2007 J 30 North Americans One Man’s Perspective
Story by Michael Mark
And so, it all comes down to last race. David McConaughy’s White
Boat and Bob Putnam and Mary Grealy’s Better Mousetrap are tied for the lead
with three other teams, Insatiable, Big Kahuna and Fuzzy Wuzzy within two
points. Any of five different boats can win the regatta on the last day. None
of the top three boats has yet to score a bullet. No one team has dominated.
Everyone has a pocketful of “if only’s” and “what if’s” and “why did we do
that’s?” Who would put together the winning combination of speed and smarts on
the last day in the last race with a national championship hanging in the
balance? Better Mousetrap wins the start, takes the lead and approaches the
windward mark in first place. Can this team of amateurs actually win this
final race? Well, it would have made for a great story, but hey, it’s Annapolis and some days you just don’t get the wind to cooperate. As it was, the winds
did cooperate for the first two days of the 2007 J 30 North Americans hosted by
the Annapolis Yacht Club and provided for some great racing in varying
Months earlier, I had been asked to sail in my first J 30 NA
championship by my dear friends and longtime class stalwarts, Bob Putnam and
Mary Grealy. I had sailed with team Mousie in the 2005 NOODs and jumped at the
chance to sail with them again. Bob and Mary’s team of Eric, Kathy, Whitney
and Todd were a well oiled machine. Bob had the boat perfectly prepped and
going fast. My job was to catch a few shifts, play the main and keep us out of
trouble. And as the regatta played out, keeping out of trouble was huge. On
the first day with the breeze up and a shortish line, there were a number of
things flying, including red flags and Russell Dunleavy, the bowman from Smiles. Some of those red flags involved
Bill Wallop’s Cannonball with Larry Leonard onboard who a great day on the
course but not so much in the room. The wind was consistently inconsistent and
tough to figure out as evidenced by the fact that there were nine different
boats that placed either first, second or third in the three races sailed. The
trick was risk management on the first day and Bengt Johansson’s Fuzzy Wuzzy
did the best job at that and took the first day lead by two points over Better
Mousetrap. Fuzzy Wuzzy also rescued the flying, swimming crewmember that I
mentioned earlier. The
swimming crewmember resulted from an unfortunate port/stbd collision just
before the third race that put Smiles out of commission for the day. We scored
Russell Dunleavy a 9.5 on degree of difficulty and 9.7 on style as he did a
back flip off the bow pulpit and landed in the water between Smiles and Fat
City. Smiles had to withdraw before the start and motored back with a gash in
the port bow, bent bow pulpit, head stay sheared off and the crew member who
“jumped ship”! AYC did a
great job with their RC and the dinner and the class did an awesome job with
some beautiful awards for daily first, second and thirds.
The second day dawned with a stiff breeze and predictions for it
to build. Everyone bundled up, put on their foulies and put up their number
threes for the first race. Amazingly,
Smiles showed up at the starting line ready to race looking like “Rudolph the
Red Nosed Reindeer” from the red duct tape used to cover the port bow gash. Big Kahuna took an early lead in the
big breeze and got the bullet with the White Boat second. The wind dropped
substantially for the next race and Cannonball took the win with Kahuna, Ron
Anderson’s Insatiable with Jonathan Barlett and the White Boat putting up some
low numbers and moving up the standings and looking forward to the sixth race
when the throwout would kick in. Seeing that wind was dropping, at the next
start we decided to try the America’s cup trick of sending a man up the rig to
spot the wind. Well actually we lost a halyard in the previous race but I thought
the AC story worked better. Unfortunately, he was having such a good time that
he refused to come down, so we had to do the old “man up the rig, no headsail”
start. I don’t recommend it. Deckworks found some breeze and a nice shift and
cruised to victory with Circus second. After our nonrecommended “man up the
rig, no headsail” start, we had closed the fourth and had Cannonball in our
sights. Foolishly our tactician, me, called for a slam dunk not realizing that
you can’t do it in a J 30 in light air. Well, you CAN do it but it doesn’t
work and is not recommended. With the throwout now in play, we got to the dock
with no idea of the actual standings but I knew it was going to be close
between a bunch of teams. I had no idea it was going to be five teams within
Again AYC provided a great dinner and again the J 30 class
provided some great daily awards. With the standings so close there was some
good natured ribbing and some attempts to over serve certain team members in
order to gain an advantage for the next day’s racing. If we only would have
known that there would be no race the next day, we could have bought ourselves
more drinks instead of our competitors!! Nonetheless, it was an extremely
close fought and well sailed contest. Congratulations to Team White Boat on
their first NA win. Congratulations to Team Mousetrap on their second place
and top amateur prize and thanks Bob and Mary for letting me sail with you.
