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NHYC hits a home run with Inaugural Keelboat Team Race. Southern YC leaves victorious.
A new day broke over Newport Beach, and with it came a clean slate for all six teams. Scores from the prior triple round robin did not carry through, giving each team the chance to end up in the finals and walk away with the championship.

A new day broke over Newport Beach, and with it came a clean slate for all six teams. Scores from the prior triple round robin did not carry through, giving each team the chance to end up in the finals and walk away with the championship.

The weather forecast was also something new: light southeasterly breezes in the morning, scheduled to give way to strong (for Newport Beach) southwesterly wind in the afternoon. Once again, the forecast did not disappoint, with winds steady throughout most of the day in the 8-15 knot range.

The stronger wind tested the mettle of some of the Harbor 20 owners who gathered to watch. Although some were initially concerned about their donated boats, that concern melted into fascination as they watched some great team racers put the boats through their paces. The sailors themselves were thrilled with the conditions, expressing delight at the crisp responses of the boats in stronger winds and happy to be testing their boat handling skills and team racing tactics in flat, open water and good breeze.

The quarterfinal matches between San Diego YC and Rochester were closer than the 2-0 score indicates; both starts and mark roundings were tight, but Rochester was just not able to move its boats far enough up the finish order in the last two legs of each race.

The races between New York and Alamitos Bay were even closer, with New York edging out Alamitos Bay with finishes 2-3-5-8 in race 1 and 1-4-5-7 in race 3.

Advancing to the semifinals, San Diego squared off against the rested Southern Yacht Club, while New York faced Newport Harbor. As expected, races in both pairings were tighter than ever, with both pairs taking all three races to determine who advanced.

Southern took its first race 1-2-4-8, and San Diego bounced right back with a 2-3-5-7. The deciding race 3 was even closer, with Southern forcing San Diego into a 1-2-7-8 finish order. Although both teams scored 18 points in that race, the rules of team racing award such a tie to the team that did not have the first-place boat, a twist that makes the tactics all the more interesting.

In the other semifinal pairing, New York came out of the gate swinging, scoring 1-4-5-7. Newport Harbor responded with a dominant 1-2-3-7, setting up an exciting third race. At the start of race 3, Newport Harbor forced one of New York's boats into a penalty at the start line; after doing two penalty turns that boat was significantly behind on the first beat. While the rest of the boats duked it out up the course, New York's last boat worked quickly upwind, only to suffer a mainsheet failure at the windward end of the course. Although all boats ultimately finished, everyone agreed that a resail was necessary for a fair race, and after a quick but solid repair, both teams squared off again, repeating and escalating the tension of just moments before. The resail was just as exciting, with Newport Harbor squeezing into a 1-2-3-6 finish on the last windward leg, setting up a final pairing with Southern.

Throughout the regatta, there had been a friendly, jousting rivalry between Southern YC and Newport Harbor YC. The two clubs have known and raced against each other for years, most recently at the inaugural Southern Soiland Cup, a team race for the trophy donated by Newport Harbor to Southern to help rebuild Southern's trophy collection, destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. That these two storied clubs were facing off in the finals helped cement that rivalry and reinforce the growing notion that their strong records in the triple round robin might have something to do with their serious team racing skills.

With a format of first-to-three, everyone knew that the tension wouldn't abate quickly. For the hometown fans gathered on the dock to watch the action, that tension grew bigger as Southern quickly racked up 2 wins, going 2-3-4-8 and 1-2-3-8.

NHYC quickly regrouped and took back race 3, going 1-3-4-6 and extending the tension for everyone. Throughout the semifinals and finals, the starts were tight, with all eight boats lined up either right on or 1 second below the starting line, but none over before the start, each team working both offensively and defensively to get and avoid penalties in that critical phase of the race.

Not out of the woods yet, NHYC had to win the next two, while Southern had to win only one to earn first place. Although even or slightly behind at the start, NHYC took the bit in its teeth and went on to dominate that race finishing 1-2-3-4, setting up an exciting final showdown.

Race 5 proved spectacular. At the start and throughout the first windward leg, the teams were close, with no strong advantage evident. Then, NHYC pulled off a great trap at the first windward mark directly in front of a cheering specatator crowd whose whoops could be heard far downwind. Newport Harbor was in a strong 1-2-3 on the middle downwind leg. The lead boat slowed at the first leeward mark, setting a trap for Southern that created a flurry of flags, umpire calls, whistles, and wakes as all eight boats rounded in less than five seconds. The second leeward mark rounding was calmer, setting up the tension for the final beat to the finish.

