By Charlie Langalis
The 85th Atlantic Class Nationals hosted by Cedar Point Yacht Club in Westport, CT August 21-23, made clear that competition in this classic one-design keelboat class remains keen, if not feverish. With three days of steady breezes, adept race management and sumptuous evening meals, competitors could not have wanted for a better combination of elements contributing to a memorable championship series.
Twenty-six boats competed in the 2014 Atlantic National Championship at Cedar Point Yacht Club. © Ken Legler
Twenty-six Atlantics from five Long Island Sound clubs crowded the line for the six-race series (with throwout) gratifying organizers who had previously hosted a 20-boat field in 2009. The class has grown in the ensuing five years with the establishment of a new fleet at the Madison Beach Club in Madison, CT, from which four Nationals entries attended.
Late August is not known for consistent breezes on Long Island Sound, but a temperate summer that had followed a winter and spring that introduced “polar vortex” into our vocabularies proved to be an exception, with fresh 10-12 knot easterlies allowing each day’s races to be run in timely fashion with the AP flag stowed.
Multi-class helmsman Steve Benjamin conducted a near sweep of the series with finishes of 1,1,(6),1,1,1 for a total of five points. Piloting A128 Cassidy – the boat with which the late and legendary Joe Olson won many CPYC club championships – “Benj” bested his previous Nationals-winning performance from 2009 where his finishes were 1,1,1,2,2. The achievement was all the more remarkable in view that this was only his second Atlantic Nationals since that regatta.
Steve Benjamin and crew won the event with an impressive scoreline of bullets. © Ken Legler
Sailing for Seawanhaka Corinthian YC in Oyster Bay, NY, Benj was ably aided by crew Morgan Trubovich, Charles McHugh and Sam Hallowell. In winning multiple starts, Cassidy showed quick acceleration off the line and impressive straight-line speed, gaining conspicuous leads at the top marks. With constant attention paid to sail shape and trim, world-class tactics, and a “born-to-hike” crew whose toerail gymnastics kept Cassidy flat in moderate chop, Benj extended his advantage with ease, frequently leading wire-to-wire.
The Class was blessed to again have US Sailing’s award winning Ken Legler as Principal Race Officer (PRO). Legler’s marshalling of his Committee to set and adjust marks and lines with precision kept the courses fair as tides reversed and the third day’s easterly started to pull to the south. Legler’s preference for offset windward marks and leeward mark gates are now institutionalized at the Atlantic Nationals. That protests were minimal attests to the utility of these features for preventing fouls at turning marks. So comfortable was Legler with his staff that he frequently left the committee boat to roam the course in a RIB with a camera, producing nightly slide shows over cocktails and dinner.
Second place went to the host fleet’s Mark Foster in A140 Thistle. In third was Scott Reichhelm, also of CPYC, in A142 Shucks. Jeff Shay of Niantic Bay gave a powerful performance in the second half of the series to garner fourth in A147 Papa. Rounding out the top five was 16-time National Champion Norm Peck, Jr. in A130 Miss April. Complete results are posted at atlanticclass.org.
This year’s field attested to the Atlantic’s enduring appeal, with four former National Champions competing. Six boats were helmed by second-generation skippers, including the second and third place finishers, and the crews of 11 boats had more than one member of the same family, including many of successive generations. Of particular note was A130, skippered by Norm Peck, Jr. and crewed by his three adult children.
Nearly half the fleet had crew with more than one member of the same family, including several with successive generations. © Ken Legler
Weighing in at 4,500 pounds, the Atlantic is a sleek 30-foot one-design sloop drawn by Starling Burgess, protégé of Nathanael Herreshoff. With her large mainsail, ample decks, roomy cockpit and strong righting moment, she is comfortably sailed by a crew of three or four. Over the years, the Atlantic Class Rules Committee has allowed few innovations, mostly safety-related, in an effort to maintain the boats’ one-design integrity. As such, early boats with single and double digit-numbered hulls vie competitively with the latest models from the class-designated builder, Cape Cod Shipbuilding Co. in Wareham, MA.
Introduced to Long Island Sound in the late 1920s, Atlantics are actively raced out of Niantic Bay, Westport and Madison, CT, and Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island’s North Shore. In addition, a lively fleet in Blue Hill, ME is home to several boats. The Atlantic Nationals rotates among these clubs, and will be hosted by the Cold Spring Harbor Beach Club in 2015.
Charlie Langalis is Cedar Point Yacht Club’s Atlantic Fleet Captain and the owner of A2 Brute.