13 Ensigns were entered in the Region II/III Regional Championship Regatta which was held as part of the annual Sail Newport, Newport Regatta. The Newport Regatta is exclusively a One Design Regatta and attracted over 140 boats racing on 4 different racing circles in the Narragansett bay area. It was great representing the Ensign Class in Newport for this event. Notably there were 15 12 Meter boats like Enterprise, Courageous, Freedom, Intrepid and Kiwi Magic that raced in the regatta and were berthed at the docks at Fort Adams near where the Ensigns were also berthed. We all got a chance to go and enjoy seeing so much racing history on display with boats that were in top condition.
The Ensign racing circle was located south of the Newport Bridge and bounded by Goat Island to the east and Rose Island to the west. As we arrived at Fort Adams for day one of the regatta there were two inescapable features that were immediately apparent. The first was a heavy fog that was rolling through the racing area with a substantial wind in the 10 – 12 knot range. The second inescapable feature was that during the preceding night the Queen Mary II ocean liner had arrived and was moored on the south end of our racing circle, about a quarter mile north of Fort Adams. While we watched the Queen Mary II disappear and reappear from the fog the race committee postponed racing from ashore. After about an hour the fog had lifted enough to give it a go and we all sailed out of Fort Adams, gathering at the far north end of the racing area next to the Newport bridge, as far away from the Queen Mary II as was possible.
With a building southwesterly the RC set a windward leeward 2 lap course with the windward mark set 400 yards or so north of the Queen Mary II. There were some interesting shifts as we approached the very large mass of steel at the top mark (the ocean liner was ineffective as a wind indicator for some reason). With Laser’s, Thistles and Aero’s all on the same racing circle and all having started ahead of the Ensigns there was a ton of traffic to keep track of. Quickly determining and piloting through leeward boat and port starboard right of way was a near constant activity.
Bill Steel in Cydarydigo won the first race of the regatta with a beautiful committee boat end start and solid tactics up the windward beat. Robin Durrschmidt in Magic won the 2nd race by finding a favorable shift on the left side of the course early on.
With the wind building through the teens by the third race, Spinnakers were no longer an advantage and in fact became a liability. The fog continued to be heavy at times even with winds that ultimately built into the low 20 knot range and gusts to 26 knots. We learned later that these conditions in Narraganset bay are not un-heard of and are aptly named “Smokey Southwesters.” There were only one or two Ensigns that I saw who managed to change down to a #2 genoa as there was very limited time between starts. Doing well with a #1 genoa in those conditions meant keeping the boat as flat as possible and doing your best to stay out of trouble. Remarkably only one boat did not complete all four races that were held on day one in such challenging conditions.
During the fourth race the two lead boats, Tailgunner and Magic, sailed flatter than most but did not get the memo about staying out of trouble and both hit the windward offset mark. To fully appreciate the pandemonium that ensued, visualize if you will two Ensigns with #1 genoas in winds gusting to 26 knots and in fog completing their respective penalty turns while the rest of the fleet rounds the top mark and begins screaming downwind toward them wing on wing. One can only guess at what the spectators aboard the Queen Mary II, peering through that same fog, may have thought as they looked down on the chaos occurring upon the waters of Narraganset bay. Gary Woodruff in Tailgunner out dueled Magic for first place in the fourth and final race of the day.
At the end of the day Garry Woodruff was more consistent with 3 seconds and one first and led the regatta. Robin Durrschmidt in Magic finished strong with 2 firsts and a second after a seventh-place finish in the first race. Rick Conley in Friendly Spirit was in third with three thirds and a sixth.
By the time the fleet was ready to leave the dock the next day a strong northerly front had come through and a good 12 -14 knot breeze out of the north was blowing. The Queen Mary II had departed as well so the race-course was clear and the sun was shining. Though the breeze would be weakening throughout the day a very strong ebb tide, approaching 2 knots, developed as the water blown into the bay from the Smokey Southwester the day before combined with the north breeze enhanced the southerly ebb. The race committee struggled with the tide to get the races off, a mark boat got fouled on a gate mark anchor line and several marks were not anchored firmly enough. After a fairly lengthy delay, the first race of the day commenced with Mike Macina in Firebird finding a nice shift near Rose Island and getting to the top mark in great position. William Wiencke in Wildcard made a great move inside of Magic at the top mark on the last leg but was edged out at the finish due to puffs coming from the right side of the course. Similarly, in race 2 Rick Conley in Friendly Spirit was in great position versus Magic but also faded at the finish line. Scott Mason in Gusto got a great start and won the third race of the day. Rick Conley and his team sailed a near perfect fourth and final race of the regatta and won by a comfortable distance.
After haulout, using a very nice hydraulic hoist at Sail Newport headquarters, awards were presented for 15 different classes of One Design racers. After 8 races Magic had had enough good finishes to be atop the leaderboard.
1. Robin Durrschmidt #363 Magic
2. Gary Woodruff #496 Tailgunner
3. Rick Conley #819 Friendly Spirit
4. Mike Macina #301 Firebird
5. Scott Mason #1407 Gusto
6. William Wiencke #1060 Wildcard
7. Bill Steel #1431 Cydarydigo
8. Charles Shoemaker #1082 Challenger
9. Eric Jones #319 Teamwork
10. Russ Carr #11 Swoose
11. Maurice Scully #1731 Triton
12. David Goss #62 When
DNC Brou Ha Ha