Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tenth Annual Carl Patterson Regatta: Chestertown, Maryland

Carl Patterson (right), with his older brother Harold building a Skip Etchells "Connecticut" design Moth circa mid-1950s. The boy with the lively expression is Harold's son Craig.  Family photo courtesy of Nancy  Patterson Tidy.

Carl Patterson was instrumental in establishing the Moth Class at his home club, the Yacht Club of Sea Isle City, New Jersey during the the 1950s and '60s.  Carl built boats not only for his children/relatives but also for other club members as well.  Carl passed away in 1968 but his memory is celebrated each October when Classic Moth Boats come to Chestertown, MD to race at a regatta organized by his son Bob at the Chester River Yacht and Country Club.

Bill and Shane Boyle rig up prior to the Skipper's Meeting.
Two weeks after the Nationals, those of us who attended this year's Carl Patterson Regatta had even more wind and cooler temperatures than we'd seen in Elizabeth City.  At least the expected rain held off until later that night. John Pugh and I were waffling back and forth on whether or not to try our "big" sail experiment, by entering our Europes in the Gen II division with the Europe Class-legal "fat head" sails instead of using the CMBA's "pin head" sail and sticking with our usual Generation I division assignment, but I reasoned that the 120 lb elite women who originally sailed our boats in the Olympics only had a big sail to race with and they survived. With that in mind, we shouldn't think too deeply about the BIG gusts which were singing through the flagpole halyards while we were rigging up on the beach and just get on with it. And, so we did.

This photo gives a good comparison between the slightly larger Europe Class sail (Nr 110) and the CMBA-legal sail carried on the following boat (Nr 64).  Click to enlarge the photo.
For those not familiar with the Europe Dinghy, that boat started life as the "Europa" Moth design back in the early 1960s.  When newer Moth designs made the Europa obsolete, the Moth Sailors in North-Western Europe broke away from the Moth Class and formed a separate strict one-design class around that particular design.  (Moths are sort of like religious denominations--there are a number of splinter groups...)  Later, the Europe Dinghy, as it was then called was selected as the single-hander boat for women in the Olympics and served in that capacity for four Olympic Games starting with the Barcelona Games in '92 and finishing with the Athens Games in 2004.  Since the 2004 Olympics the Europe Dinghy has been replaced by the Laser Radial Dinghy and because of this a clutch of excellent Europe Dinghies were offered for sale at fire sale prices.  The majority of those boats have been recycled back to being Classic Moths by substituting a CMBA-legal sail for the Europe Class item.

During the time of the break away, the Europe Class introduced a number of improvements to the boat, including an update of the sail shape.  Europe sails still fit Classic Moth spars but the Europe sail has a much more efficient shape, particularly at the head of the sail compared with the ancient "pin-head" shape retained by the Classic Moth Class.  This can be seen in the photo above.  At present, the Europe Dinghy sails as a Classic Moth in our Generation I division, providing the boat remains at the stock weight of 99 lb and carries a CMBA-legal sail.  Compared to the fastest designs in the CMBA's Generation II division, the Europe suffers by being heavier (99 lb vs 75 lb) and by having more wetted surface than designs such as the Mistral, Duflos, and Skol.  John Pugh and I wanted to know if the more efficient Europe sail would off-set the weight and wetted surface penalties with which the better behaved Europe design suffers.  We reasoned that the combination of a better sail and a good skipper might allow the Europe to punch above her weight.

An additional twist in this year's Carl Patterson Regatta was that 6 former Moth skippers, none of whom had set foot in a tippy Moth Boat in about 50 years, were planning to come spectate.  Instead, Bob, operating under the conviction that it's better to race than merely watch, got several of us to bring extra boats to loan out to the "geezer" fleet.  We had three loaner boats for six skippers so a "round robin" series was cooked up with the six skippers rotating through the three loaner boats.  That all looked good on paper but the wind had its own ideas, which I explain directly.