Thanks to all the competitors and everyone at AYC. I certainly hope to do some
more J 30 events in the future.
Special Thanks to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and Resolve Marine for cleaning up our harbor!
THANK YOU TEAM LOUIS!
In Memory of NOYC I
60 SECOND INTERVIEW
WITH NOYC RACE CHAIRMAN
For those who
do not know Dave, he is a dedicated volunteer in the New Orleans Sailing
World. Erwin lead a team to develop NOYC.org to an unprecedented demand
exceeding 6,000,000 hits and added the message board in 2002 which served as a
communications point for many sailors in the GYA during the Katrina disaster.
Dave has served on the New Orleans YC Board and Flag roles for several terms
and is rumored to run for Commodore next year. He is one of seven
outstanding sailors who won 5 consecutive North American Championships in the
J/30 class. As a past Leukemia Cup Chairman, his team broke the $100,000
mark for this first time in history. Erwin’s next challenge is to rebuild the
NOYC Race Committee with help from many volunteers to include Paul McCaskell,
Phil Pizzeck, David Herrera, Mike Howell and many others.
We had a
chance to catch up with Dave at his top secret lunch location in Metairie to
get his story about NOYC’s RC in the past and future.
NOYC.org: Tell us about what it was
like to run RC this past year – post Katrina.
Dave: Katrina left us with very
little. We lost NOYC1, flags, racing marks, Autohoot, basically everything. Due
to the generosity of CSA, SYC and Bob Maher, were able to host the full
schedule of races. CSA loaned us supplies, Shawn O’Daniels
purchased us a brand new set of North Sails RC flags. Bob Maher offered the
use of Second Cup. SYC let us use Patrol II during Mardi Gras
Regatta. Robert Wientjes, Rob Grisoli and Guy Brierre
have loaned scat boats. Without this generosity, we would have struggled to run
NOYC.org: What is it like to run a
Dave: At times it is really tough
to watch the sailboats go by. You really miss the sport. It takes dedication
and sacrifice to provide RC services to your fellow clubs and co-sailors.
Committee is responsible for executing the race from start to finish per US
Sailing Racing Rules of Sailing (R.R.S), GYA regulations, the NOR and SIs as
provided by the organizing authority. Of course, Safety is priority
The key is
to stay connected with the sailors regarding course selection and design. Some
of the PHRF sailors want reaching legs, some do not. You have to balance
needs of everyone and keep the race challenging enough for all. Mardi
Gras Regatta weekend for example, we were trying to keep the Finns separated
from the Capd sailors at the finish line. In doing so, the length of the
Finn course was way too short causing more spectating etc.
flags and executing the race is the easy part, unless of course you have to use
the black flag in a starting sequence. If the wind is blowing, be
prepared for some prep flags other than “P” this year.
nights are really a blast as there is about 10 minutes of activity to start a
race. Then one to two hours to relax before you finish and score.
Since we sail at night, NOYC’s policy for each boat to register every Wednesday
so we can account all sailboats. It REALLY helps to register
online so we can pre-enter boats in the scoring program. The address to
register online is available by accessing http://noyc.org/register.shtml.
returning to shore, you definitely need thick skin. You have to be a good
NOYC.org: Who is Dr. Rules and were did
signed a non-disclosure agreement, so I can’t say anything other than she is a
good friend to all of us. I can not reveal which country she lives.
Simply post a question to Dr. Rules and she will give you a certified
answer. When asking the questions on the NOYC.org/forum,
it is a great learning experience for all.
NOYC.org: Was it hard to find
people to help last year?
Dave: We’ll that is the thing
about running race committee on Second Cup. We had to turn people
away. That is a good problem to have. On Wednesday nights, we
basically need two people to run flags, one to watch the line with x-ray flag
in hand and a Principle Race Officer (PRO) to pick the course, square the line
and manage the start and finishing process. We use two volunteers to
record the scores. Everyone should offer to do RC at least once a
NOYC.org: We see you working as many
SYC races as NOYC. What’s the deal here?
Dave: As big as SYC is, they still
have resource issues due to the mass number of races they host. I would
like to think they have added me to the permanent reserve list. We’re one
virtual Race Committee now-a-days. I will be working on my regional
certification which requires you to serve as RCs across the nation in the
future. If you think about it, this is a great way to ensure that
all RCs are running races using the exact same procedures across the nation and
world. US Sailing encourages this sort of regional and national
NOYC.org: Sugar Bowl Regatta
results took many days to make available online. Why does this take so long?
