By Gle N Dic K S On

Battling for Barnegat's Bragging Rights

Mantoloking YC's Dick Wight (No. 7) leads Ocean Gate YC's John King in a singlehanded Tech Race. Greer Scholes (No. 8, far right) of Island Heights YC finished second in the fleet.

On the cozy confines of New Jersey's Toms River, several fleets of small dinghies are locked in tight battles on a shor t course. They're aggressively fighting for the pin at the start and contesting overlaps at each mark rounding. The crews are bailing frantically up and down the course as spectators cheer on the participants from a nearby dock.

At a distance, it appears to be a collegiate regatta. But there are a few incongruities: it's August, and college students are still on summer break. A closer look at the sailors reveals that while a few are close to college age, most are several decades past their diplomas. And some of those spectators appear to be Opti kids cheering on their moms.

One club's annual challenge gives adults a chance to sail like a kid again, with team honors on the line.

Welcome to the second annual Barnegat Bay Yacht Racing Association Yacht Club Team Challenge, an interclub dinghy championship for grownups. The Toms River YC hosts the one-day event, inviting yacht clubs from the BBYRA and surrounding waters to compete for bragging rights as to which club's sailors are "best on the Bay."

The real point of the Challenge, however, is to take sailors from different fleets and generations, throw them into matched one-designs on the shifty waters of the Toms River, and then share some laughs at the post-race party. Unlike the team- and match-racing formats that are employed for most adult interclub competitions in the United States, the Challenge relies on multi-division fleet racing similar to a college intersectional regatta; the lowest aggregate score wins. It also uses the type of

boats prevalent in college sailing: Club 420s with neither spinnakers nor trapezes, and 12-foot Tech dinghies.

"People get to race against people they don't usually race against, and they enjoy testing themselves against sailors from other fleets," says regatta chair Bill Warner Sr., 60, who developed the Challenge with the help of son Billy, 31, and son-in-law Will Demand, 28. "A scow guy can compete against a Flying Scot guy, which you normally don't get to do on the Bay."

The Challenge sprung out of the Warner family's efforts to create a frostbiting fleet at Toms River YC. In the fall of 2003, Billy Warner, then the sailing coach at SUNY Maritime College, organized a group of two dozen Toms River members for a mass purchase of 30 used Tech Dinghies from MIT and Boston University.

The Tech is an ideal platform for frostbiting: it's simple to rig, can be easily singlehanded, and supports competitive racing across a wide spectrum of crew weights. The boats are slow and relatively indestructible, which makes them well-suited for close-quarters sailing.

After a successful initial frostbite season, the Warners and Demand began brainstorming new uses for the fleet. The idea of a "Battle of the Bay" soon came up, and the Challenge was born.

"It's a great opportunity for people from all the clubs to come down and race the same boat," says Warner Sr. "We have 13 clubs on the Bay, so we figured we could use our 30 boats to do both a doublehanded and singlehanded division. Then Roy Wilkins [the sailing coach at Ocean County College] approached us about the college boats, and we threw them into the mix."

All Challenge sailors must be 21 or older and one of the five sailors competing in three div isions—singlehanded Tec h Dinghy, doublehanded Tech, and doublehanded 420—must be a woman. Clubs are allowed to substitute crews and skippers between races. The regatta is held directly in front of Toms River YC, which encourages spectators and allows sailors to come in for a leisurely lunch, socialize, and discuss team strategy.

The event drew 12 teams the first year, attracting a number of one-design champions and former All-Americans, along with many sailors hopping into a dinghy for the first time. To no one's surprise, current college skippers and recent alumni have dominated the 420 division. However, the Tech divisions have

Interclub-ing across the USA

There are many match racing and team racing competitions between yacht clubs in the United States, but few interclub regattas that feature fleet racing. If there isn't one in your area, then make like the Warners, and found your own.

The San Diego Sir Thomas Lipton Challenge Cup was donated to San Diego YC by the tea magnate of America's Cup fame and has been raced 92 times since its inception in 1904. It pits one-boat teams from California clubs against each other in fleet racing held in the home waters of the defending club. While the Lip-ton Cup was originally conducted under various handicap rules, since the early '90s the racing has been held in one-design offshore classes such as the J/105 and Schock 35. San Diego YC, the 2005 champion, will host the event May 20 to 21.

The Gulf Yachting Association's Sir Thomas Lipton Challenge Cup was presented by Sir Thomas to Southern YC in 1919 as a challenge trophy and had been raced for annually since, originally in the wooden Fish Class and most recently in the Flying Scot. Unfortunately, Hurricane Katrina wiped out last year's event, which was to be hosted by 2004 champs Bay Waveland YC in Bay St. Louis, Miss, and the original 39-inch sterling silver trophy was destroyed in the resulting fire that consumed Southern YC. The Lipton Cup competition, which usually draws around 25 GYA clubs, will be revived in 2006, with Bay Waveland defending its title over Labor Day weekend. The original trophy was retired in 1974, a casting was made, and a half-size model of the original has served as the perpetual trophy for the event. That trophy survived the hurricane.

The Cedar Point Challenge Cup, a silver trophy originated in 1911 and rededicated in 1995, draws rival clubs from Long Island Sound together each June. The event offers racing in both dinghies and keelboats and combines all three disciplines of interclub competition: fleet, team, and match racing. The competition includes up to six clubs and in recent years has featured fleet racing in Lasers, three-on-three team racing in Vanguard 15s, and match racing in Ideal 18s. In 2006, Cedar Point YC hopes to defend its namesake trophy. -G.D.

been more diverse, with a mix of ages and sailing backgrounds placing in the top half of the fleet. Overall, sailors in all three divisions have spanned a wide spectrum of age and experience.