John Pugh gingerly tests the conditions during the early going, no doubt wondering if my notion of using bigger sails for this event was one of my better ideas--or just another fine mess that I'd talked him into!
After rigging the boats and attending the Skipper's Meeting we started to launch into the Chester River.  The wind was blowing around 15 mph out of the NW with gusts just a touch under 20 mph.  A lot of big boat sailors scoff at this amount of breeze but let me tell you something: in Moth Boats, when the wind strength starts to approach 20 mph, with harsh, unpredictable gusts tossed in, these little boats get seriously physical!  After sailing out to the starting area I told myself that conditions didn't seem that bad.  Of course right after thinking that thought, I flipped!  The river water temps in early October are still "refreshing" so that wasn't too bad.  The bad part was that during the capsize I managed to break the hold-down mechanism on my rudder.  This allowed the rudder blade to float like a pop-tart which in turn made the boat uncontrollable.   The upshot of this is that I missed the first race (taking max penalty points) while I floundered around attempting to lash down that *%&!@## rudder blade with  my bow line--a great start to my big sail experiment!

Rudder repairs!
Diaristwoman was the PRO for the race committee and she later remarked that she didn't know whether to score me as "DNS" or "DNF" because while hanging off the end of the boat putzing with the rudder I did actually drift across the starting line to the on-course side.  I suppose I should be thankful that she didn't mark me down as "DSQ" for that race!  Meanwhile, I did manage to get the rudder to "sort of" stay in the down position, but with even a small amount of backwards rake in the blade from vertical, the boat acquires a massive amount of weather helm. At least I was able to sail the boat in the next two races with  4th and 3rd place finishes.  At the lunch break John Pugh produced a length of thin, hi-tech line and with that, he and I were able to make a more effective repair for the remaining two races of the day.  While I was struggling with the rudder, the rest of the fleet was engaging in various bits of drama as well with several capsizes, swamped boats, car keys lost overboard, etc.  Did I mention the winds were strong?

Bottoms Up!
Swamped Shelley during race 2.
Mud on the head of the sail after this boat turtled during a capsize.  Moth masts are about 16 or so feet above deck.  We now know the depth of the Chester River in the racing area off the Club's dock!
Ben Tice flipped and swamped and lost his truck key during the early going.  Much to his credit, he bailed the boat out and continued racing while waiting for a locksmith to arrive.  The boat is my son Erik's former racer "FLIPPER"--a most appropriate name for this yacht!  FLIPPER is a Challenger design Moth from the mid-1950s.  Challenger Marine Corp. was an early leader in using the then new fiberglass technology on a production scale.
So, was the Europe sail experiment a success? I will grade it a qualified success. The busted rudder muddies the water a bit but by the end of the day I was second to Mike Parsons although he was steadily pulling away from me as that particular race wound down. I need another chance to race with that sail to learn how to shape it while sailing. For example, I discovered late in the day that I had way too much vang on.

At the end of the day Mike Parsons was first and Bob Patterson was second in Generation II, while Victor Stango was first and Bill Boyle was second in the Generation I division.

And what of our "Geezers", none of whom had stepped into a Moth Boat in almost 50 years only to be thrown into unfamiliar boats on a VERY windy day? They were impressive! Although the swamped boats and retirements due to gear failure don't permit a full and fair analysis, from what I was able to observe, Frank Adshead, John Hilferty, John Leonard  Harvey Ludlam and brothers Brian and Kevin McAnaney still have fire in their bellies. Harvey took the Geezer prize--don't ask me about Bob's convoluted calculus for making that determination--but I can say that during the last race in which I finished 2nd to Mike Parsons, Harvey was sailing my wooden Europe Gypsy (so he and I were in equivalent hulls) but he didn't have my advantage of a fat head Europe sail. Even so, he camped out on my transom the whole race and if I'd have made one mistake he'd have rolled me! So hat's off to the geezer fleet. I hope we'll see some of them get Moth Boats over the winter and come back next season.

Just like that group photo of the Browns Mills sailors which I posted a while back:

From left to right: Bob Patterson, John Leonard, Brian McAnaney, Harvey Ludlam, Frank Adshead, Mike Parsons (holding large trophy), Bill Boyle, John Hilferty, Shane Boyle, Kevin McAnaney, your diarist and Victor Stango.


  1. Arrgh, guilty as charged. Who doesn't love a regatta with "practical" trophies?

    Yr Diarist