2016 Canadian Contender Championships

By Mike Smits (CAN 2398)

I swear (just like Donald Trump keeps claiming) there’s a conspiracy.  Every year a ringer would appear on the horizon as the Canadian Contender Championship came into view. Two years ago Ethan Bixby made the long trek up from Florida and dominated the Canadian fleet – so much so that his name was on the trophy before the event started !  Last year Cristoph Engel came over from Germany to coach us and then won the Championship. So this year I was looking for the 2017 ringer – and although we had our favorite Contender sailor from Ohio it was just the locals this year.

The day of the regatta dawned bright and sunny with a moderate north easterly as we sailed out into Lake Ontario south of the Toronto Islands.  While the wind was cool the long hot summer meant the water was still quite warm making for a perfect day. The first race say Stephanie Mah leading the fleet to the windward mark in solid trapezing conditions with a short chop which put a premium on keeping the boat moving.  The first two reaches where quite broad and Stephanie led the fleet until an unfortunate capsize as she sailed by the lee near the jibe mark allowed Mike Smits to round the mark at the front of the fleet. The long second beat saw the fleet split and at the windward mark Roger Martin had taken command followed by Peter White from Ohio.  Down the run Roger maintained his lead while Pete White felt the hot breath of Mike Smits as they closed in on the leeward mark. As Peter rounded the mark he failed to hook in or had hooked in and the hook came off of his trapeze belt (the full investigation of this unfortunate incident continues) but as he hardened up he did quite a lovely backflip off the side of his boat. This allowed Mike Smits to sneak through into second and Pete was able to right his boat quickly and finish third.

The second race saw conditions beginning to lighten somewhat.  Stephanie again showed very good speed and was first to the windward mark followed by Mike and Roger.  On the second reach Mike managed to squeeze by Stephanie and take the lead by the leeward mark. On the next beat Stephanie went left and Mike and Roger went right.  Mike began feeling threatened by Roger as it looked like Roger was slowly reeling him in. Mike tacked away in an effort to consolidate and put himself between Roger and the mark but Roger continued going right and made consistent gains.  Stephanie made the right call by going left and comfortably regained the lead. Mike managed to hold off Roger and the procession continued to the finish line – giving Stephanie the victory.

The third race saw the wind continue to shift to the south and, as a result, the first beat was a long single fetch to the “windward” mark as the windward mark was not moved.  It was all about getting a good start near the committee boat with boat speed to get a lane and hold it. Mike Smits managed to get and keep a clear lane and was first to the windward mark followed by Roger and Stephanie.  With all the legs basically being reaching legs it was difficult to pass and the finishing order was largely determined by the first leg.

By the fourth race the wind was quite a bit lighter so there were definite holes up the course. With the windward mark now moved it was more of a true windward leg. Roger Martin was first to the windward mark and dominated throughout the race. The two Pete’s -- Peter Hale and Peter White sailed an excellent first beat and were neck and neck the entire race with Peter Hale taking second place and Peter White close behind.

The final race of the day saw the wind continue to shift to the south and lighten some more.  Holding one’s concentration and sailing in pressure was crucial. Roger Martin continued to dominate the fleet he establishing a lead and never looked back.  Peter White had a clean consistent race (no worries about hooking in at this wind strength) and finished second. Frank Whittington, the grand master of the fleet, sailed a stellar last leg and passed several boats to finish third.

At the end of the first day Roger Martin had established a clear lead with three firsts, a second and a third.  The pressure was on the rest of the fleet to pick up their game. The fleet retired to the Club house for a fine dinner of barbequed steak, salad and beer. Certainly the highlight of the post-race festivities was the celebration of Peter White’s 59th birthday.  The cake was great the singing - not so much.

Sunday dawned bright and sunny with a lovely breeze of 9-10 knots from the east.  Good solid trapezing weather with some nice waves. A perfect day for a regatta.

The first two races were almost dead ringers of each other.  Mike Smits managed to establish a lead by the first mark followed by Roger Martin.  Mike managed to keep a loose cover over Roger making it very difficult to pass. Peter Hale came into his own finding an extra gear and was able to consistently sail into third place followed by Stephanie in 4th  and Peter White in 5th.

With seven races in the bag and drops entering the equation things where getting much tighter at the top.  The eighth race saw Peter Hale leading at the windward mark and holding that position for most of the race.  On the final run Pete started the run with a five boat length lead and did a bit of a great circle route to the leeward mark.  Mike was able to close the gap and call for room at the leeward mark which was graciously acknowledged and given by Pete. Pete did a superb mark rounding coming in with speed and was able to punch above Mike and get a little bit of separation and height. Pete snatched victory from Mike who was left with his head spinning wondering how he managed to piss that one away. Peter White was a strong third followed by Stephanie and Roger.

It all came down to the final race.  Mike and Roger were tied both having three firsts and three seconds after drops were taken into consideration.  The two Pete’s got off to a blazing start and where clearly ahead at the first mark followed by Stephanie and then Mike and Roger.  The two Pete’s maintained their lead as the wind began to lighten and the rest of the fleet closed up a little. It came down to the last windward leg.  The two Pete’s split tacks. Peter Hale went left and Peter White went right – which was the way to go. Mike also went right and found a bit more breeze and a lift and managed to just beat Peter White for the win.  Roger was able to just pip Peter Hale at the line for third.

After two great days of sailing Mike Smits was handed the victory by just two points followed by Roger Martin, Peter Hale, Peter White, Stephanie Mah, Frank Whittington and Rick Needham.     

Stephanie Mah