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On Watch - Iris Vogel

Iris Vogel is among the nicest people we’ve ever met, but don’t let her friendly, gentle demeanor fool you. A fiercely competitive sailor, Iris has won several national championships. 

©Ray Vogel“I fell in love with sailing on a lake in Germany when I was 10 years old,” says Iris, who lives in New Rochelle, NY. “But I didn’t really learn how to sail until I was 20, when I took a course at the New York Sailing School in City Island. I’ve sailed year-round ever since. I crewed for Kerry Klingler for several years, mostly frostbiting in Interclubs, but I also did bow on Kerry’s J/35 and a J/30 owned by one of his clients [Klingler is a well-known sailmaker and a J/80 World Champion]. Kerry opened the door for me to meet people and sail on other boats. Kerry is a very, very good sailor, but sometimes we would have a bad start and be far behind. He would never lose his composure or his concentration, and he showed me that no matter where you end up you should always look forward and keep going…you’ll catch up most of the time!”

“The first boat I owned was a Moore 24,” Iris continues. “I shipped it to the Caribbean and we did the Rolex Cup in St. Thomas, and I found a buyer for it there. I bought a Beneteau Class 10 in St. Thomas, and we sailed it back to New York. We didn’t know very much about navigation, and we got lost because the stereo speakers messed up our compass. We found our way home, and I decided to name the boat Deviation.”

“I bought my Soverel 33, also named Deviation, in 1988. There were two at Block Island Race Week a few years earlier, and they looked really nice. Later, I was on another boat in the Stars & Stripes Regatta when a Soverel 33 passed us, and I knew I wanted one. The Soverel is my third boat, not counting Lasers and frostbite dinghies.”

“I’ve done 25 Block Island Race Weeks with Deviation, and three before that. We only missed Race Week one year, when my daughter Ray was born. Sailing has always been a part of Ray’s life…she’s 19 and she’s done 17 Block Island Race Weeks! She was aboard when she was a baby and would be down below with her books, toys and sleeping bag. That made her totally at ease on the water, although she didn’t come up and start crewing until she was 13. She’s been on bow ever since.”

Deviation has won the Bill Soverel Trophy, awarded each year to the winner of Soverel 33 Nationals, in 1997, ‘98, 2006, ’07, ’09 and ’10, and Iris attributes the boat’s success to her very faithful crew. “It’s a real team effort,” she says. “Most of our crew has been on the boat for 15 years, and Bill Heintz has been on the boat almost 20 years. Bill is our tactician, and we owe a lot of our success – or maybe all of our success – to his dedication and talent.”

“The Nationals are held in different places each year, and we trailer the boats to go and race. We’ve had the Nationals at SUNY Maritime in New York, in Newport, in Raritan Bay, in Connecticut and Massachusetts, on Block Island and Long Island, on Lake Norman in North Carolina and on Lake Ontario. Winning the Nationals on Lake Ontario was really gratifying because there are so many good boats up there.”

Iris is a very active member of Huguenot Yacht Club. “Huguenot is a very old club and our membership is a mixture of powerboaters and sailors,” she says. “Huguenot is one of the founding clubs of the JSA [Junior Sailing Association of Long Island Sound]. I’m heavily involved in our junior program, and for me it’s probably the strongest thing about the club. Our junior program is open to the whole New Rochelle and Pelham community, including non-members. We offer scholarships to families that can’t afford sailing instruction, and we charter all of our Optimists so kids that otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford a boat can get into the program.”

“Huguenot is a volunteer-run club, and everyone works together to make the club nice and make things happen. In addition to the Junior Sailing committee, I’m on the Racing committee and the House committee and I’m the frostbite chairperson. I raced Interclubs for 10 years, but because I’m so light my crew and I had to carry 180 pounds of water. I got tired of having that ballast in the boat, and I enjoy frostbiting Lasers now…just me and a Radial rig. Frostbiting at Huguenot is really fun, and we welcome others to join us.”

Huguenot is the home of the popular Expressly For Fun Regatta. “Expressly For Fun was founded by Adam Loory and Mort Weintraub,” says Iris. “It’s a family-oriented race, and we usually sail to either Northport or Stamford. We have dinner there, people sleep on their boats, and we race back to Huguenot the next day. It’s a pursuit start, so the slower boats start first and the faster ones start later. In theory, everyone gets to the finish line at the same time. Because it’s a point-to-point race, it’s easier for small crews. We have a lot of couples and parents with young children, and we have a junior team sailing a boat whenever we can. There’s also a poker run for motorboats.”

“I just love to be on the water. I like the people and I like the community. It’s a way of life. You can race for many years, and after that you can do race committee and still be involved. There are very few sports in which you can do that. I had two summers of exposure to sailing as a kid, and I always had this dream. When I finally started sailing, I never looked back.”


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