Four skippers in the fleet of 13 at Stenungsund, Sweden, last week, had won the IOD Class Championship before, each more than once, and collectively they’d won it 20 times! It was time for someone to upset the pecking order, and this year it was another veteran class sailor, Urban Ristorp, of Sweden, who got the job done. Urban had always shown flashes of brilliance at previous championships, but this time he sailed extremely consistently throughout the first six races of the regatta, never finishing lower than fourth place. Then on the final day, he lost a little of his magic, but still sailed just well enough to hold off two-time defending champion Charlie Van Voorhis, of Fishers Island, USA, topping the final standings by one point.
In fact, the final finish positions show four teams within five points of each other. Urban scored 22 points, Charlie, 23, our team (also from Fishers Island) had 24, and Penny Simmons, of Bermuda, had 27. Penny, a six-time winner, had struggled early in the regatta but won two straight races heading into the last day, moving ahead of our team. However, a mediocre finish to the morning race for him put us back in third place to stay.
We had our own opportunity, near the end of the first race when there was a four-boat scrum at the last mark. I played it wrong and paid for it, as we dropped to fourth in the race. If I’d played it differently and we’d gained a couple of points there, the difference might’ve been telling, but I wonder if we might’ve been a little less relaxed under those circumstances and not gone on to win the final race, which is what made our score as good as it was.
For Charlie, the defending champ, getting into the top five in any race wasn’t always so difficult. He finished second twice, third twice, fourth twice and fifth twice. Charlie played the percentages throughout, and by regatta’s end had an even more consistent scoreline than Urban, but I’d have to say that this one time the percentages let him down. Winning a race along the way would’ve earned him the championship title again.
But as Charlie said at the awards ceremony, the best sailor at the regatta wins, and he gave Urban and his team high marks for their victory. From my perspective, the key to Urban’s win was his ability to catch up when he fell behind, particularly on the second day of racing when he had a couple of bad starts and we thought he would end up far behind us. In both cases, he ended up passing us near the end of the race and one time sailed almost into first place. Any one of the points he made in passing could be counted as the difference in the regatta.
Other race winners in the series were Martin Rygh, Norway's top sailor, who finished fifth, one point ahead of Bill Widnall, of Marblehead, Mass., who has won the class championship nine times. Bill showed the fleet his transom twice during the regatta!
As I fly back across the Atlantic the next day, I have to offer thanks to the host Stenungsund Sailing Club, the local sailors who loaned us their boats for this unique regatta, and to the Scandinavian weather gods who made the sun shine every day for a week. I’m told the weather has been lousy back in Rhode Island, where I live, so I’m hoping to bring some Swedish sunshine back with me.