On Friday, Ladi and Sappling Brock Kraebel brought Oakcliff’s Nacra 20 catamaran out to the North Fork of Long Island for the Around Shelter Island Regatta. The regatta is the World’s Longest Sunfish Race and has hosted beach catamarans for the last 25 years. It is run by Southold Yacht Club, Brock’s home yacht club. This year, the course took participants out of Southold Bay, into Greenport Harbor, into Gardiner’s bay, and back to Southold Bay through the waters north of the Hampton’s.
The team spent Friday night and Saturday morning washing, wet sanding, and waxing the hulls in preparation for the race. The sails and all of the equipment was checked and double checked. As the team rigged up their rocketship, the breeze built to a welcomed 10-12 knots from the West. Although it wasn’t a good direction for breaking the record, the breeze was expected to build throughout the day and made for a really exciting sail.
They made it to the startline with ten minutes to spare. Although Ladi has sailed the Nacra extensively, it was Brock’s first time driving a catamaran as powerful as the 20. Right after the start, he headed up to avoid a slower boat, and couldn’t release the mainsheet fast enough. SPLASH!, the boat flipped over and the competition sped off in the distance.
After a brief swim they righted the boat, launched the spinnaker, and started to fly! Passing their first boat 10 minutes later. Brock made up for his initial blunder, driving hard downwind and 40 minutes into the race they were nearly half way through the 25 mile course and had passed all but 2 catamarans. The breeze built to a solid 15 knots, allowing the Nacra 20 to reach incredible speeds. To put it in perspective, even the safety boats couldn’t keep up with the Oakcliff sailors.
The downwind sleigh ride ended, as the fleet sailed through Sag Harbor and headed back up hill. The seas had grown to about 2 feet and the wind was now gusting past the 15 knot mark. Ladi coached Brock on his upwind driving; after a couple miles Brock stopped pinching and started driving the boat “like he stole it,” flying a hull the majority of the time and continuing to catch the leaders while putting distance on those competitors behind. Line honors were looking more and more certain, until disaster struck again. In Shelter Island Sound, with 5 miles left, the jib sheet system failed costing the team at least 15 minutes as they tried to jury rig it.
Even with less than ideal jib trim, the strongest puffs of the day rolled off of Cedar’s Beach and on a close reach Ladi and Brock were doing their best Volvo 70 impression, with waves “fire-hosing” the boat at 20+ knots. Unfortunately, the damage was already done and any chance of a podium finish evaporated. The crew crossed the line in 5th place overall which in my book is still very respectable.
Although the regatta didn’t go as planned, it was still a very valuable learning experience for Brock. Ladi and Brock were happy to finish the race with no major damage to the boat,minus a couple bruised egos. The Southold YC volunteers could not be any more welcoming and helpful. The North Fork again proved to be an excellent venue for cat racing, offering up plenty of sea breeze over a good mixture of flat water and challenging chop. The Nacra 20 will spend the rest of the summer behind the Southold Yacht Club, to take advantage of the reliable wind. Sapling OD will be joining the catamaran racing team, sponsored by Smith Optics. The team will continue to train in hopes of winning the Whitebread Regatta in October, which is the largest regatta out east.
The team would like to thank Oakcliff for providing this powerful boat, Southold Yacht Club for providing storage, and the Kraebel Family for housing the crew. Thanks to their support, Oakcliff has the fastest boat on the East End!