Dave: The one design races
were scored on paper. For large races, it takes time to compile this
information for posting online. The lake clubs are trying to
standardize scoring programs so we can help each other out – especially for the
larger regattas. For Wednesday night regattas, we typically post results
before we dock using wireless technology. There is no reason why we can’t
do this for larger regattas in the future.
fail to take the step to post results online. This is a huge
mistake. As an example, I hope to volunteer to help the Opti RC post
results online. This information is shared with others in a MYSpace sort
of way. If I wanted to drive web traffic up on Thursday morning, simply
withhold the online results. I wouldn’t do this of course. My
message here is post information about regattas as timely as possible.
People want to know. Our traffic reports suggest that several sailors
actually share information relative to regattas electronically.
NOYC.org: How did you learn how to run
Dave: Bought a book called
Racing Rules of Sailing. Everyone should have a copy, Right? Is
your copy Red or Blue? You need to keep up with the rules as they change
every 3 years.
John Wolf and Phil Pizzeck taught me pretty much everything you can’t learn in
some pretty good RC officers across the GYA. I haven’t met Tooty yet, but
I have been told that he is one of the best. I have really been impressed
with Wallace Paletou, Nathan Adams and Karen Reisch at SYC. I have the benefit of a
great coach and mentor, Norton Booker in the past. He will be missed dearly
NOYC has a great team. Phil Pizzeck served as PRO at Mardi Gras Regatta. David Herrera is running the current Wednesday night series. Paul McCaskell, Barry Hurlburt, Don Griglack and Mike Howell will be running races later this year. The larger the Race Committee team, the more Dave gets to sail!
The bottom line here is we learn from each other.
any interested to pursue the US Sailing Certification program. There is
an excellent course both basic and advanced taught by Houston Yacht Club’s Jim
Tichenor which I highly recommend. When John moved to Seattle, this created a
huge void. I had to step in with very little experience to keep things
going – with lots of help. This training program fast tracked skills.
Here is a
recommended source of Race Management information available on USSailing.org:
Dave: After resetting the staring
line a dozen times during the 2006 Mardi Gras regatta, we were mentally tired
and started a Capdevielle Race while the wind shifted more than 20 degrees to
the right. For many, the first leg was a beat without a single
tack. Our thinking was if we postponed the race, we would fail to get in
5 races. This thinking was obviously wrong and we took some punches from
several people. We should have restarted the race. Race Committees
like most sailors sometimes make mistakes.
after a 60 degree shift at the 2007 Mardi Gras regatta,
we stopped the race to reset marks. Some racers actually complained about
that. Go figure.
NOYC.org: Tell us about NOYC II.
Dave: Kyle Smith connected us with
Gulf Traveler, a Halter Marine boat with a Cummings 555 (aka Triple Nickle)
single screw. In many aspects this boat is laid out much better than
NOYC1. We have a lot of work to do such as installing a mast, generator
and A/C unit with windless, bow pulpit and Bose sterio system etc… Donations
are welcomed! She did very well at Mardi Gras regatta. I
am pretty sure this is the same boat that Gulfport YC uses for RC.
NOYC.org: What types of courses
will we see this year?
Dave: Perhaps we’ll see XUH 4 times
around again, but the Regatta Committee is looking at other options such as
staggered starts and a Big Wheel Regatta for fun. There are limited
options when the wind is blowing from the NorthEast or SouthEast, so the
favorite – JHA will be back for sure. Let us know what you would like,
we’ll entertain all requests.
NOYC.org: Any chance of a mega regatta
in the near future.
Dave: Last year at the Leukemia Cup
kickoff party, Gary Jobson told me that the GYA was in the best position to get
the Olympic trials, which Katrina effectively eliminated our chances. The reasons
provided were shifting wind conditions and the team work between clubs across
the GYA. Everyone worked together to produce a much better product.
Sharing the victory is a must.
pushing for the NOOD and Premier Racing organizers to visit us during LPRC
(which should be renamed to New Orleans Race Week). Perhaps we should
combine Mardi Gras Regatta and Leukemia Cup to attract boats coming from Key
West and Miami in February. The answer to this question is yes, but we
need to take our strengths and fill voids to make it happen. One of our
weaknesses is the number of certified Principle Race Officers (PROs) and US
Sailing Judges in the GYA. I recommend a future interview with US Sailing
Judge, Mike Posey. He can tell people who are interested the steps to
become a judge. We simply need to get those numbers up to meet the demands of
current set of race officers we also have many who are not qualified or trained
to run team and/or match racing events. These are areas which we need to
improve to keep up with the rest of the nation.
outside of the box and see what happens.
