Wednesday, August 19, 2015

2015 Buzzards Bay Regatta Report - Drew Buttner

All regatta photos courtesy of Fran Grenon at Spectrum Photo.

If you grew up racing sailboats in New England, then you probably spent many summers attending the Buzzards Bay Regatta. As one of the biggest events in the United States, BBR brings youth, adult, dinghy, keelboat, serious, and recreational likes to THE best waters in the country.

A tight pack heading upwind shortly after a start.
Photo credit: Spectrum Photo
2015 did not disappoint, with over 300 boats (11 505s), big wind, warm waters, and lively parties. The racing was held over three days and challenged everyone both on (physical sailing, long days) and off (lots of people and not a lot of parking) the water. Of special note this year was the Harbor Master which positioned themselves at the mouth of the harbor to control the chaos. They decided that the 505s and F18s were not following the speed restrictions and warned us all to slow down over the loud speaker.  This made for some good laughs in the parking lot.

Mike Komar and Ted Huebner sailed a great series. The were especially strong downwind.
Photo credit: Spectrum Photo
North winds dominated all three days which is very unusual given that the seabreeze in Buzzards Bay is second only to San Fran in terms of reliability. Back to back low pressure systems passed just to the east and brought strong fall northerlies that challenged the tacticians and put a premium on finding the best pressure. Nelson/Anderson dominated Friday posting a 2-1-1 and put the pressure on the rest of the fleet. They made very few mistakes and were the only boat to be fast/smart both upwind and downwind. Friday also marked the return of Andy Herlihy to the 505 after a 9 year absence. Hopefully this was more than just a one event cameo at his home club. Sailing with his brother Dan Herlihy, the two switched on and off driving the boat and were reminded how 505 sailing puts a huge smiles on your face ... and how sore you can be after a long day on the water.

This regatta featured 0% sit-running. Isn't life better that way?
Photo credit: Spectrum Photo
Saturday's winds were a repeat of Friday, with a 10-12 knot northerly and manageable changes in direction and velocity. The race committee challenged the fleet with five awesome races. Komar/Huebner couldn't decide which part of the fleet they liked best ... front, back or middle. Each race they tried something different posting a 1-5-10-2-7. Like everyone, they felt frustrated by the chop and shifting breeze, but also felt like rock stars when they got the boat dialed in correctly. Just about everyone had their moment in the sun (and also stuck in the mud). Zagol/Buttner won the day by showing some uncharacteristic downwind speed. Three times they found themselves outside the top 5 but managed to make the slow/low mode work downwind. Combined with a few key shifts, they clawed their way back each time, often making the final pass less than a boat length from the finish. Moore/current-world-champ-Smit started to figure things out by the end of the day and won two of the last three races. The scores were tight at the top with three teams ready to battle on Sunday.

The final day dawned like groundhog day with a forecast that was the same as the previous days. However, things changed quickly as the second storm that was supposed to track out to sea stayed close to shore. In the parking lot, the wind didn't seem that different and other than a little drizzle everyone rigged up as normal. Just before launching the RC came over and said that a small craft advisory had been issued for the day. This caught a few of us off guard, while the rest of us just didn't believe it. We launched and headed out the harbor. By the time we got to the race course we all believed the RC. Winds were 15-18 and building. Rigs were raked back, reefs were put in, and trap rings were lowered. By the start of the first race the breeze was up to 18-20 with a few higher gusts. The only issue was that the rabbit was no where to be found. Thompson/Curtin pulled the most impressive feat of the day, ripping their spinnaker during warm-ups, racing back into the harbor for a change, then blasting back to round the pin right on time. And they kept on blasting all the way around the course. Only Moore/current-world-champion-Smit were able to match them. Moore/Smit found the breeze more to their liking and won both races of the day. Zagol/Buttner were able to score a 3-2, while Nelson/Anderson struggled to a 5-6.

Thompson/Curtin heading upwind.
Photo credit: Spectrum Photo
After 10 solid races, Zagol/Buttner had earned the overall prize and coveted title of BBR Champion. Note that they did have a bit of a hometown advantage having competed in the event in 1992 when they finished 7th in the club 420 class with Buttner driving and Zagol on the wire. The winner that year ... Andy Herlihy.

Team Kokatat, circa 1993. Drew at the helm and Mark in front.

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