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Afloat: Shelter Island Yacht Club hosts world-class competition

On Thursday, June 23, across Gardiners Bay, a clearing east wind blew in a dazzlingly clear bright day. Caribbean-style clouds flew across the sky.

Sailors from around the world were on the course for the first day of the Etchells North American Championship. Hosted by the Shelter Island Yacht Club (SIYC), 30 one-design boats were eager to start. Six more races were to be held. Three days of racing, all in the bay.

Etchells are an interesting choice of racing platforms. Originally designed in 1965, they are sleek 30-foot shells with lots of strings to tweak. Superior performance comes from knowing exactly how to pull those strings in different winds. World-class racers, Olympians, professional sailors and talented Corinthians, still gravitate to the class, bypassing generations of more modern race machines like J’s and Melges.

Shelter Island’s own Olympian and the professional race organizer (PRO) for the event, Amanda Clark, told us, “Etchells are great to sail, and we had a super-talented roster. This was a top-level event. I think everyone appreciated the competition.”

There were two divisions, one that allowed professionals aboard and one composed of Corinthian sailors. Some of the former, like Tony Rey, Steve Benjamin, Will Ryan, and Taylor Canfield, just to name a few, hold world-class medals and trophies in both inshore and offshore regattas.

Day two, Friday, was another winner. A classic 10-15kt southwester facilitated three more races, all held on the windward/leeward course. PRO Amanda chose the northeastern edge of the Bay, away from boat traffic and landmasses that stifle the wind. 

The final day was far trickier with a very light breeze coming in at the last minute. Only one race was sailed.

The overall Championship went to the SIYC’s Vice Commodore John Sommi on Veracity. According to John, “We had great conditions and close competition. I am proud to keep the trophy at the club.”

Another Islander who finished in the top 10 was Jay Cross. East Ender’s Ed Tillinghast and Scott Kaufman did, too.

The Corinthian 3rd place went to locals Jay Mills, Chris Constant and Andrew Rowsom on USA 1199. Other SIYC members who completed the regatta on their boats were: David Esseks, John Colby, Greg Cukor, Steven Schram, Andrew McFarland, Pierre Champigneulle, Marc Robert and Will Ricketson.

The Race Committee (RC) came in for praise. As Newport-based pro Tony Rey put it, “The RC did a really awesome job. They were well organized, and the event was exactly what we hoped for.”

Coecles Harbor Marina’s Connor Needham, sailing in the Corinthian class on Bad Martha, added, “This was not your typical racecourse. The RC set nice long legs so we could keep the boat moving.”

Multi Etchells regatta winner and SIYC member Scott Kaufman said, “The RC put on a top-notch event. It was first class, just so well organized.”

Another serious competitor, Jay Cross on Skanky Gene, noted, “This was fantastic. The SIYC proved the point that we can host a championship event.”

Perhaps the locals are biased so we asked San Diego resident and Etchells class secretary Alli Bell what her takeaway was. “Thank you, Shelter Island Yacht Club volunteers, members, and staff. Thanks to you the 2022 Etchells North American Championship was a great success.”

Not content to rest on their laurels, there is talk that the SIYC is planning on hosting the Etchells World’s in 2027.