NOYC.org: Special thanks for taking
time out of your business schedule away from the Top Secret Lunch place to do
this quick interview. There is a rumor that some of the Hooters girls
have been recruited to assist RC. Is this true?
Dave: Absolutely a possibility.
Hosting a guest or two out on the RC boats is a great way to learn the sport
and recruit new sailors. Some say it should be a required initiation.
Look for a
future party soon to honor everyone who helps the RC this year. And don’t
forget to say: Thank You Race Committee when crossing the finish
60 SECOND INTERVIEW
WITH ESPN'S SAILING COMMENTATOR
NEW ORLEANS, LA For those who do not already know
Gary Jobson, he is a world class sailor, television commentator and author
based in Annapolis, Maryland. He has won many championships in one design
classes, the America's Cup with Ted Turner in 1977, the infamous Fastnet Race
and many of the world's ocean races. In college he was an All American sailor
three times and was twice named College Sailor of the Year (1972, 1973).
2003 Gary was inducted into the America's Cup Hall of Fame by the Herreshoff Marine Museum. In 1999 Jobson won the Nathanael G. Herreshoff Trophy, US
Sailing’s most prestigious award. This trophy is awarded annually to an
individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the sport of sailing in
the United States.
been ESPN's sailing commentator since 1985. In 1988 Jobson won an Emmy for his
coverage of yachting at the Olympic Games in South Korea. Gary has authored 15
sailing books and is Editor at Large of Sailing World and Cruising World
magazines. His newest book is titled A Cat: A Century of Tradition.
Gary, a surviving lymphoma patient is the National Regatta Chairman of the Leukemia & Lymphoma
Society's sailing program and will be speaking at the Leukemia Cup Regatta kick-off
party at Southern Yacht Club (SYC), this January 30th, 2007 @ 7:00 PM. Junior sailors are encouraged to
visit SYC at 6:00 PM for a special presentation to our future sailors.
past twenty-five years Gary has given nearly 2000 lectures throughout the
world. He started his career as a sailing coach at the U.S. Merchant Marine
Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy.
Gary is also an active cruising sailor.
He has led ambitious expeditions to the Arctic, Antarctica and Cape Horn.
currently races his Etchells and owns a Sabre 402.
his wife, Janice, have three college age daughters: Kristi (22) Harvard '06, Ashleigh
(19) Univ. of MD '09, Brooke (19) NYU '09
caught up with Gary for a quick interview. Enjoy the reading and we hope to see
everyone at the kick-off party.
NOYC.org: How did you get started with the
Leukemia Cup Regatta series?
Jobson: In 1993 I was asked to be on a committee to support a
"Leukemia Cup Regatta" in Annapolis. I attended several meetings and
spoke at the opening ceremony. 20 people showed up. It was a slow start but we
recruited 100 boats to sail in the regatta and raised $30,000. Two months later
I was asked to explain sailing at a National Leukemia Cup Society meeting and
came up with the idea of doing it nationally. The date was October 1993.
NOYC.org: What is your most memorable regatta to date?
Jobson: Sailing with Tom Dreyfus on a 70 foot sled in 20 knots off SYC.
NOYC.org: How many regattas will be held this year and how much will be
raised for the Leukemia Society?
Jobson: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is planning on 50 regattas
and raising over $3.5 million.
NOYC.org: How many Leukemia Society events have you personally attended?
NOYC.org: When you became spokesman for the Leukemia Society did you
ever think that you would be so personally involved?
Jobson: No. It was a volunteer effort that seemed like a good idea. I did
not plan on being a consumer of the research.
NOYC.org: What could we sailors do to convince ESPN to cover more
Jobson: Help us improve our ratings. The following programs will be
airing this year:
Acura Key West Race Week, March 11 at 1:30 pm ET on ESPN2
Acura Miami Race Week, March 31 at 12:30 pm ET on ESPN2
America's Cup 1851-2007, April 13 at 7:00pm on ESPN Classic
to racing the Open 50 and the MINI, what are the campaigns that you want to
take on over the next few years?
Finn - After much consideration I am
prepared to focus almost exclusively on the Mini for the next couple of
years.The Open 50’ is a wonderful boat
and I have learned a lot about sailing swing keel/water ballasted boats since
joining Kip Stone and the ArtForms team over a year
ago.As much as I’d like to move into
the larger Open Classes such as the 50’s and 60’s I am still a long way off
from finding the sort of funding required for such a project.As it stands now, I have a proven Mini design
and several years to train leading up to 2009 Mini Transat.This is a race I feel like I have to do.
