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Gibson Island/Tom Price Wins 2023 North Americans
February 25, 2024

By Greg Mancusi-Ungaro

A team from Gibson Island, Maryland (USA) skippered by Tom Price, took advantage of a special invitation to the 2023 IOD North American Invitational Regatta (Sept. 8-10) and won the regatta, giving a boost to their aspirations to create a new IOD fleet.  

The Marblehead Fleet and the Corinthian Yacht Club hosted seven teams for the annual invitational. Skippers included Sofie Dowling, Northeast Harbor (the 2022 North American champion); Rachel Morrison, Marblehead; Kevin Farrar, Fishers Island (a past world champion); Jennifer Miller, Long Island Sound; Eric Leitner, Manhattan; and Hugh Watlington, Bermuda.  To round out the seven-team field, a special invite was extended to the new group of Chesapeake Bay IOD owners to field a team.

Notably, for the first time at any IOD event there was near gender parity among the skippers—three of the seven teams were helmed by female sailors. As Rachel Morrison put it, “That’s progress!” 

Tom Price and team Gibson Island (aboard VIKING) lead the way in Race 4 of the 2023 IOD North Americans, hosted by the Marblehead Fleet. Bruce Durkee photo

The regatta started ominously. During registration and the skippers meeting on Friday morning, all the competitors had a long look at large waves—driven by a 20+ knot northeast breeze—tossing the moored IODs about. The sailors would have been forgiven if they imagined that they might spend their day exploring historic Marblehead. The report from the racing area was more favorable—the sea state outside the islands was manageable and the winds were already abating.  By the time a leisurely boat draw was complete. the conditions were suitable for racing, and the first race started only about 20 minutes later than planned.  In winds that continued to ease, Eric Leitner from Manhattan took line honors, followed by Kevin Farrar (Fishers Island) and Sofie Dowling (Northeast Harbor).

The windspeed fell away to near zero, and then a small southerly appeared—enough to start a race, but not enough to finish one; the Gibson Island team was tantalizingly close to the first mark when the time limit expired.  No one complained when the Marblehead support boats came alongside the competitors offering tows back to the harbor.  The competitors had plenty of time to put on their fancy clothes and return to a wonderful dinner at the Corinthian Yacht Club. All memories of lumpy seas and light air vanished in the haze of good food and good company. 

Rachel Morrison (Marblehead), Sofie Dowling (Northeast Harbor), and Jennifer Miller (Long Island Sound) skippered three of the seven teams at the 2023 IOD North American Invitational Regatta.

Saturday was a day of marginal wind and wild wind shifts. Once again, the Race Committee, led by PRO Mark Toso, did everything it could to give good racecourses, but the conditions were such that only one race was completed. Late in the race, Bermuda’s Hugh Watlington maneuvered to be on the right side of a key shift to slide into first place and claimed Race No. 2. He was followed by Gibson Island’s Tom Price, narrowly beating the Manhattan team across the line. That evening the sailors adjourned to a private home in Marblehead for a hearty informal feast. 

The final day of racing was terrific—although overcast skies dominated the morning, they gave way to sunshine midday, and the breezes were picture perfect. Gibson Island showed their stuff in the early races on Sunday and made the sport look easy, taking two firsts.  Kevin Farrar of Fishers, back in IODs this year for the first time in many years, banged off enough rust to lead the fleet to the finish line in the final race. 

At the end of the weekend, the Officers’ Trophy was awarded to the Gibson Island team of Tom Price Sadie Price, Bif Hearn, Leigh Murray, Paul van Cleve and the sailors from Gibson Island.  Second place prizes went to the Northeast Harbor team of Sofie Dowling, Sean Beaulieu, Riley Donahue, Alec Fisichella, and Lucas Ingebritson. Third was the Manhattan Yacht Club team of Eric Leitner, Tre Jones, John Laskas, and Doug Witter.

Skipper Tom Price and his daughter Sadie claim the Officers’ Trophy at the 2023 IOD North American Invitational.

Tom Price also deserves a shoutout for providing a good part of the energy that is propelling interest in IODs down on the Chesapeake. The generous short-term loan of a boat by San Francisco’s Paul Zupan got things moving down there, and although that boat has gone back to San Francisco, there are now three boats that call Gibson Island home. Two are transplants from Long Island Sound/Manhattan, but the third boat—Spectacular— is a brand-new boat built at South Shore Marine up in Chester, Nova Scotia. Gibson Island is off to a great start—having the Officers’ Trophy in their clubhouse until next summer can only spur more excitement.

The North Americans would not have been possible were it not for the fantastic work of PRO Mark Toso, from the Corinthian Yacht Club.  Championship-length courses with 1.5-nautical-mile beats were consistently set, and the downwind legs were reoriented to the ever-shifting winds to give the competitors the squarest possible runs. Classy. Race durations averaged just over 90 minutes, and the long beats and runs afforded skippers lots of interesting strategic choices (and passing lanes). There were no wire-to-wire wins, and no horizon jobs.  The Corinthian Yacht Club headed by Jim Rasides, commodore, and Dave Titus, CYC manager, was an amazing event host.

We had a great trio of US Sailing Judges at our event — Chief Judge and National Judge Danielle Lawson, Regional Judge Dr. Jim Hunter, and Club Judge Charlyn Feeney. They were ready for us every day, but the competing teams stayed out of trouble. 

The engine that makes our wonderful IOD events possible is the incredible generosity of our boat owners. It would be impossible to thank the Marblehead owners enough for again offering their prized IODs to a group of visiting sailors that they do not know well. Those visitors proved they were deserving of that trust—there were no incidents between the boats.

Marblehead is on tap to host the World Championship in summer 2026.  It should be a great event!

2023 North American Invitational Final Scores: 1. GIB/Price 4-2-1-1-3=11; 2. NEH/Dowling 3-5-3-4-2=17; 3. MAN/Leitner 1-3-7-3-4=18; 4. FI/Farrar 2-6-5-5-1=19; 5. BER/Watlington 5-1-2-7-5=20; 6. MHD/Morrison 6-4-4-2-6=22; 7. LIS/Miller 8DNF-7-6-6-7=34

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