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10/04/14 4:42pm
The sailboat Optimistic, seen here on the left with sail number 148  behind a fellow racer Buccaneer, jockeys for position before Saturday's Whitebread race. The boat would later sink off Shelter Island in rough seas.

The sailboat Optimistic, seen here on the left with sail number 148 behind a fellow racer Buccaneer, jockeys for position before Saturday’s Whitebread race. The boat would later sink off Shelter Island in rough seas.

A 28-foot sailboat participating in Saturday’s 21st annual Whitebread race sank off the coast of Shelter Island during rough seas this morning, the U.S. Coast Guard has confirmed.  (more…)

11/25/12 7:14am

PETER NEEDHAM PHOTO | Mackenzie Needham and teammate Courtney Bombardier racing at MIT.

Mackenzie Needham is no stranger to qualifying for and competing at a high level of competition. As a member of the Shelter Island High School Sailing Club, she and her teammates not only won the league championship once, they also competed at three district championships in two years.

While a freshman at Washington College in Maryland, Mackenzie along with three of her teammates out sailed 11 other mid-Atlantic colleges, helping Washington earn its first-ever berth at the Women’s National Semifinals held in Austin, Texas this past June. Although Washington College sailed well at the semifinals they didn’t place high enough to make it into the finals. All in all it was incredible they made it that far.

For her sophomore and current year, Mackenzie transferred to the University of Rhode Island. Although now in a much tougher league, the close proximity to many of the best collegiate sailors and venues in the country has been a welcome change from the sometimes seven or more hour drives each way to compete on the weekends while in Maryland a year ago. URI has a very active women’s sailing team; they won the National Championship two years ago.

As with all school or collegiate sports programs, athletes graduate and move on, leaving openings for incoming athletes to fill their vacated places. A week before Mackenzie started classes at URI, the sailing coach contacted her to say she was skippering the first weekend at a women’s race and asked if she was up for it. For those of you who know Mackenzie and how she would never back down from a challenge, of course she was ready. She sailed for URI at a number of races this past fall, mostly at women’s events, which helped to earn her school a 10th place national ranking for women’s teams.

Towards the end of the season most sports begin holding qualifiers for championships and women’s sailing is no exception. On the East Coast the Intercollegiate Sailing Association holds the Women’s Atlantic Coast Championship as their grand finale, with colleges from Maine to Florida vying for a chance to compete. There are only 18 spots available, with those spots allocated during semifinal qualifiers. For URI the qualifier was held two weeks ago at Connecticut College, the weekend just before the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. Against powerhouse sailing colleges such as Dartmouth, Yale, Boston College, Coast Guard, Harvard, Tufts and Brown, Mackenzie and her URI teammates raced for one of the seven spots that the New England colleges could fill based on their results.

While Saturday was light with fluky winds, on Sunday the approaching hurricane brought strong northerly winds that made for some exciting racing. Sailing B division with freshman teammate Courtney Bombardier, Mackenzie found her mojo and sailed her personal best with finishes of sixth or better in six of the nine races including two second-place finishes. The stellar performance earned the pair a third-place finish for the event out of the 18 colleges in attendance, and along with the A division of URI, they placed eighth overall and seventh for the New England teams, securing them a spot at the upcoming championship.

This past weekend URI along with 17 other colleges raced in the Women’s Championship on the Thames River in Connecticut. The first race on Saturday had to be called as a submarine made its way down the river with the Coast Guard chasing away any and all boats in the sub’s path.

Once the submarine cleared out, a weak northerly ensued, sending endless ribbons of teasing puffs down the river. Those lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time fared well. The race committee managed to get off four A division races and only two B divisions, for the day. Sunday was entirely different, a strong southerly filled in with a fairly consistent 10- to 12-knot breeze present throughout the day. Racing was close all day with packed mark roundings and many lead changes on both the upwind and downwind legs.

Mackenzie and her teammate had an up and down day, with best finishes of 3rd, 6th and 9th. It was good enough to help URI finish in 13th place at the event. Were they pleased with their results? Not really, but considering that they were sailing against the best collegiate women sailors in the country and many more didn’t even qualify for this event, they did just fine.

08/10/12 4:01pm

COURTESY PHOTO | Shelter Island sailor Amanda Clark, background, finished ninth overall in the Women’s 470 competition at the 2012 London Olympics.

After eight days and 11 races through the waters off the south coast of England, Shelter Island’s Amanda Clark and crew Sarah Lihan concluded their 2012 Olympic competition Friday with a last-place finish in the medal race and 9th place out of 20 boats from around the world that competed in the women’s 470 two-person dinghy class.

A two-time Olympian, Clark topped her finish from Beijing in 2008, when she was 12th.

