Boy did we score. Conditions were just about perfect for the 2009 East Coast Fall Windsurfing Regatta, with 26 competitors lit on sails from the mid fives to some seven meter plus rigs, on boards ranging from full on slalom racing boards to ancient Bic plastic planks to freestyle boards and everything in between (I sailed my tricked out Bic Techno and a 6.2 wave sail.) We were at the perfect spot..beautiful West Neck Beach (I’d never been there before…it’s a looker!) so perfect in fact that when we arrived a sailboat race was being set up right where we’d hoped to have our event! But Pete Roesch sailed out to the yacht club officials to discuss, and said officials very graciously moved their regatta upwind.
So we raced. Beginning with a “Le Mans” start (that would be “ready, set, go!” and everyone runs into the water at the same time) groups of twelve to thirteen sailors would shoot across the harbor, round the jibe mark on the far side, then come flying back to cross a finish line between two floats.
That was the idea, anyway.
What happened was more like “ready, set, go!” at which point two thirds of the racers would start, while the last third would crash into each other and proceed to get off/fall off their boards and try to untangle themselves. My best tangle was had my board shoved up to the mast base inside Ted’s boom. We had a good laugh, and about 45 seconds after everyone else had launched, we managed to get going. We could afford to laugh, because we knew what was ahead.
What was it about the jibe mark? I’m pretty sure that even the best sailors in the race fell out there at least once (I fell half the time, some fell more than that) and once one windsurfer was down, he or she attracted other fallers like a magnet. To not fall at the jibe mark practically guaranteed you a top five finish (on the other hand, some races were won by people who fell at the jibe mark.) The jibe mark was a glorious mess where people who were great jibers and people who were not could bond (in the water) and also allow those who got tangled up at the start to catch up. The race where Ted and I were trailing the pack by half a mile? Ted finished fourth, me fifth in a pack of thirteen. My fin bumped into someone’s down sail while rounding the mark. Later at the beach I heard the story of someone who had both their sail and their LEG assaulted by a fin. Apparently that was my doing…um…oops…sorry!
But departing the jibe mark did not make things a simple drag race to the finish. Not at all. The return leg involved getting by some ramps and pinching upwind, and at one point when the current was flowing mightily downwind, a pair of tacks was required by many to make it across the finish line. Jill Marr got caught coming too close to shore before tacking and found herself shlogging back out before finally making it in. Jill (who placed third in the women’s rankings) was quick to point out that while she shlogged, “I schlogged with DIGNITY!”
That she did.
I’m getting ahead of myself…did I say that not falling at the jibe mark guaranteed success? Not only did I say that here, but I said that to myself on the water right after planing through a jibe while the water was littered with The Fallen. I was so stoked…I looked behind me…nobody was up. I looked ahead…only two sailors in front of me and I had a chance of catching the second. I began to think about how I had third place in the bank, and if in the next race I could just…
The windsurfing gods heard all of this, of course. Kapow! It took me a full minute to recover from the catapult, and feeling a bit woozy I finally limped across the finish line, very much in last place. I have one hell of a bruise where my shoulder hit the boom.
That’s the basic picture of the slalom races. After six of those, MC Thom Hering announced the Relay Race. Three teams of five would compete, with a handkerchief instead of a baton. The preferred strategy was to stuff the handkerchief in the neck of your wetsuit with a bit showing so you could yank it out for the hand off. Simple in concept, hectic in execution! The relay race was a great way to finish the event, and I predict more of them in the future.
So how did people do? Complete race results are below, but the key things you need to know are:
2. George Marr is many things (greatest breaker of windsurfing boards on Long Island…he broke another on Friday) but his instant planing ability is particularly awesome. This generally meant that he didn’t have to sail around any wreckage at the jibe mark, so he did well too. He came in second. Outraged in second. “Man, if you don’t drop the worst score, I won!” he told anyone who’d listen. When all he got was laughter, he then proceeded to berate Pete for working so hard to set the floats and get the yacht club to move their race and cutting his foot open, all so he’d have an excuse for finishing behind George. Very suspicious, according to Mr. Marr.
3. Everyone who sailed was a winner. Yeah I know what that sounds like, but ask anybody who participated…it was tremendous fun, you didn’t need special equipment or skills, and we only stopped because people were running out of gas. I’ve heard that windsurfing racing can be a gear battle, can get aggro, can be any number of things that are less how you might want to spend your Saturday afternoon. But these races, like those at the King of the East summer festivals, were both competitive and laid back. Race organizer Thom Hering is a master at making these events fun for everybody, and deserves a lot of appreciation.
4. Top finishers received commemorative pumpkins as prizes. “Pumpkins don’t just happen,” Jill told me. Damn right they don’t. Neither does scorekeeping, T shirts, sweatshirts, or all the other things that Jill did for the event when she wasn’t schlogging with dignity (Jill rips, actually.) Jill gets our appreciation too!
5. One of the newest windsurfers at the race was Andrew Wolf, who did very well for himself in his first races (for my first racing in planing conditions I never made it around the course once.) FYI for regular readers of the Peconic Puffin Andrew Wolf is not “the Wolf” (the Wolf’s name is Jon vanderWolf, for those keeping track.) But you know what? We need more wolves on Long Island…the deer are just out of hand…
I am proud of my pumpkin!
The Official Results:
Relay Race Winning Team: Scott Yanuck, Jill Marr, Bob Mansfield, Pete Roesch, George Pav..
1. Bill DeGeorge
2. George Marr
3. Ted Bretter
4. Bob Mansfield
5. Michael Alex
6. Pete Roesch
7. Kurt Veith
8. Joe Bayville
9. George Pav
10. Mike Jamieson
11. Christina Clement (First place, Women’s)
12. Jeanne Baumann (Second place, Women’s)
13. Scott Yanuk
14. Sasha Kraev
15. Ned Crossley
16. Dean Carballal
17. Jeff Tannenbaum
18. Phil Mc Philly
19. Kevin O’Shea
20. Jill Marr (Third place, Women’s)
21. Frank Messina
22. Chip Marshall
23. Dennis Grunbeck
24. Ira Holzman
25. Andrew Wolf
26. Art Spangel
Based on how well the regatta went, the organizers are already talking about the next one. Jam Master Jill says "please mention that we will consider any and all feedback, suggestions or
comments to make the event even better! They can email me directly at
The final note: After the derigging was done, many of the racers hung out in the parking lot, exchanging beer, chips, apples, and an excellent corn salsa while enjoying the setting sun and magnificent buzz from the day. It was the perfect finish to one of the best windsurfing experiences in my year for sure, and I suspect it will rank top ten with quite a few other sailors. Thanks to absolutely everyone there!