-How has that MINI
performed out on the Lake?
Finn - She has performed surprisingly well
for her 21’ length and PHRF rating of 75.So far we have only done three Wednesday night races and in two of those
we’ve scored 3rd and 1st in fleet.What
we know is that she is very fast on light air reaches with the code zero and
she cannot come close to her rating upwind in anything.These are the only conditions we’ve had the
opportunity to race in so far.There is
still a tremendous amount to learn about making the boat fast and reliable,
which Clark Thompson and I will be working on leading up to the 2007 Bermuda 1-2.
is RyanFinnOcean Racing going to be working on up at
Finn - We will be there to drum up
excitement about Mini racing in the States, my campaign and the Owen/Clarke
production Mini that we plan to build here in New Orleans.
-How best would
you describe the racing atmosphere outside of the States?
Finn - Much, much better, in every class.At least in Europe.From shorthanded ocean racing to small boat one design, the Europeans
are much farther ahead in the game of commercializing sailing.
approached you about using the MINI for Challenge Cup?
Finn - Nope, and unless my rating is
improved and they start putting a few distance races in the format, I won’t
have to worry about other people breaking my boat for a while.
are you working with Clark Thompson and Cat 5 on building production of the MINI's in New Orleans?
Finn - I’m sort of in an advisory role
-Any word on
any other MINI's coming to the Lake or GulfCoast?
Finn - So far nothing solid.I’m still trying to
find a way to get Anthony Hudson a boat.It looks like we’ll just have to build them.
-Have you named
your MINI yet?
Finn - Not officially, but I’m thinking
“Hey America, Louisiana is Disappearing”
or HALID… something to that effect.This
is one of those things that just needs to be spelled
out.Its amazing how little Americans
know about coastal erosion and how hugely it’s affecting Louisiana.It was amazing how little I knew about it up until a year ago!I was watching Robert
Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” when it was happening under my own feet!
-Word is that
you plan on using your racing platform to help bring about awareness for
coastal restoration in Louisiana, tell us a little bit about your
goals here and some of the things you've been doing?
Finn - You noticed.Currently I travel quite a bit, so whenever
I’m asked how things are in New Orleans I take the opportunity to explain
the harsh realities of living on or near the LouisianaGulfCoast.I mention that we lose 26
square miles of wetland each year, which is more than is lost anywhere else
in the world!And that Louisiana represents over 40% of the nation’s
wetlands. I always make it clear that there is a solution to the problem and
that while the US government has spent billions of
dollars in Boston to help solve a traffic problem, a
nasty one it may have been, they are allowing the Louisiana coast, our first line of defense
against hurricanes like Katrina, to disappear.
I can just
imagine the thought process in Washington.“I don’t know which has a worse effect on US citizens, really bad
traffic in Boston or New Orleans filling with water.Maybe, I mean it’s
possible people will drown in their attics, but I don’t know, I’ve never
drowned in my attic. I have however sat through traffic, and traffic - now I
can tell you from first hand experience - that it is inconvenient!Besides, New Orleans hasn’t contributed anything since
drunken naked people, and I have a family now.Do people even vote in New Orleans?”
like traffic either, but there is a reason we sit through it during
the entire GulfCoast
But as of
yet I don’t have a formalized approach to educating people on coastal
issues.The biggest step is getting
people to realize that we have coastal issues.Traffic would be a luxury.
- With a lot
of us living vicariously through you on these endeavors, how can your local fan
base help you bring these challenges to fruition?
Finn - I really need a title sponsor.Mostly we are focusing on companies who are
looking for representation in Europe, but with two years leading up to my bringing the boat to Europe, there are lots of opportunities
for good press in the States.
company would be interested in sponsoring Ryan, please contact his team
directly through the website where they can provide you with all the details.
Or if you’d like to make a personal/corporate monetary donation to Ryan Finn’s
campaigns, please mail a check to the following. He will be eternally grateful.
RyanFinnOcean Racing, LLC
1020 Race St. Suite 1
New Orleans, LA70130
Interviewed for NOYC.org by Troy Gilbert
From Buccaneer to Beijing
The U.S. Sailing Association has named Mobilian Donnie Brennan boatwright for the United States Olympic sailing team
Thursday, August 17, 2006
By CASANDRA ANDREWS
Mobile Press-Register Staff Reporter
(Reprinted with Permission from www.press-register.com)
People in sailing circles have a name for Donnie Brennan. Those who look for ways to cut seconds from their times in competition racing call the Mobile man the "Merchant of Mojo."
