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US International Canoe East Coast Championship at Mount Hope Bay

by Willy Clark 14 Jul 2021 16:43 BST July 9-11, 2021
International Canoe US East Coast Championship at Mount Hope Bay © Sam Moore

The eclectic group of fools also known as the US International Canoe Class gathered on Mount Hope Bay, July 9-11 for their 2021 East Coast Championships. The following is a report of the proceedings from class President Willy Clark.

After a 2020 season heavily impacted by the pandemic the East Coast International Canoe Fleet was excited to descend upon Point Farm at the head of Kickemuit River in Warren Rhode Island for an extended weekend of sailing. The Farm, home to Steve and Kim Clark, has been home base for northeast canoe sailing since the mid-80s and is the ideal venue when your class schedule has been thrown for a loop and you don't know what a yacht club will be in position to offer. Race committee Del Olsen and Gail Yando nosed into the Kickemuit on their power-cat Papillion in time for the 4th of July, and the competitors had planned trickle in over the course of Thursday night and Friday morning with excitement in the air.

Unfortunately it was clear that no sailing would happen Friday the moment it got light out - Tropical Storm Elsa buffeted the Rhode Island Coast throughout the day to the tune of 40 knot winds and driving rain. So the fleet spent the day sheltering in place, eating sandwiches, re-rigging that which needed to be re-rigged, and watching with amusement as David Clark began putting the deck back on USA 256 "Dance Commander" with the apparent goal of sailing the boat the following day.

The weather finally cleared around 5:00 PM. It actually turned into a nice day. It just took all day to do it. Determined to sail Willy launched USA 258 "Bagheera" and did a few quick laps of the lower Kickemuit before the fleet adjourned to the pool yard for pizza and beer.

Saturday arrived and prospects seemed better. The rain at least had finally let up and while the Northerly left over from Elsa seemed tenuous the fleet emerged from the mouth of Kickemuit to gray skies but a pretty nice Nor'easter on Mount Hope Bay. 10 boats made the start of race one (David was still engaged in making Dance Commander at least somewhat watertight) and were treated to some further dominance by reigning North American and National Champion Mike Costello aboard USA 262 "Doctor No." Mike led around both windward marks in race one. Willy, trailing closely, made it interesting on the run, but was unable to sail through Mike's lee to steal the bullet and had to settle for second. Grand master Steve Clark followed in 3rd while Andrew Gregg finished 4th with a commanding lead over the Nethercott division.

David arrived for the start of race two with an apparently watertight Commander and aggravatingly won the race, going right on the beat while Mike and Willy went left. Mike closed on the second beat while Willy went left again and paid the fools tax, but was unable to fully close the gap. David took the bullet in a boat that didn't have a deck a mere 12 hours earlier - infuriating though quite impressive in a pig-headed kind of way.

Race three saw Mike return to form - despite losing the start to Willy who won the boat end quite easily an early tack to the right earned him clear air then a strong puff short of the starboard lay line enabled him to sail out of Willy's lee and take a small lead into the first windward mark. He held it the rest of the way with Willy catching Dave on the run to finish second, forcing Dave to settle for 3rd. The process repeated itself for race four - Mike proved the fastest in the now quite flukey conditions and maintained a narrow lead over Willy the entire way around with Dave once again 3rd.

Having thoroughly exerted themselves the fleet fought its way back upwind through the narrows, fired up the grill, and eliminated the fleet-wide calorie deficit by consuming burgers, hot dogs, pasta and potato salad, Kim's special heath bar brownies, a variety of pie, and of course some more beer. We all went to sleep looking forward to day-three.

Prospects looked less good when the following morning - while the sun was finally out the river resembled an actual mirror. The fleet launched in little to no wind with limited hope for getting the allotted four races off. However upon exiting the river we were all greeted by a firm if not particularly aggressive southerly, the conditions one might almost expect on Mount Hope Bay in July.

Willy seemed committed to making the series interesting judging by his performance in race five - first to the starboard lay line he was able to roll over Mike who tacked to the inside and maintain his lead all the way to the finish despite a stiff challenge from Dave on the run to take his first bullet of the series. Dave wound up 2nd with Mike 3rd.

The windward mark of race two saw Mike with a narrow lead on Willy and Steve and Dave, both of whom had gone right on the beat, fairly far back. As Willy chased Mike down the reach in a freshening southerly however rudder failure struck. With his nearest competition upside down reefing his rudder Mike's lead proved insurmountable. He took the bullet followed by Steve then Dave with Willy recovering to salvage a 4th.

The breeze had well and truly arrived by race three, and the spectators were able to witness Willy's improving upwind performance repeatedly foiled by Mike's superior downwind performance. Willy led at the first windward mark only to have Mike take over at the gybe mark. Willy recovered to lead at the second windward mark, only to have Mike pass him on the run once again to take yet another bullet with Dave again 3rd.

Race four Willy held a large lead at the windward mark and carried it all the way through to the second leeward mark when his rudder once again failed, forcing another capsize and a further reef. Mike, at that point hot on his heels, now found himself with nothing between him and another bullet, which he promptly took with David 2nd and Willy salvaging a 3rd.

Having completed eight races the fleet promptly returned to the farm for beer, sandwiches, and trophies. David wound up 3rd with 17 points. Willy settled for 2nd with 15. And Mike took home top honors and the Steve Lysak Trophy with a paltry total of eight points. Grand master Steve settled for 4th despite interjecting himself amongst the top three here and there, mixing some second a thirds in with a solid string of 4s. And in the Nethercott division Andrew Gregg thoroughly dominated aboard USA 226 "Red Shift" despite a valiant effort from Breck Wagner and USA 214 "Purple Nightmare." The fleet commends newcomers Max Godbey (USA 228 "Cookie Monster") and Joe Bousquet (USA 249 "Witzelschut) for completing their first ever IC races and not disgracing themselves.

The IC fleet on the East Coast remains small but strong. We must congratulate Mike who has established himself as certainly the best IC sailor on the East Coast and probably the best in the country. Willy and Dave are chasing hard and competition amongst the top three skippers, all of whom have their eye on the World Championships in Australia in January 2023, is fierce - all three are pushing each other. Most importantly after the past 18-months it was terrific to have 11 boats on the line racing together in something resembling normal conditions.

The author would like to apologize if this report seems somewhat self-centered. When competing in a regatta he can only see what happens in and around his own boat. Those who would like a different perspective are welcome to submit their own report. In lieu of that the above will have to suffice.

Thank you to Point Farm for hosting us and to the race committee and volunteers for running a fantastic regatta. We will return.

So endeth this report.

Willy Clark, IC USA 258 "Bagheera"

Overall Results:

PosSail NoSkipperBoat NameClassR1R2R3R4R5R6R7R9Pts
1262Mike CostelloDr. NoNew Rules121131118
2258Willy ClarkBagheeraNew Rules2322142315
3256David ClarkDance CommanderNew RulesDNS133233217
4240Steve ClarkCrazy IvanNew Rules3445424DNS26
5226Andrew GreggRed ShiftNethercott4554555432
6214Breck WagnerPurple NightmareNethercott5779667543
7208Dave BrienigNoGo55Nethercott81068778650
8249Joe BousquetWitzelschutNew Rules789610DNFDNSDNS64
9228Max GodbeyCookkie MonsterNethercottDNF6878DNFDNSDNS65
10202Bill PlattMatildaNethercottDNFDNSDNSDNS986DNS71
11110Kryngle DalyDirty PenguinNethercott6910DNFDNSDNSDNSDNS73

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