Written by: Michael Hansen for Sailing World
The final day of the 2019 Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta at Marblehead Race Week reached a dramatic conclusion across multiple fleets. With lighter winds and a strong cross-course current, the opportunity for both gains and losses presented trying circumstances for hundreds of one-design sailboat racers.
Matt Hooks and Rob Pascal of Marblehead’s Eastern Yacht Club pulled out a narrow win in the Rhodes 19 fleet. The duo staved off a late-regatta charge from fellow competitor, David Nelson (Stoughton, MA). Going into the last race of the regatta, Hooks and Pascal held a narrow 3-point lead over Nelson and crew Ken Delpapa, who were putting together a brilliant second-half of their regatta. “It was a battle all the way through,” says Hooks. “David and I were around each other all day, and we knew we had to beat each other to win, so we never let each other out of our sights.”
Hooks had one anxious moment when a boat passed him just before the finish of the final race. “We knew we had a three-point cushion, and when that boat passed us, we realized we were tied. Luckily we came out on top this time.”
Hooks has established early leads to the NOOD Regatta at Marblehead Race Week in the past, but this was the first time he was able to come away with the win. "It was great to finally put one away," says Hooks. "Big thanks to my crew, Rob, for keeping things calm in the boat, and to David Nelson, who sailed a brilliant regatta." By winning the Rhodes 19 Fleet, Hooks was awarded the Norman E Cressy Trophy, which is Marblehead Race Week's perpetual award for the winner of the most competitive class.
The J/70 fleet saw a stacked leaderboard, with three past world-champions in contention on the final day. After three final races, Peter Duncan emerged victorious with his team on Relative Obscurity. “There were four or five boats that could have won this event,” says Duncan, “so we were really happy to come out on top.”
After suffering a bad result early in the regatta, Duncan and team put together an outstanding scoresheet for the final two days of the event, never finishing out of the top three. “It’s awesome coming here to Marblehead,” Duncan says. “Having the NOOD as part of Marblehead Race Week is a great thing. The hospitality here is always superb, and the racing is top-notch, especially when there’s wind.”
Duncan has been sailing with crew Willem Van Waay for the last couple seasons, but this year, he added heavy-hitters, Will Felder and Bill Hardesty to the lineup. “This was a really important regatta for us leading to the worlds in September,” says Duncan. “There isn’t much on the J/70 schedule in August, so our goal was to get out and compete against some stiff competition. With the talent in this fleet, we were obviously able to achieve that.”
One of the most dramatic storylines of the day came out of the J/105 fleet, where Bruce Stone (San Francisco, CA) and Bill Zartler (Houston, TX) were tied going into the final race. Stone and his wife, Nicole Breault, are both match-racing veterans, however, they opted to start clean and sail fast in order to beat their competition, a strategy that ultimately paid off. Zartler ended up in foul trouble with another boat, resulting in him being disqualified from the day’s second race.
Stone’s win at the Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta at Marblehead Race Week is part of a larger rivalry between the two boats. Stone edged out Zartler at the J/105 North Americans in Harbor Springs, MI, last year, so Zartler will be looking for revenge at the North Americans in September in Marblehead. “The boys from Texas always sail well,” says Stone. “We were happy to come away with the championship this time, but we know we haven’t seen the last of those guys.”
In the Etchells fleet, a fantastic final day by Robert Hitchcock (Dorchester, MA) and his crew, Kent Paisley and Timo Platt, sailing aboard Chemical Monkey, saw them move from fourth to first after three races.
“We sailed really consistently,” says Paisley, the team’s tactician. “We did a great job of keeping our boat moving and working together as a team.” Hitchcock’s crew has been sailing together for more than 15 years, competing in the Etchells at the national and international level.
“We didn’t know we had won when we crossed the finish line,” says Paisley. “We had a good day, but we didn’t know it was that good. This is such a competitive fleet, so we just kept our head in the game and things went our way.”
At the awards ceremony at host Boston Yacht Club, Hitchcock and team were presented the new Dave Curtis Marblehead Race Week Trophy, handed out by National Sailing Hall of Fame inductee Dave Curtis. “We’ve seen Dave’s transom plenty of times on the racecourse before,” says Paisley. “He’s a legend of the class and it’s an honor to accept this award in his name.”
At each Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta, fleet winners are given a chance to earn a berth to the year-ending Caribbean Championship in the British Virgin Islands, sponsored by Sunsail. The Marblehead Race Week Challenger is Ryosuke Sakai, of Astoria, NY, winner of the Laser Radial Fleet.
Read the full article with a list of results here