Sailing impresses at Corinthians Regatta

This weekend, the Williams Sailing Team took a break from its normal schedule of dinghy racing to head down to the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point for some offshore, big boat racing at the Corinthians Regatta. The team went in looking to replicate its 1995 success when Williams won Division III of this regatta. It more than succeeded this weekend by taking second in Division I, with the fastest boats and the best competition, and a probable second for the regatta as a whole.

Williams also had the sheer pleasure of sailing Vim, a Nelson-Marek custom 43 owned by Craig Speck, father of Andrew Speck ’00, skipper of the Williams team. Mr. Speck agreed to have the boat brought over from Stamford, Connecticut and had Williams sailing far and away the nicest boat in the fleet. This gave the team the added fun of entertaining questions from almost every other team about being the crew of “that boat.”

Racing started on Saturday with a ten o’clock harbor gun and the Williams crew scrambling to learn its positions. The Corinthians regattas are set up to introduce collegiate dinghy sailors to offshore racing so Williams was not alone in having little experience in these type of boats and no practice prior to the start of racing. Williams did, however, have to deal with the fact that the three teams that did seem to practice offshore racing (Navy, Merchant Marine, and Boston College) were all together with Williams in Division I, leaving the team with some catch-up learning to do. The Williams crew of ten consisted of Speck ’00 skippering, Alex McWhorter ’01 and Megan Samenfeld-Specht ’02 on main trim, Diane Bennett ’03 and Brad Nichol ’02 on jib trim, Meredith Jacob ’03 and Maggie Burr ’02 in the pit, Andrea Lee ’02 on downhaul, Grayson Myers ’01 at the mast and Garth Schofield ’01 on the foredeck.

Williams took an early lead in the first race and rounded the windward mark in first, but lost it to Boston College, who got their spinnaker up and drawing faster and powered past Vim. Williams was unable to retake BC in its Farr 40, Conspiracy, which was identically handicapped with Vim at PHRF 3, but did manage to hold off Navy in its J-44, Vamp. Unfortunately, Navy took second place based on handicap, leaving Williams with third in Division I, behind BC and Navy, but still ahead of Army and Merchant Marine.

After lunch and a bit of practice time, Williams set off into the second race with a good start. Williams was again unable to hold onto BC and Conspiracy, but took second about forty seconds ahead of Navy, even after handicaps were taken into account. By the third and final race of the day, Williams’ coordination had clearly improved and crew had clearly begun to gel, executing some smooth gybes downwind and some fast jib trimming on the tacks by Nichol, Bennett and Schofield. Williams again took second, but dusted off Navy and the other J-44’s by a good six minutes, finishing a scant 200 yards behind BC. This left Williams in second for Division I for the day, behind BC and only one point ahead of Navy, followed by Army and Merchant Marine.

Williams was primed and ready for another day of racing on Sunday, only to have all races abandoned due to the poor conditions. The tidal current in the sound was moving faster than the wind and the low visibility, rain and fog made racing dangerous for those boats not equipped with GPS navigation systems.

This left Williams in second for Division I, much to the disappointment of Navy, who wanted to keep racing, despite the fact that Williams and Vim would have had a huge advantage in the light air. McGill won Division II, ahead of UConn, RPI, Drexel and a combined Skidmore/Colgate team. Roger Williams won Division III ahead of Navy II, Tufts and Norwich. Boston College and Conspiracy were credited with the overall win of the regatta, giving Williams a probable second in the fleet of 14 teams.

The divisions were all raced separately, however, so changes in conditions make overall standing somewhat indeterminable. All told, this was a superb showing by the Williams team going up against the military academies and a host of bigger, faster and better-financed programs.

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