Still ahead, Newport Harbor split to cover Southern, but undaunted Southern worked the combinations and passbacks smoothly, ultimately dragging NHYC into 1-4-6-7 finishes. 18 points. Remember that team racing rule about 18 points and the team that gets first? Yup. Southern Yacht Club won. It couldn't have been closer.

A hearty congratulations to the team from Southern Yacht Club who sailed spectacularly and helped show everyone how much fun you could have team racing, and how much skill it takes to do it so well!

Many heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped make this regatta a huge success. The participating teams made the sailing great and were a pleasure to have as guests. The Harbor 20 owners who graciously donated and maintained their evenly-matched boats were generous and enthusiastic. The NHYC members who opened their homes to visiting teams made the whole event seem that much more personal. The mooring lessees, NHYC dock staff, member-volunteers, and NHYC members who lent dock space are the people who deserve a giant "Thank you!" for helping provide one of the best sailing venues on the west coast--directly in front of the club. Thanks also to Ullman Sails who sponsored a portion of the red, blue, orange, and yellow jibs that made the boats identifiable and the event colorful. Finally a tip of the hat to the myriad of volunteers that worked on format, scheduling, race operations, and maintenance, and of course the NHYC staff that delivered consistently great service throughout the event.

We look forward to seeing you all again next year!

3/29/08
A foggy, breezy, damp morning greeted team racers today in Newport Beach on the start of Day 2 of the NHYC Invitational Team Race. The forecast called for the southeasterly early morning winds driven by the Catalina Eddy to give way to a building southwesterly seabreeze by midday. Today, that forecast was spot on.

Racing resumed in the middle of the second round robin, about halfway through the first stage of the event. Yesterday, as visiting sailors became more familiar with the characteristics of the Harbor 20, the racing became closer as teams executed clean traps, covers and passbacks more frequently. During this second day, teams made the racing even tighter, and the starts, mark roundings, and finishes were often spectacular nail-biters with dramatic, sudden lead changes.

The wind and consequent course orientation sent competitors upwind toward NHYC's main dock for the first and last windward legs of a "digital N" course, so spectators and teams waiting to rotate into boats got to enjoy mark roundings and finishes from front-row seats. Dockside commentator Chuck Simmons added color with his play-by-play descriptions of the action over the PA system, while the notes of a live steel-drum band lilted downwind onto the course in the 8-knot breeze.

Under great conditions, the race committee wrapped up the second and third round robins today, calling an end to racing around 4:00 in the afternoon, giving everyone a chance to relax and clean up in time for the evening's formalities. On-course photographers and videographers had captured several great moments, with many of the still shots showing up in a slide presentation during the formal regatta dinner (more excerpts to appear here soon).

At the end of Day 2, NHYC and SYC lead the pack. For tomorrow's racing, those two leaders will step aside while Alamitos Bay, New York, Rochester, and San Diego sail against each other to determine which two will square off against the leaders. Those final four will then sail their way through a semi-final and final knock-out series. Stay tuned, because under this format, it's still anyone's game!

3/28/08
As the sun rose over Newport Harbor Yacht Club on Friday, the main dock was buzzing with activity. Gathered there were 48 competitors from every corner of the country and 16 Harbor 20’s each fitted with a brand new and brilliantly colored jib. The reason for this early morning rendezvous: to challenge for supremacy in 4 vs. 4 team racing. Representatives from New York YC, Southern YC, San Diego YC, Rochester YC, Alamitos Bay YC, and Newport Harbor YC have gathered this weekend in Newport to fight for the pride of their club, the respect of their peers, and the first place in line at the keg.

With the mooring field all but barren, the venue was set for fast paced, action packed racing that was exceptionally spectator friendly. The first few races were a bit chaotic as everyone shook the rust (and for the teams from New York and Rochester possibly icicles) off. By mid-afternoon the racing got much more competitive as the teams began to organize themselves and pull off some very intricate plays.

With half of the planned preliminary round robins completed we are well on our way to crowning the champion, and tomorrow will surely prove just as exciting as today’s spectacular action. There is plenty of space on the main dock and deck with unprecedented views of the next generation of sailboat racing. So plan to come down to NHYC tomorrow and Sunday to take in the action!!