The thrill of big boat racing for college sailors
By Kate Somers
Photos by Stephen R Cloutier
The goal of the Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta presented by ShopRite of Carteret is to give a unique keelboat experience to college sailors from around the world. From dinghy sailors – who may have never stepped on anything but a 420 – to experienced offshore teams with their own boats, the IOR is a rare opportunity to compete in a big boat event with many other schools on the water simultaneously. Co-hosted by Storm Trysail Club and Larchmont Yacht Club, this event is free of charge to all participants. Volunteers offer up their time and boats to inspire and motivate these sailors to seek out racing opportunities outside of college.
This year’s edition treated sailors to challenging big-breeze conditions. Saturday started very wet with no wind, forcing the new PRO and recently retired Tufts sailing coach Ken Legler to issue a postponement. Eventually, the rain subsided, allowing the Race Committee to get off one race for all the classes before a squall forced all teams ashore in the afternoon.
“The view from the bridge of the Satan’s Toe (LYC’s RC boat) allowed me to see how the wild conditions challenged every team,” said Legler. “It was exciting to watch to say the least!”
After a party under a tent at Larchmont Yacht Club, the rain eventually passed, leaving a cool, crisp, and sunny Sunday with a 15-20 knot westerly, permitting the thirty-six boats (divided into six classes) to complete three more races.
“Many of the sailors tell me that this is the event they look most forward to all season and how they sincerely appreciate the owners who share their boats with us,” said co-chair Ann Myer. Most boats in the IOR are loaned, with service academies sending multiple teams to compete in their own boats. The U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY loaned two boats this year to allow more schools to compete.
The Offshore Sailing Team from the U.S. Naval Academy brought two of their training boats and had the biggest success in their respective classes. The crew of the J/42 Atalanta, skippered by Midshipman Renee Bonner, dominated the Medium PHRF Class with all bullets, and the other crew on the J/44 Maxine, skippered by Midshipman Javier Jimenez Kane, finished 2nd in PHRF Large, one point behind another experienced offshore team, Kings Point. Midshipman Justin Nixon from KP led Comet to the win in their J/44.
Recognizing the most successful team in points overall, the Paul Hoffman Trophy went to the U.S. Naval Academy, but trophies are not what motivates many of these sailors – it’s the chance to meet other sailors at an event like this. As Bonner puts it, “This is one of my favorite regattas of the fall season because it allows so many colleges to interact with one another while competing at a high level and challenging us all to adapt to different types of boats in new venues.”
The Wisconsin Badgers repeated their 2022 win in the J/109 class and also took home the Puff Trophy, named in honor of LYC Past Commodore Howard McMichael and awarded to the runner-up in the overall scoring.
Nicole Giuliani, a senior on the Wisconsin Sailing Team, said they look forward to this regatta every year “because we love meeting offshore sailors from all over and having a great time on the water. The competition is always great and we always leave having learned something new.”
Five teams duked it out in the J/105 class, with Princeton finishing atop the podium. “Two-thirds of the team had never raced a sailboat before arriving at Princeton,” said skipper Jasper Waldman, “but we’ve been able to foster a strong team culture centered around communication. This served us tremendously, keeping morale high in the rain, bouncing back from breakages, and allowing me to focus on driving the boat fast.”
The IOR attracts teams not just from the U.S. but all over the world. Polytechnique from France returned after a few years away, Dalhousie from Nova Scotia was a new team to this year’s IOR, and Queen’s University from Montreal also returned. Queen’s even won their class in a J/100.
The smiles on land, despite challenging conditions, were a testament to the excitement the sport affords those lucky enough to take part. Jim Holland, the other co-chair, commented, “I am always reminded with the arrival of these collegiate teams of their intensity and desire to learn and succeed on the water. I look forward to seeing them on starting lines in the future for years to come.”
In addition to title sponsor ShopRite of Carteret, the Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta is further supported by Harken Derm, Carlsberg, Helly Hansen, McMichael Yachts Yards & Brokers, UK Sailmakers Northeast, Dimension-Polyant, Gifted of Larchmont, and J Boats. Complete results are posted at YachtScoring.com. If your school is interested in racing in 2024, please fill out an interest form at stormtrysail.org/ior-2024-interest/ ■