2024 North Americans Championship Results Are In

Harris/Byron edge Koby/Mah in Annapolis for North Americans; Clifford/Brandt close behind 

Conveniently for mid-atlantic USA Albacore sailors, the Canadian Albacore Association chose the prestigious Helly Hansen / Sailing World NOOD regatta in Annapolis as the site of the Canada-hosted 2024 Albacore North American Championship regatta. The Friday-Saturday-Sunday format meant that not everyone could take time off, but 11 USA boats still participated. Canada sent 8 more teams, bringing registrations to 19. This strong showing made for good visibility for the Albacore class – although the majority of the 220 boats in 17 classes were one-design keelboats, Albacores were seen in the company of popular modern dinghies like Viper 640’s, Melges 15’s and the single-handed foiling Waspz’s. Four courses were set-up across the Bay; Albacores were grouped with one large fleet (J22’s) and two small fleets (J24’s and Alberg 30’s). We were directed to the north course situated almost to mid-bay, not far south of the Bay Bridge.

Annapolis Yacht Club’s Sailing Center in Eastport was the center of ceremony & festivities, as well as the assigned home of the Albacore fleet. Cars were banned from the parking lot, affording us plenty of space for our base of operations (street parking in the nearby neighborhoods turned out to be not much of an issue, either). Crane and dolly launching were both available; however, the latter turned out to be a challenge because just one boat at a time could fit on the float (unusually, people who brought their crane slings were sometimes able to jump the dolly queue and get launched more quickly).

Most contestants were able to arrive and set up by Thursday evening. The Canadian contingent rented an Airbnb down the street, which, predictably, became the local Albacore social center. Barney Harris positioned his Keelbnb on a mooring ball nearby in the harbor, so we all could admire it while sailing by twice a day.

We had wind all three days, although temperatures were on the cool side – wetsuits were mostly worn Friday and Saturday. The air was 60 degrees with a few showers and 15 knots on Friday; it was about 5 degrees colder on Saturday, with 10-15 knot winds, rain and fog. Some forecasts Sunday morning were dire, calling for unpredictable waves of nastiness. This convinced some of us to pack boats and take refuge in nearby coffee shops. However, the weather system actually delivered only light and relatively warm winds all day (5-8 mph), eventually climbing to 68 degrees.

As far as notable participants, the Byron family was the most strongly represented: David flew in from the west coast to race with Barney all three days; Optimist stand-out Jake Beaver raced with Grandmother Daphne on Friday; and Mom Joanna took his place for Saturday and Sunday. Chris Maslowski completed all races Friday even though it was his birthday; and Henry Pedro earned the travel award (had one been given) for trekking down from Nova Scotia. Mike Scardaville’s adventure turned unhappy during the 2nd race on Friday when a J-22 sailing blind on port tack delivered a taco-crunch blow to his port gunwale. The wound may prove to be fatal for 7104, but Mike — with a check-in-hand from the offending J-22 — took it in stride while packing up, sounding determined to try again on another day.

Eventual winners Barney Harris and David Byron were as fast as anyone on the water (or very slightly faster most of the time, in the opinion of some observers), while doing their usual job of consistently picking smart routes up the beats — this made it hard work for anyone in the fleet to keep up. Still, although they won all three races Friday when the chop was most difficult, the fleet got faster and more compact on the weekend. Raines Koby and Stephanie Mah were consistent all three days, and especially strong while mastering the patchy winds on Sunday to win 2 of the 3 races (and 3 of the last 5 overall). In the end they finished just four points behind Barney and David. Paul Clifford and Mia Brandt posted high finishes in all races and won one, finishing close behind in 3rd place. JJ and Tracy Hall also had a terrific series, locking in 4th place after having won one race and finishing just once out of the top 5 (not counting the last race, which was optional for them by that point). Henry Pedro and Chris Gorton rounded out the top five, having perfected the art of footing for speed and hanging it out there for leverage at just the right times. Notable also on Saturday: Tyler Philips and Eliza Pearce had a strong 3-race string of 5-6-6. Also notable on Sunday: Mike Heinsdorf and Jill Williamson wrapped up with a 2-5-5 – without a broken jib car on Saturday, they would have been strong contenders for a top-five finish.

Photo below: Albacore race leaders Gale Warning and Fire and Ice were fast enough to have to duel with a tight pack of J-24’s at the windward mark on Saturday, as captured by the official drone video footage shown during the evening social events (highlights from all three days can be found on YouTube, and are highly recommended)

So congratulations to Barney and David for holding off Raines and Stephanie to become the 2024 North American Champions (and earning a slot in Sailing World’s championship regatta in the Caribbean later this year). Thanks also to AYC and the Helly Hansen / Sailing World organizers for running the most ambitious of regattas. Everyone there was encouraging us to come back next year; hopefully we will be able to swing it and make another strong showing!

– Greg Jordan

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