By Taylor North
Narragansett Bay plays host to all types of sailboats over the course of the year; foiling catamarans, carbon racing yachts, stunning superyachts, and high performance dinghies, many sailing multiple times faster than the wind speed. However, once the weather gets cold and the big boats head south, there’s a different game in town.
Brett Nazareth (#51) won the pin at this start, and went on to victory in the 2014 Sea Dog “Worlds.” © Chuck Allen
On Saturday, December 13, the Wickford Frostbiting Association hosted the Sea Dog “Worlds” (or Inter-Galactic Championships if you’d like to be politically correct) at the Wickford Yacht Club in Wickford, RI. (The ISAF approval for the Sea Dog is still pending.) The regatta is held annually, alternating venues between the two known Sea Dog fleets in the world, at Wickford and Sachem’s Head Yacht Club in Guilford, CT.
Twenty-nine boats, including 12 that made the trip from from Sachem’s Head, were on the starting line this year, creating the largest ever pack of ‘Dogs in over 50 years of the one-design class’s existence. Wickford Harbor is a great arena for this event, and conditions were perfect for mid-December in New England: 40 degrees, bright sun, a 9- to 14-knot northwesterly and flat water. The breeze was predictably shifty and puffy, which provided many opportunities for big gains (and big losses). Throughout the day the “locals” played the left side of the course aggressively, seeking current relief. It worked. Again, and again. The “magical” left side of the course never looked particularly good from a pressure perspective and the siren’s song from the right lured the visiting sailors (and some locals, too) to that side of the course which looked great, but never paid off on the first beat.
“Getting used to a two-minute starting sequence with a one-minute rule in effect was tricky at first,” said Mike Schnitt, skipper of the #14 boat, “but I was able to capitalize on the apprehensiveness of the fleet [likely due to the I-Flag] and find my way to the front row every race. From there it was a drag race to the left side. Unfortunately, boat speed was a limiting factor for the #14 boat today.”
This was the largest regatta in class history, with 29 ‘Dogs in the fight. © Chuck Allen
The top of the fleet was regularly dominated by Wickford sailors Gordon Fletcher, Peter Green and Brett Nazareth, with Sachem’s Headers Taylor North, Mike Schnitt and Cutter Smith trying to stay with the peloton. Skip Whyte dominated the first half of the regatta, winning four of the first five races. Whyte was over early in Race 6, opening the door for the only Sachem’s Head win of the regatta. Brett Nazareth won Race 7, placing him one point out of the lead behind Whyte. Nazareth finished strong in a long final race, and in dramatic fashion, clinched the championship at the finish line off the docks of the yacht club. The Wickford fleet reclaimed the team trophy for 2014.
John Stax, a staple of the Sachem’s Head fleet, is always expected to be at the top of the fleet. However, the wind and currents in Wickford Harbor proved to be a challenge for the flat-black #39 boat. A visibly rattled Stax mentioned in passing that he was taking his boat straight back to the shop for some “modifications” so that it can be ready for next season. However, his spirits were restored at the awards party. “Look at that beer selection!” he exclaimed. “And look at the all the food! This is great! What an awesome regatta. We’re going to have to step it up when we host the party next year. We can’t have the Wickford group beating us on the water and on land!”
As a sponsor of the event, North Sails had Chuck Allen on the water taking photos and kindly gave away a new sail to a lucky recipient. Special thanks to WFA Commodore Nick Turcotte, Wickford Yacht Club, PRO Moose McClintock for running great races, and the WYC safety boat volunteers and party hosts. Hoping for 35 boats next year at the 2015 “Worlds” in Sachem’s Head!
Great video below by Kyle Wilson.