My father always told me that Lightning comes before Thunder and they both come from the same source. This was proven true for the first time in three years with Newport Harbor Yacht Clubs 2017 Baldwin Cup teams, Lighting and Thunder.
NHYC continued it’s forth consecutive year as champions of the Baldwin Cup. In 2016 team Thunder and Lighting faced off in the finals with Thunder raising the trophy over their heads. This year it was all team Lighting, with Greg Helias, Bill Menninger, Mikee Anderson, Rob Rader, Mac Mace, Ward Mace, Alex Curtiss and Robert Kinney, with huge smiles on their faces and glasses held high.
For those of you, like me, that don’t understand what team racing is. I defer to the NHYC web site for its definition: “ Team racing, like most traditional team sports, involves strategy, advanced skill, and teamwork. However, unlike other fleet racing, team racing pits a team of four against another team of four boats. This added dimension forces players to have tremendous boat-handling ability and quick reactions.
The key to watching these races and understanding if your team is winning the race is counting the place of each of your team's boats and if that number is less than 18 your team is winning the race. This is why you will see leading boats turn around and try to slow down the opposing team's boats making an effort to have their teammate pass an opponent.”
I have written this before, the excitement level is increased tremendously while attending this event with your friends and informing the umpires of their bad calls. Yes, team racing has umpires on the water similar to an umpire on the baseball field. Quite often you will hear from the gallery, "Come on, ump! Make a call!” This years reported spectator attendance was over 200 sailing fanatics.
I was fortune to have the opportunity to sit next too many of our local sailing greats which included Jeff Lenhart, Chris Raab, Craig Chamberlain and pit crew member Peter Haynes. All showing different enthusiasm and excitement with the 4v4 team racing format and this event. Many of the local competitors like Justin Law, Jon Pinckney, Greg Helis, Bill Menninger, Alex Steele, Greg Newman and Carson Reynolds. All stoped and had long conversations with me on how their day was going, how fantastic this event is, along with how increasingly competitive the event has become.
Of this group some of my most memorable quotes came from Chris Raab jumping up from his chair and saying “ Put me in coach.” Raab did not qualify this year in the NHYC sail offs, something tells me this event will be moved up on his priority list next season. Alex Steele, sailing for the Balboa Yacht Club, said it best “ This is a great regatta, that had to have been some of the best sailing I have ever sailed in.” Greg Helis sailing for NHYC team Lighting did not say a word he just stopped and looked with a big smile, exuding confidence that this regatta was his teams and already completed in his mind. Helis then nodded his head and proceeded to his boat and out to the race course where team Lighting defeated Team Thunder 2-1 in the semi-finals and then the St. Francis Yacht Club 2-1 in the finals.
As in previous years the list of volunteers for this event was endless and completed like a Dutch shipbuilder second to none. You had to have been on the docks to watch the pit crew jump to work on the final day when the boats needed the mains reefed and repairs made. “Well Done” is deserved to all that made this event possible.
With that being said, I have to make mention of an observation that has bothered me for the last five years during the Baldwin Cup.
During the event NHYC announcers continue to heckle novice boaters, that are passing by the front dock in their boats. Pointing out their lack of skill or boating etiquette is the go to punch line for a quick browbeating. A quote taken in yesterdays press release from event announcers Brooks Clark and Adam Deermount. “Fender counting continued to be a popular sport at the Newport Harbor Yacht Club with “Vegas odds predicting over 72 and 1/2 fenders to be spotted on various Duffy boats and other small craft that also become obstacles on the course.” Proper yachting etiquette calls for all the vessels fenders to be stowed away after departing the dock.
Other negative observations were broadcasted by Clark and Deermount at the expense of the passing by novice boaters over the three day event. These novice boaters can easily hear these comments with the amplified sound system broadcasted out over the water from NHYC main dock. Writing these words will definitely damage me but I have been biting my lip on this topic for over four years and explaining my disapproval to the event chairmen in the three previous years.
In my opinion the Baldwin Cup is the best thing that has happened to yachting in my lifetime. This small bit of satire is more damaging than productive to our sport and I can only hope it will be discontinued in future events.
""Len, thank you for your kind words about the Baldwin Cup Team Race and for taking the time to join us during this year's regatta. This iconic event showcases the best in class of team racing and we are fortunate to have some of the most accomplished sailors in the U.S. competing and officiating, including former Olympians, decorated collegiate sailors, in addition to America’s Cup competitors. It brings out the most passionate competitive spirit in all of us, and, perhaps, sometimes we go a tad overboard in our commentary. We take your thoughts to heart and will be mindful of our narrative moving forward,” said Staff Commodore and Event Director, Bill Crispin.”