The 2023 edition of the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series at Marblehead Race Week will be remembered for its challenging light wind but more so for the time local skipper Carolyn Corbet and her teammates outsmarted and outsailed the venerable champions of Bill Widnall’s International One Design Javelin. On the fourth and final day of Marblehead Race Week, Corbet’s team on Elektra won two come-from-behind races to win the regatta and then its Overall Championship title.
“We started the day only 1 point out of first and we’d been going back and forth with Bill—who’s won this regatta for who knows how long,” Corbet says.
In Sunday’s first of two races, Elektra rounded the first mark third, and with the quick sail-handling skills and sharp execution of this team of twenty-somethings, Corbet quickly jibed, “jumped the fleet,” and at the next mark Elektra took control of the race.
“Ten boat lengths out from the leeward mark we were able to jibe on to starboard, and then we were able to get them [Widnall’s Javelin] on starboard,” Corbet says. “So, we were able to send them off the layline. I have an amazing crew that can pull off that kind of jibing, get the spinnaker down, and then jibe around the mark. We barely missed a beat and that right there probably won us the regatta.”
Corbet, of Marblehead, has been sailing the loaner International One Design for three summers and her team has proven to be a quick study of a boat that can take a lifetime to master, but Corbet says she’s had plenty of help from Widnall and others, and their success this weekend truly comedowns to the collective talent of her teammates.
As winners of their class, but Corbet, Rob Brower, Becker Ewing, Elizabeth Lonergan and Sandra Nygren were selected to represent Marblehead at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Caribbean Championship in the British Virgin Islands in October, where they will race against other overall winners from previous stops of the Regatta Series, as well as the 2022 regatta’s champion.
On the same circle as the IODs, a similar battle was playing out in the J/105 class where Charlie Garrard’s Merlin and Rick Dexter’s Brouhaha set off from their respective moorings in Marblehead Harbor with only 1 point between them. The goal of the day was a simple one for Garrard and his experienced crew: keep Brouhaha close and use their boatspeed to finish the job.
When the seabreeze finally filled after a long morning postponement, the two teams got right to work, tailing each other in the prestart and striking the starting line overlapped. Merlin had the advantage and Brouhaha tacked away. The race from there was all Merlin’s to lose.
“We just had to keep them close and we had to finish ahead of them,” Garrard says. “Even though they tacked away, we felt comfortable going left where there was more wind.”
The pair finished 2-4 and Merlin’s lead grew to 3 points, but in the final race, after leading off the start again, Garrard says they were on the downwind leg and crash jibed to avoid another boat, which lost them one place in the race, but fortunately nothing more—the final winning margin was 2 point and Merlin’s winning streak remains intact.
“I think we got off the line clean every day and the boat is going great upwind,” Garrard says. “As always, it helps to have a great crew.”
The return of the Lightning fleet was marked as another notable moment in Race Week history. According to class leader Bob Shapiro, it has been nearly 40 years since the International Lightning Class has competed at Race Week, and fittingly it was the two “old-timers” of the fleet that took second and first places after five races. At the top of the standings with two race wins was local legend Charles “CH” Ritt with Shapiro as runner up and winner of the weekend’s final race.
The Rhodes 19 Class sailed another competitive regatta with 22 boats providing plenty of action-packed mark roundings, and always ahead of the melee were Matt Hooks and teammate Rob Pascal, who won four of eight races to close with an impressive 25-point winning margin, earning Hooks the coveted Norm Cressy Trophy, which has been awarded to the regatta’s best-performing skipper since 1998.
On the same race circle, the Town Class sailed its New England Championship and after five races, Nick Cann and Andrea Dodgeon on Tonic emerged as the winners, scoring two race wins to finish 10 points ahead of Bill Heffernan and Larry Brown on Sweep.
ILCA sailors were particularly challenged with their first races canceled on Saturday due to weather. The race committee started them early on Sunday and completed one shortened race before the wind died. Once they got going again, it was strong current that caused numerous general recall starts, but at the end of the day, three races were sailed with Bill Rothwell winning the ILCA 7 division and Jeremiah McCarthy winning the ILCA 6 fleet.
Marblehead’s re-emerging Etchells class featured the area’s top sailors as well as experienced teams from outside the region, but none were as fast as Tomas Hornos and his teammates on Bob, which won two of six races and ended the series with a comfortable 10-point win. As the top fleet champion, Hornos also earned the Dave Curtis Perpetual Trophy, awarded by the Sailing Hall of Famer himself.
Henry and Barb Amthor, along with teammate Parker Moore, were the top Viper 640 team after winning the regatta’s final race for a 2-point New England Championship win over Marek Zaleski’s Team Z. Brian Keane and his teammates on the J/70 Savasana eked out a hard-fought win to secure the class’s New England Championship, another title for the team as they head toward the World Championship later this year.