sofia and Oliver keep the lead and win the final race. Combined with a second in the Area B and good results from Thursday, they vault to 4th overall. William and Anders stay in eighth helping secure third overall. Zach and Peter sail their drop race for second overall. Eli Gleason and Kristen Healy close into second at the finish to secure the over title by three points. It was their consistency of good speed combined with staying out of traffic and sailing toward the marks early in each race that gave them the win. Zach and Peter had to be disappointed not capturing their third title but they did win the prizes for the first three races and second overall. More important, they were part of a much bigger victory, sharing the work of the entire regatta cleaning years of washed up debris from the beautiful Fishers Island South Beach.
P.S. Here is my parting gift to all the competitors. I hope that I got each of you at least once. See you next year!