Thursday, October 06, 2005

PCYC Club Championship

Winning team, l to r, Scott Johnson, Brian Palfreeman, Laurent Fortin

As reported earlier on Montreal Sailing, Pointe Claire Yacht Club decided to choose its Club Champion in a different way this year. The sailors, victorious in each of 4 divisions, Fireball, PHRF 1&2, PHRF 3, and White Sail were advised that they would have to sail against each other in one final regatta. Held last Saturday, this regatta would be different in another way too. The sailors did not sail their own boats. Rather, club members turned over their Tanzer 22 One Designs for the event. Each owner remained aboard, but did not assist the team in sailing the boat. Each team sailed a different boat for each race to ensure even more level chances. Set ups were not identical in each boat. I had the honour of hosting each team on my T22, #92, Ambitious. Laird Glass’ Oasis, and Jake Fichten’s Sine Wave, and Toby Jenning’s Antidote were also kindly provided.

It was an exciting, and in my view, superior way of selecting the top gun. Over a season, PHRF handicapping may even out the scores somewhat, but it rarely succeeds in a single event with the precision needed for a final. More mortal members and readers of Montreal Sailing want to know: Boats and divisions aside, who are the best sailors? The competitors seem to agree this was far better. Peter Hinrichsen, had the idea, and as Race Chair made a successful event with the help of David Lowther, Frederic Ralet and Alan Smith. The competition was close with several teams still vying for the top by the final race. Here are some impressions from being onboard a hosting boat.

The first race was sailed in light wind. White division T22 sailor, Laird Glass, and crew Guylaine Bosse and Suzanne Brosseau made a marvellous windward pass of the Fireball team on the first upwind leg, and kept them at bay through the entire race. The PHRF 1 (Etchells) team, skippered by Brian Palfreeman, won race one, sailing a conservative race, and always covering the second place boat, sailed by Jake Fichten’s T22 crew. Palfreeman and crew remain remarkably relaxed and could kid around throughout a race.

In the second race, Fichten had a nailbiting, close competition with Palfreeman, and the lead was exchanged, and under threat much of the time. Jake’s focus is remarkable, and disturbing him during a race with anything irrelevant is inadvisable. On the helm was Cathy Fichten, who has always blown me away with the height and speed she can maintain. Working foredeck was regular crew Bruce Thicke. With Palfreeman closing in at the leeward mark, Fichten called for the chute take down at the last possible second. On board as the owner, the rules prevented me from assisting. I was sure Bruce would never make it, and ducked my head and eyes, awaiting the ensuing carnage. Seconds later I looked up, to observe the boat cleanly rounding, and accelerating upwind from the mark. Bruce is fast! Fichten took the bullet.

Race 3, was a victory for the Fireball team skippered by Rob Levy. This team, consisting of all Fireball sailors with Joe Jospe and Peter Kelly, can only be described paradoxically as focused while chaotic. Wild sailors jumping on every manoeuvre with gusto, focused on strategy and tactics. Exceptional racers, who have ropes flying through the air everywhere, sprawling sheets and halyards throughout the cockpit, and constant banter on several different race issues almost simultaneously. I learned these sailors can diss each other in a biting, but most jovial, good-natured fashion throughout while never losing focus on strategy and boat-to-boat tactics. You can really feel the excitement and intensity in the air sailing with these guys. Whatever his teamates say, a very fit Peter Kelly does not have a fat head. They sailed a brilliant race to take the bullet third time around. Boat #92, Ambitious won its third consecutive race without the owner in control, and a different team each time, unfamiliar with the boat. No more excuses for its owner and crew!

In race 4, Fichten and Palfreeman raced in a nail biting final. Mathematically, Levy and the dinghy dudes were still in the running but the former two seemed to be likely winners. Levy would not relent, taking the final bullet, his second. Nevertheless, the final race left to decide the championship resulted in a tie in points at the top between Fichten and Palfreeman. To break the tie, Palfreeman won the championship based on his final victory.

A great analysis of the racing, by Race Chair Peter Hinrichsen, will follow next week.