Brennan and his business partner Tom Copeman are known far and wide for their skills at customizing various parts of sailboats. New owners have been known to send a just-off-the-assembly line vessel directly to Mobile before they ever see the boat, wanting the local craftsmen to work their magic.
"They say 'Do the mojo on it," Brennan said.
Brennan is so good at what he does that he was recently tapped by the U.S. Sailing Association to be the boatwright for America's Olympic sailing team. Which means he'll be bringing his expertise to the Olympic trials and games in and around Beijing in coming years.
Beginning Friday, which is two years before the start of the 2008 Olympic Games, 34 members of the U.S. sailing team will get a taste of Olympic competition at the Good Luck Beijing 2006 Qingdao International Regatta. The event runs through the end of the month.
The first of two annual Olympic test events, the regatta is at the Qingdao International Marina in Qingdao, a coastal city located 430 miles east of Beijing. Brennan traveled there last week to prepare for the event.
"It's my job to make sure all the boats are optimized and ready to go," Brennan said of what he'll be expected to do for the top-ranked sailors.
What he does while he's there depends on what happens with the boats that race. If some part of the structure of a boat is damaged, it's Brennan's job to fix it as quickly as possible.
He's bringing a stash of personal products to help make repairs go smoother. In an ice chest, Brennan said he packed sandpaper, sanders and carbon fiber, fabrics, core materials and other Fiberglas supplies.
"Abrasives are a big part of my life," Brennan joked a few weeks back. "When people ask what I do for a living I say 'I sand stuff'."
Two years ago, during Olympic sailing events in Greece, Brennan said he had a hard time finding the kind of sandpaper he liked. During those games he was hired as a private contractor for sailing teams from several other countries.
While in China this month, Brennan has plans to look for an apartment to rent so when he returns next year for Olympic trials he can bring his wife, Sally.
When he's not traveling to the Far East, Brennan can usually be found in shorts and a T-shirt at Diversified Marine Services off Dauphin Island Parkway, where he and Copeman refinish and repair hulls, as well as modify keels, rudders and rigging. Their business also includes restoring old vessels.
They've been in the same spot for about 13 years, Brennan said, adding that "without Mr. Copeman, I could never do this alone."
Industrial fans stirred the air inside the shop on a recent afternoon, circulating the pungent aroma of fresh paint and epoxy. Two boats sat in the middle of the business, one a shell of its former
The local company caters to the serious one-design sailor, Brennan said, which means that about 85 percent of their clients live out of town. The term one-design refers to a class boats' standards for materials and methods used in construction, according to officials with U.S. Sailing.
Brennan said he handles more of the Fiberglas repairs while Copeman's expertise is woodworking. "He's very, very good at it," Brennan said. "Between the two of us we discovered we could do just about anything."
Their customers seem to agree. When Brennan tells someone it will be at least three months before he can look at his boat, he typically waits without complaint. Customers also don't mind hauling their pride and joy behind trucks for 10 or 12 hours just to get to the business near Mobile Bay.
Some clients seal up boat pieces in bubblewrap and ship them to Alabama for inspection.
"He's just been around boats all his life," said Brennan's wife, Sally. "He's so meticulous. He's a craftsman."
One of eight children, Brennan is the son of a boat builder. He grew up in New Orleans then moved to Mobile as a teenager.
Brennan has taught sailboating courses and retains memberships at Buccaneer Yacht Club and New Orleans Yacht Club.
A few months before Hurricane Katrina destroyed his waterfront home in Mobile, Brennan wrote to the Louisiana club, telling them his plans to resign.
"About six weeks went by and I get this certificate in the mail," he said. "They rejected my resignation and made me a lifetime honorary member."
When he and his family evacuated their home last August, he grabbed the letter. "That was one of the first things I took out," Brennan said. "That was one of my prize possessions."
trimming in and I had a boat above me and a boat to leeward of me and I had to
go right then. I’m screaming Choquer! Choquer! So my mainsheet trimmer is easing when I meant
trim. He goes almost all the way out with it and now I’m really screaming Choquer!and then I
realize I’m screaming the wrong thing. Oh no! Border! Border!”It didn’t bode well for New Orleans racer and sailmaker,
Benz Faget, competing in the Zoo Regatta on the island of Guadeloupe this past January.
