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1st Annual Great Lakes Team Racing Championship

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By Ron Sherry

The weekend of October 18-19, 2014, I competed in the first annual Great Lakes Team Racing Championship. The event was held at Bayview Yacht Club on the Detroit River. Teams competed from all over the Great Lakes and we sailed Ultimate 20s.

Each team had three boats with three sailors on each boat. The combined age of the three skippers on each team had to be at least 95 years which is how I got invited.

I have to say, the only sailing I've done that is more fun than team racing is racing iceboats or steering Equation. The two other skippers on our team were Nathan Hollerbach, fresh off winning his second Prince of Wales, and his younger brother, Ian Hollerbach.

The crew mates on my boat were Stu Argo and Alex Hume. Stu was my tactician and the three of us learned sooo much. We had two practice sessions where we learned the strategies of pass-backs and mark-traps. Aggressive sailing and split second decisions were keys to success.

The team racing racing rules were different. There were three on-the-water judge boats. If you admitted that you fouled someone and did your turns right away, you only had to do a 360 degree turn including one tack and one jibe. If you waited for the judges decision and you were wrong, you had to do a 720 degree turn.

Racing in front of BYC with three knots of current, shifty puffy breezes, and Mike Hoey and Adam Hollerbach calling out the play-by-play on big speakers kept things fun and interesting. We were sailing boat #6 with a yellow stripe in the sail and our crew wore green pinnys (stretchy shirts over our life jackets) in the pictures.

The races were sailed on a digital N course. We started sailing to windward, rounded the first mark to starboard, and then took a short reach round second mark to starboard. Then we had a long run third mark to port,a short reach fourth mark to port, to the finish line up wind.

At the start of the first race, we tacked to port and tried to duck a boat on starboard. A gust hit, we did not get the main out in time, and hit the other boat. This wasn't a good way to start the regatta. We admitted guilt, did our turns, managed to get back into the race, and got a team win.

After the race the judges informed us there would be a hearing that night because of damage to the other boat. We were bumped 1/2 point for the infraction which made the goal of winning even harder.

In our second race we completed a text-book pass-back on the last weather leg which helped us win the race. A pass-back is when a boat from the other team is positioned between you and one of your teammates boats. The idea is to use your boat to slow the other team down so in the end, you and your teammate end up in front of him. Chris Clark's three photos, above, show us executing the pass-back.

After the first 15 race round robin, our record was four wins and one loss. We decided after our first loss that we did not need to get TOO CUTE. Our record had us solidly in second place with the Chicago team winning at five wins and zero losses.

The race committee started the second round robin Saturday afternoon, and got three races in. The good news was that Chicago lost their first two races of the second round robin. We were definitely in the hunt.

Sunday morning there was no wind and boats came back in to wait for the wind to come up. The wind did come up and we got a lot of great sailing in. We went three wins and one loss on Sunday with one race left. We were scheduled to race in the last race of the second round robin. We were waiting in a skiff for the finish of the fourteenth race so we could jump in the boats and start the last race. It was already 3:00 and they called the regatta complete. We were not sure who won and we had to eat the dreaded 1/2 point.

The scoring is simple- take the number of races you won divided by the number of races you sailed and it gives you a percentage. As long as we completed 80 percent of the last round robin, the round robin counts. 6.5 wins divided by 9 races equals 72.222%. Chicago had 7 wins in 10 races or 70%.

It was an unbelievable and thrilling win. I really want to thank Nathan and Ian for having the patience to teach a couple of old dogs new tricks.