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2017 Celebrity Invitational
Aug 21, 2017

posted Aug 21, 2017, 7:08 AM by IOD-WCA Webmaster

Richard Werdiger of Great Harbor Yacht Club became the first local helmsman since 2008 to take top honors at the IOD Celebrity Invitational Regatta (August 17-18), a marquis event of Nantucket Race Week. It was a back-to-back win for his celebrity tactician, Jud Smith, who was on the same podium last year with skipper Ted Moore of Marblehead. This time around, Moore and celebrity tactician Mark Reynolds accumulated the same score as Werdiger/Smith, losing the tie-breaker to the winners’ three first place finishes. New York Yacht Club commodore Phil Lotz, with celebrity tactician Mike Marshall finished a close third, one point behind the tied leaders.
A magic formula draws some of the country’s best sailors to the regatta. The potion mixes several special ingredients. Member-owned Nantucket IOD Fleet Association offers up its sparkling matched set of 15 identical International One Design class sloops. Nantucket Yacht Club and Great Harbor Yacht Club combined for flawless race management and well planned onshore activities. Many local and summer residents open their homes to accommodate the visiting sailors, while others volunteer for essential support roles. The kicker might be the mission of the event – fundraising support for Nantucket Community Sailing – that lures elite sailors to take a busman’s holiday and give back to the sport. These world and national champions, Olympians, America’s Cup veterans and similarly accomplished experts constitute a pool of Celebrity Tacticians, who are “auctioned” among the entrants – themselves top amateur helmsmen and crew from various parts of the country, whose entry fees and donations support NCS.
Nantucket Sound deserves its reputation as a great sailboat racing venue. But nature is fickle, and the fleet drifted on the first of two scheduled race days, as vying weather fronts conspired to skunk all racing other than a practice lap. The race committee, headed by NYC’s Eric Robbins regrouped very early on day two, pulling off four flawless races and a legitimate test, worthy of the competitors. Thirteen to sixteen knots of wind from the south, with only subtle shifts, placed a premium on clean starts, speed and boat handling. Tidal current, ebbing east to west across the north-south course seemed to be a minor determinant.
In every race, the fleet rounded the initial upwind mark within twenty seconds of the leaders. Ensuing tangles, penalty turns and downwind theatrics created some separation, but the fight continued for every position throughout the fleet. Talent was deep, and it was sometimes difficult to discern which elite sailor bore the celebrity designation. Reigning IOD world champion Charlie VanVoorhis, US Sailing head Jack Gearhart and Sailing World editor Dave Reed comprised the “civilian” crew of fourth place skipper Gary Jobson and celebrity tactician Pat Healy.
Among numerous elite female tacticians who were invited, the only woman in that role this year was Suzy Leech, assigned to a crack team led by Henry Filter of Chesapeake Bay. Leech’s fleet and match racing skills were on display in every start. Their team “Wild Child” led the first race wire to wire.
Werdiger’s winning crew included Miles Cameron, Will Christensen and John Edenbach, all skilled amateurs with day jobs as teacher, banker and audio specialist. Their tactician Jud Smith, head of one-design sails for Doyle Sailmakers, packs a long resume of sailing accomplishments, from dinghies to America’s Cup and offshore racers. After a premature start in the first race, the team had zero margin for error, needing three aces just to tie for points. In this fleet, doing so made the win especially well deserved.
During the awards ceremony, honorary chair Tom Whidden recognized event co-chairs Sandy Adzick and Chris Gould and the many people making the regatta possible. The Allsopp Trophy, which is dedicated to the late, longtime supporter and regular participant in the event Jim Allsopp, was presented to the winners by his son James.
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