In a race
peppered with America’s Cup sailors and more than a few Rolex’s getting wet,
it’s safe to assume that being forced to race with a pick-up crew who only
spoke French and starting out with a 6th and a 4th in the
Championship round – the odds were pretty insurmountable that he could win.
regular crew back in New Orleans standing down because of the
devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Benz remembers telling them, “Don’t worry
about it. This is going to be a total shambles anyway.”
the race organizers cobbled together a mish-mash of crew for him made up of a
charter boat Captain who had only raced twice and three others who had crewed
on boats that didn’t even make it into the Zoo qualifying round - only two of
them had ever raced together before.
them for the first time as he walked up the dock at the marina in Gosier, he was promptly handed a hastily typed up French to
English translation of sailing terms and then ferried out to the course for
their only practice before the qualifying rounds started the next day.
of the six identical Jeanneau Sun Fast 37’sthat the 12 teams would be swapping between, Benz split his time trying to learn French and
feeling less and less confident as they worked through the four-hour practice
on the mile long course.
details their first experience together on the boat, “With the winds pushing
25-30 knots, some of the really good teams had America’s Cup people onboard and they were
having troubles. But that was nothing compared to us. As we were rounding the
first mark, I needed one of the crew to pull the guy back, but he had no idea
of what I was saying, so I mean I had to look at my cheat sheet and find the
translation. The paper was already soaking wet. My crew didn’t understand a
single word I was saying.”
practice we couldn’t even get the spinnaker up.” Benz continues, “ I’m watching the Italians and they’re out there putting it
up and doing a couple of gybes and a douse at the
bottom mark, and I said we’re in deep shit.”
to figure it out though.” With the crew especially weak working with the chute,
Benz took it upon himself to fly it while helming the boat. He explains, “The
winches for the spinnaker were right by the helm. From there, I could more or
less just manhandle the sheets. I could at least hold it, trim it and sort of
steer under the chute. That’s how we ended up getting around the race course.
They kept wanting to grab the spinnaker and trim it,
but there were just too many jobs to do for only four people, even the good
people. As it turned out, it ended up being a little lighter over the weekend,
it was blowing 18 or something. I don’t think I could have pulled it off for
the practice, but most of the conditions for the weekend were a lot lighter,
although we did get some pretty heavy squalls.”
classes of six, Saturday’s qualifying races would determine the top three
finishers of the two classes who would then compete on Sunday in the Gold Round
with the bottom six finishers racing in the Silver Round. The two classes would
alternate racing as they traded off boats, with the first crew retiring to the
shore after completing two races.
practice day turned out to be a total disaster, Benz smiles as he describes the
racing on Saturday. “The first day I got in there, the very first race, we won.
There was this huge 30 degree wind shift, and I was the only one who went that
way. I was watching this squall, and it went outside, and I went towards the
squall, and the wind came over 30 degrees to the right and I tacked over and
reached in to the weather mark while everyone else was sitting in light air.”
first two races, Benz was standing even with skipper Chris Rosenberg with a
first and a second. When they traded off boats with the second class, they
retired to shore and he and Rosenberg, as the two leaders, were swarmed on the
dock by the foreign press.
second two race series, Benz was able to chalk up a third and another first
placing him easily into second behind Rosenberg who came up with another first
and a second. Benz describes how after four, it was now impossible for him not
to qualify for the Gold Round, so he relaxed a bit and pulled down a third and
a fourth in the final two races to finish second overall behind Rosenberg in
charged for the final day of racing as was his crew. He states, “They were
pretty excited to be in the Gold Round. This was a big, big deal happening on
their home turf. Before this they weren’t even going to get to crew in it. Now
suddenly they can crew in it, and here they are - crew for some dumb American,
who can’t speak… much less speak French – you know I mumble both languages. But
I had won a lot of their confidence that first race day.”
the day started disastrously. Benz explains, “The first race I was over the
line and I didn’t know what they were saying over the radio because it was in
French. The crew finally was able to explain it to me, but we were already 100
yards down the course and I was pinned in between two boats. We had to go back.
It was awful, but we almost caught the 5th boat.” Benz and his crew
finished the first race with a 6th.
race was almost as bad, as they ran into topping lift and even more language
miscues. They finished 4th, swapped off their
boat, and headed to shore to wait for their next two race series.
down a 6th and a 4th for the first two races was a
devastating way to start, but Benz was loathe to come all this way and finish
last in the Gold Round. He explains, “I was like, I’ve got to try something.
I’ve got a 6/4 and I have to finish more reasonable than this. I’m not going to
finish last in the Gold Round.”
started making adjustments to try and increase power and explains, “We were
going to move the jib lead forward, but I kept trying to find vice grips. I
couldn’t explain vice grips in French. I figured I could vice grip off the genoa car, to where there was a big hole further forward.
