Marblehead Race Week kicks into high gear

Marblehead Race Week continued on Friday. (COURTESY PHOTO)

MARBLEHEAD — While the Rhodes 19 and International One Design (IOD) classes continued with their second day of competition, the Helly Hansen National Offshore One Design (NOOD) Regatta at Marblehead Race Week kicked into high gear Friday with the addition of six fleets racing on three courses.

The J/70 fleet is the largest of the event and comprised mostly of Corinthian Yacht Club-level teams rather than professionally-led crews. The top team of the weekend qualifies for the class world championship, which will be held in Marblehead in 2018.

For Somerville’s Duncan Swain, whose Clown Car heads into Day Two in second overall and first in the Corinthian Division, neither the presence of professionals on the course nor the pressure of the upcoming championship affected his approach to the day.

“We really weren’t trying to sail any differently than we do in any other race,” Swain said. “The goal overall is to win. We just went out there and tried to get clean starts. That was our main key today, getting off the line in a clean lane going south.”

Successful Friday, Swain and crew plan to keep that “get clean and sail your own race” strategy all weekend.

For defending Helly Hansen Marblehead NOOD overall champions Charlie Pendleton and Jim Raisides, 2017 looks to be a time of transition. After years of leading the Rhodes 19 class and checking all the boxes on their sailing list, the dynamic duo decided it was time for a new challenge. In March, the Marblehead locals retired their Rhodes 19 and purchased a J/70, a popular choice in the sailing community that Pendleton described as a “phenomenon.”

“We looked at how fast that class has grown and started to get interested,” said Pendleton. He and Raisides parked their Rhodes 19 in a dry dock across from the local J/70 fleet. “We started talking to them after we got in off the water and learned how hard it is to sail the boats, and it piqued our interest.”

The Helly Hansen Marblehead NOOD is the first regatta in which Pendleton and Raisides have raced in their J/70. After three races on day one, Bad Hombres is well back in the fleet.
“Today was tough,” Pendleton said. “It was the realization of the challenge we put in front of ourselves: it’s going to be humbling.

“We’re going to be counting from the back of the fleet and we’re going to come in off the water with more questions than answers. It’s what we signed up for.”

Despite what they think is the worst sailing they’ve ever done in a regatta, Pendleton said the crew had fun and were “laughing all day.” He expects better racing in Saturday’s heavier air, conditions better suited to his team.

Also in the J/70 fleet is a team of local junior sailors selected to compete as the Helly Hansen Junior Crew in Marblehead. The team—Clark Uhl, 20; Rachel Foster, 20; Katharine Bowman, 19; Kate O’Donnell, 20; and Garrett McKinnon, 18—currently ranks 19th.

The final two groups of boats will begin racing today. While the weather held out for Friday’s races, regatta organizers are keeping a wary eye on the radar, where a potential nor’easter looms.
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