Referring to her previous crew Sarah Chin’s decision to give up competition in early 2011, not long before Olympic qualifiers were to begin, Ms. Clark commented Friday, “What motivated me to keep going in 2011 is that I love sailing. I really enjoy being part of the Olympic experience. I am so happy to be part of this and on this side of it. It’s been a great experience and definitely glad I didn’t stop in 2011.”

New Zealand’s Jo Aleh and Olivia Powrie won the overall Olympic women’s 470 competition as well as the medal race. They had a net total of 35 points. It was the third race they had won of the 11. They were second in three races.

Great Britain won the silver medal and Netherlands won the bronze.

“Our medal race was unfortunately not as breezy as the men had,” commented Lihan. “We had a lot of pressure coming in and out. When the pressure was in, the left was the favored side of the course, and when it was out, the right was favored. We didn’t line ourselves up with those trends and our scores reflect that.”

“Today when we saw the Brits with their double flares and the Kiwis upside down, and everyone celebrating, Amanda and I were pretty down, to be honest,” said Lihan. “I looked down and saw the Olympic rings on our pinnies and thought, ‘I represented the United States of America at the Olympics.’ I’m really disappointed with how we performed. I really wish we were able to get up on that podium and watch our flag raise — but we’re here and we did it.”

In the medal race on Friday, Clark and Lihan’s last-place finish added 20 points to their score for a net total of 98. The top 10 boats competed in Friday’s medal race — the 11th race of the competition, which began Aug. 3. In a medal race, points are doubled, so a 10th-place finish meant 20 points.  The boat with the lowest point total was the winner of the overall competition.

Clark and Lihan teamed up in 2011 and quickly saw their results improve, collecting medals at world cup events. They qualified for the Olympics on the final day of the 2011 World Championships in Perth in December. In a final World Cup pre-Olympic event that was held off Weymouth in June, they won the medal race and placed second overall, moving up from sixth place, and took home silver medals — but not the Olympic kind.

Clark announced in March in an appearance at the Shelter Island School that this would be her last Olympic competition. She said she hoped to continue to work with the U.S. Olympic Sailing Team in some capacity to share her knowledge and experience.

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08/07/12 11:40am

COURTESY PHOTO | Amanda Clark, background, and her crew Sarah Lihan are in seventh place heading into the final two preliminary races Wednesday.

They’re moving on up.

Shelter Island Olympian Amanda Clark and her Team Go Sail partner, Sarah Lihan, posted a pair of top 10 finishes in the Women’s 470 Tuesday to move up to seventh place overall with 73 points in the event. The top 10 sailing teams following the final two preliminary races tomorrow will qualify for the medal race Friday.

After all 10 races are finished, the worst score is thrown out, giving each team a final net points total. Because Team Go Sail finished in last place in Race 6, they will definitely see 20 points dropped from their final score. Currently, that would place them in a tie with fifth place Brazil (67 total points) and sixth place Germany (72 total points), with 53 net points apiece.

On Tuesday, Team Go Sail placed third in Race 8 and ninth in Race 9. That moved them up from eight place overall.

Races are slated Wednesday at 7 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. and can be viewed at www.nbcolympics.com. Results will be posted on the Reporter website at www.sireporter.com as soon as they are available.

Women’s 470 Standings

Rk Points
1 NZL   31   21
2 GBR 31 25
3 NED 46 28
4 FRA 64 47
5 BRA 67 53
6 GER 72 53
7 USA 73 53
8 ITA 75 57
9 AUS 84 63
10 JPN 89 70
11 ESP 89 73
12 ISR 98 77
13 POL 98 78
14 ARG 100 81
15 CRO 103 83
16 DEN 99 83
17 CHN 104 85
18 SWE 111 92
19 SLO 113 96
20 AUT 135 115
08/06/12 11:46am

SALLIE BETHGE PHOTO | Jasper Edie trying to right his Sunfish on West Neck Harbor Sunday.

The Menantic Yacht Club (MYC) held its sixth Sunfish race of the season in West Neck Harbor at about 2 p.m. on Sunday. It was an exhilarating day to say the least, with the wind blowing at 20, gusting to 25 or more. Where do I begin? Many records were broken — and not the kind that gets one into the Olympics.

According to Commodore Pete Bethge, 22 boats were seen on the water before the start of racing. Only 16 made it to the start line. Of those 16, only 10 finished the first race. Never before have we had so many boats not only fail to finish but not even make it to the start line.

The Race Committee held only one race, around a triangular course. There were at least five boats upside down at any given time. I advised the committee that some of the flipped sailors needed help and that those of us who were still floating right-side up could not be of assistance because of the wind.

We did not have a chase boat available and the committee boat was needed in rescue operations. At the conclusion of the first race, the Race Committee blasted the horn signaling the end of racing for the day. I believe all were relieved. Two records were broken at once: having five boats overturned at the same time and calling the races after just one race.

Sometimes the best part of valor is knowing when to quit.