Everybody else was pretty much using the same hole. It was a huge move, like
six inches, we moved it forward and I told them if I say ‘No, No’ to move it
back after the start.”
details the adjustments, “We were also not quite as tight on the jib, lead
forward, twisted mainsail, and a lot of headstay
“I was in
last after the first two races. I was in the worst possible spot. It was so
critical to get away from the line.” Benz explains further, “But all of a
sudden I had speed to burn. I started the next race, it wasn’t a great start,
it was ok, but I just climbed off of everybody else. I realized man do I have a
huge pedal here. I finished like a half leg ahead – maybe 3 quarters before
two races were more of the same according to Benz, “I just had speed to
freaking burn. What I had set up was just so much faster, you could visually
notice that we were going faster upwind, and of course, we’re out of the pack.
They’re all fighting, and we were gone. I mean we were gone. Nobody blocking
our wind downwind, we were far enough ahead at both weather marks those next
two races that there was no one on that wind – we were free sail the whole run
on it. Just go at the mark, go back upwind and there was no way these people
were going to catch us - just keep sailing away with speed. On the downwind
leg, we’d move our leads back again, tighten the headstay
back up, ease the foot of the main, change our
settings. I was hiding my tricks because we traded off the boats after each
the final race of the Gold Round, Benz was now sitting with a 6th, 4th
and three 1st place finishes, which placed him again in a strong
second behind Rosenberg. The only way Benz could now bring
home anything better than second was if he finished three places ahead of Rosenberg.
helicopters and cigarette boats lined with media creating near havoc, the six
boats racing in the Gold Round jockeyed around for the start and knowing how
critical the start was for this short course, Benz enthusiastically relates the
battle at the start between himself and Chris Rosenberg, “He goes out there and
jumps me. He attacks right off the bat. He starts match racing. Remember there
are ‘on the water’ umpires, so they were watching us closely. He does a
reversal on me, and I reversed at the same time, but I was coming at him on
starboard, so he had to swing up. I now sat there luffing,
head to wind, but way above layline for the committee
boat, and then he trimmed in to try and get over me, and I trimmed in and luffed him up again. So at the start I had him pinned down on the wrong side of the Committee Boat
sitting in irons, and I bore off and started. Mind you with all of these
maneuvers I am calling out orders in French, but it was starting to get natural
by this point. I’m sure all of my pronunciations were incorrect, but my crew were getting the point of it.”
continues, “Chris couldn’t get up to the line. He started like dead last, and
again it was pedal to the metal for us. I put almost a half a leg on him. Well
he very brightly, he’s a very good sailor, works his way up to third place in
that race. So now we’re looking at I’ve got to win and he’s got to finish
fourth. So it was still almost impossible.”
winning again, but he was fast to the weather mark. He ended passing two boats
heading downwind, and then passes up the third place boat, a quarter way up the beat. So I’m like screw this, I had to go back to
him. I turn downwind, my crew starts flipping out. Going into this last race,
my crew was just losing it. They were so pumped that they had the potential of
winning and now here I was doing this.”
“I got to
him and kind of pinned him and the second place boat going out to the left. Now
the guy who was in fourth comes up and he crosses into the lead. I pinned these
guys out and sat on both of them. They were both over the layline,
and I’m cramming them both. I push Chris back to fifth. I ended up passing the
last weather mark in third place and he was in fourth, but I was right there
with the other two boats, and I went right in between them. One guy jibed away
to starboard, and that really helped me out because I would have been squeezed.
Chris rounds, trying to get on my wind. I luffed up the guy on my left side, he lost his chute when I
did that and I knew now that he’d be slow.”
I got Chris trying to get on our wind, and I’m hoping that this other guy is
able to come up and beat him too, which he does because Chris is trying to
follow me around on my air, trying to slow me down. All he needs to do is get
one of these other boats to beat me.”
“As we came
into the finish line it was so freaking close, we had a boat coming in from the
other side, it was so close, then we hear our boat
number get called on the radio for the win. My crew was out of their minds
because we knew Chris had come in fourth. I mean talk about your hair standing
up on your arms.”
minutes, Benz’s boat was flooded with the press, cameras and a case of Mumm’s champagne, which was quickly spraying everywhere.
They then went and did a flyby of the beaches filled with thousands of
spectators, spinnaker up and Benz readily admits that by that point he and his
crew were trashed on champagne.
chalks this race up as one of his greatest wins, but was more amazed at the amount
of press coverage, spectators and energy of the whole regatta. “It was a whole
different world down there. It was like a sailboat NASCAR race. At the after
party, I got to judge the bikini contest – that was pretty damn sweet.”