"I had a blast," says 50-year-old Bev Vienkowski of Seaside Park YC, a Sneakbox and scow sailor who skippered in the 420 division with 50-year-old Janet Miller as crew. Vienkowski hadn't sailed a 420 since she was 15, and Miller, who grew up sailing A Cats and Sneakboxes, had never sailed one. But the pair scored a second in their first race and were getting the hang of roll tacking by the end of the day.

he Toms River is always a tricky place to sail, and in ^^^^^ 2004 the local squad made the most of its home-court advantage and scored a dominant win in a light and shifty easterly. But in 2005, new personnel across several teams combined with stronger southerly breezes to shake up the pecking order. Island Heights YC started fast and held a 10-point lead over Bay Head YC after five races. Surf City YC and Metedeconk YC were tied, another 3 points back, and the talk of the lunch break was whether Island Heights could be caught.

One sailor reliving his college glory days was Island Heights YC's Phil Reynolds, 47, who last sailed a Tech when competing for Notre Dame at the 1980 InterCollegiate Yacht Racing Association Nationals at MIT. Reynolds, who has sailed Lasers and E-Scows in recent years, says he struggled a bit with his roll tacks—

a common complaint from the over-40 set. But, nonetheless, he and crew Jocilyn Doran, 24, were still sitting in third at the break. He likes the choice of boats.

"Putting everybody on an even keel makes you work the shifts I more," says Reynolds. "In an E Scow you might sail through a a couple headers, but out here you've got to hit every one." i Mantoloking YC's Dick Wight, one of the top E Scow sailors g in the country, didn't sail in college and had only tried Techs | once before the Challenge, in one of Toms River YC's casual ? Wednesday night races. Yet the 58-year-old opened with a 2-1 in £ the singlehanded division.

" Wight enjoyed racing short courses in the river, where the d shifts created position changes and boatspeed wasn't a huge fac tor. He also liked the Challenge's team format.

"The nice thing about regattas like this is they're not as tense as normal regatta racing," says Wight. "They are fun in the true sense of the word. You have some sense that the final result is out of your hands, as you're only one of three players, and you also get caught up in the yacht club aspect of it."

As a team, the Surf City YC sailors took matters into their own hands in the afternoon, closing with a flourish to finish two points ahead of Island Heights and grab the title, with Bay Head YC third. Surf City was led by former All-American Jeff Bonanni, 22, who paired with his mom Lori, 51, to win the doublehanded Tech division for the second year in a row. The Bonannis displayed smart tactics and excellent speed in the choppy conditions and finished in the top three in nine of 10 races.

Surf City YC took the overall honors, thanks in no small part to a second-place finish in the 420 division by Graham Mergenthaler and Sue Warren (above). The author (at left, foreground) leads regatta co-chair Will Demand of Toms River YC down a run. For the second year in a row, Demand won the singlehanded Tech division.

Surf City YC took the overall honors, thanks in no small part to a second-place finish in the 420 division by Graham Mergenthaler and Sue Warren (above). The author (at left, foreground) leads regatta co-chair Will Demand of Toms River YC down a run. For the second year in a row, Demand won the singlehanded Tech division.

Lori says she was "just having fun" and that her son was a "patient" skipper. Jeff says his mother did a nice job crewing and was "very good at calling starboard tackers."

Other Surf City team members were Lightning sailors Tim Robinson, 42, and Rich Warren, 52, who split time in the single-handed Techs, finishing fifth; and Kings Point senior Graham Mergenthaler, 22, and crew Sue Warren, 51, who took second in 420s.

In the singlehanded Techs, regatta co-chair Demand of Toms River YC won for the second year in a row. Another repeat winner was Bay Head YC's Betsy Vreeland, 39, who teamed with 22-year-old skipper Bobby Koar to top the 420 fleet.

Vreeland was a 420 rookie in 2004 when she crewed for three-time collegiate All-American Chris Ashley. Although she grew up sailing small boats, Vreeland was "busy being an Opti mom" in recent years and was a little intimidated to be paired with Ashley. "Last year, Chris just carried me," she says. "This year, I was a little more in tune with Bobby."

For the 2006 Challenge, Toms River YC is aiming to get the entire Tech fleet on the water and may extend invites to clubs outside Barnegat Bay, as scheduling conflicts limited the field to eight teams in 2005. The first two Challenges were sponsored by Mount Gay Rum and North Flags, respectively, and the organizers are already looking for additional sponsors to help promote the event.

"It's the only thing around like it, and I enjoy seeing all the guys come together to sail different boats," says Bill Warner Sr. "I'm sure it's going to grow." ♦

In 1983 an Australian team ended the New York YC's grip on the America's Cup in a breakthrough 12-Meter famous for its winged keel. That pivotal moment in sailing history has long since passed, yet there remains a long-running dispute about the roles taken in the design of this remarkable boat by the designer of record, Ben Lexcen, and his technical team. As a member of the America's Cup Hall of Fame selection committee, I know this controversy well. After many years of heated debate concerning the merits of selecting Lexcen, in 2004 I volunteered to serve as a committee of one answering the question, "Who designed Australia II?"

Over a year and a half I reviewed the record while soliciting statements from dozens of people. In October 2005 I presented a report to the committee, which then selected Lexcen for the Hall of Fame.

Before proceeding, I should disclose that I am a long-time, but hardly lockstep, member of the New York YC. As a writer I strive to be fair, and I long ago recognized that nothing in the America's Cup is as simple as it first seems.

It is clear that Australia II was the creation of a brilliant international design team, headed by Ben Lexcen. Other answers to our question have tended to follow two opposite paths. One leads to the conviction that the designer of record, Lexcen, was also the designer in fact, meaning that he conceptualized Australia

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