Several racers, including Mary Vetri and Penny Pilkington, asked me if I thought the wind was too strong for their ability. I said, “Give it a try. I think you are good enough.” Well, Mary did not flip as many others did but her innate sense of survival told her to tell the commodore that she was going back to shore before the start. Commodore Bethge replied “good idea.”

On the other hand, plucky Penny Pilkington, the club’s token Brit, achieved a first for the club. She was elated at the start of racing because Andy Murray had beaten Roger Federer in three sets to earn a gold medal in the Olympics. However, in a major turn of events, Penny did not finish and I am not sure she even started the first and only race before she was blown between two docks off Montclair Colony. After the first race, when Penny’s plight was realized, a team effort consisting of Charlie and John Modica and Andy Belford went to the rescue, bringing Penny’s boat and Penny back to the staging area. Thanks also go to the owner of the dock for his assistance and his cooperation.

Not only did sailors perform numerous flips, there were also some crashes, including a spectacular one in which a sailor managed to slide into and over Linda Gibb’s boat. Fortunately, Linda and the other “crashees” suffered no serious injuries but black and blue marks must decorate most of Sunday’s sailors. Thank goodness for Advil.

The newcomers this week were Stuart Homer, who finally succumbed to my constant hounding; Richard Ludlow and his son, John; Ricardo Palmerola; and Rob Griffith. Welcome back Jonathan Brush and Bill Martens’ son-in-law Tom Pickett, a yearly visitor to the MYC.

Some of the newcomers were not familiar with Sunfish so I advised them on the correct procedure for righting one when it flips, which they were certainly grateful for before the day was over. The procedure is as follows for those who do not know: release your main sheet, grab the end of the dagger board and pull down with all your weight and keep pulling until the boat flips upright.

Another tip for sailing on heavy wind days is adjusting the gooseneck. It should be shifted back to the 22- or 23-inch position in order to ease the helm and prevent “irons.” I even tried it at 24 inches to no avail on Sunday. Every sailor had a hard time getting out of irons. Even manually pulling on the lower boom did not work all the time. One experienced sailor, Stuart Homer, drifted backwards until he hit the beach and walked his boat home. Not a record though, as that happened once before to another sailor.

John Modica beat his brother Charlie, again, for  first-place. Bill Martens came in second, with Charlie in third and the duo of John Woodward and Oscar Champigneuille in fourth. This duo was having the time of their lives in the windy conditions.

All the sailors who braved the elements on Sunday will have stories to tell. When I asked Marnie Colby, eight years old, if she’d had a good time, she unequivocally replied “no.” She was a real trooper, however, as was Jasper Edie, another of our younger sailors. Jasper flipped and could not right his boat even though he knew the technique because his mast was stuck in the bottom muck. I think that both of these young sailors deserve gold medals for their determination.

The Race Committee consisted of Commodore and Sallie Bethge, Betsy Colby and Dave Olsen. Dave assessed the windy conditions and decided to help on the committee boat instead of racing. I am sure that Commodore Bethge was grateful. Dave was eventually needed in the water to help right some of the flipped boats. He was pulled through the water by the committee boat from one rescue to the next.

Sailors, before the start of racing each week, sail up alongside the committee boat and give them your full name and sail number. Also, remember to wear your life jacket.

Commodore Bethge has organized a special event for next Sunday. Please be at Commodore Bethges’ at 1 p.m. sharp for a skippers’ meeting. There will be a series of shore activities before racing begins on the water. There will be a women’s and a men’s division and all scores from both the shore activities and sailing will count toward your final score. Small donations will be accepted to help pay the cost of awards for this event, which will be followed by a barbeque at Rita Gates’ home after racing. Rita has asked that those with a last name starting A-L please bring a simple appetizer, those with a last name M-Z bring a simple dessert. All should bring their own beverages.

Speaking of barbeque, Mother Nature did not give up. While we were eating, the wind snapped a small branch off a tree, which landed on Melanie Coronetz’s head, which was startling but thankfully caused no injury. Just one of those days.

We are a congenial club open to all, with no dues, no fees and no clubhouse. The sailing is great, we have tremendous fun and often have after-race barbeques.

All sailors, novice to expert, are welcome. Meet the fleet at 2 p.m. every Sunday through Labor Day in West Neck Harbor. Commodore Bethge has several Sunfish available on a first-to–reserve basis. Call him at 749-1297 or Bob Harris at 749-0524 at least one day prior to racing. See you on the water.


1.     John Modica
1.     Bill Martens
3.     Charles Modica
4.     John Woodward and Oscar Champigneuille
5.     Tom Pickett
6.     Andy Belford
7.     Bob Harris
8.     Tom McGuirk
9.     Tom McMahon
10.     John and Marnie Cole

DNF: Brush, Coronetz, Colby and Dombroski, Pilkington, Gibbs, Edie