Healthy showings net Sherwood J/22 victory

SAILING

August 28, 1994|By NANCY NOYES

Annapolitan John Sherwood proved again that it's hard to put a longtime sailor down.

Just a few weeks after he underwent heart bypass surgery, Sherwood and crew Todd Olds and Colin Cantwell sailed to victory in a tough J/22 East Coast Championship last weekend.

There was a different winner for each of the event's six races; only four points separated Sherwood from the fourth-place finisher in the 22-boat fleet. Sherwood, who also won the fleet's Master's Trophy, said that all of the top three finishers were skippered by Masters.

Sherwood has been sailing since he was a child and has a distinguished record in numerous boat classes.

"I thought the fleet was really well-balanced, especially through the top 10 boats," Sherwood said. Racing was so tight, in fact, that it was only after a tiebreaker that Jim Hayes and his Petting Zoo crew moved into second over Tony Parker and the crew on Bucking Packet.

With the Gibson Island Yacht Squadron as host, the event began Friday, although the wind didn't show up and the fleet bobbed aimlessly on the bay before giving up for the day.

Saturday's conditions, however, were near perfect, bringing cool, dry air, sunshine and a steady southerly breeze in the 8- to 12-knot range. Four contests were completed that day, with the series' final two sailed on Sunday in fresher 12- to 16-knot winds under threatening skies.

"It was pretty clean racing," said Sherwood, who led the field at the end of competition Saturday and held his lead through the next day's final two events. "The winds had very little shifts, and it was fairly straightforward."

That being the case, what was his secret to success? "We just seemed to be fast," he said. "The crew work was fantastic, but it was great on lots of boats. We just got to the weather marks well all day Saturday, even in the last race when we had to do a 720 [degree penalty turn] at the start but still finished fourth."

Like most of the others in the top portion of the fleet at Gibson Island last weekend, Sherwood plans to race in the J/22 World Championship, coming to Annapolis Yacht Club over Sept. 10-17.

Clark wins J/24 Districts

Former Naval Academy sailing coach Doug Clark, who recently moved to Marblehead, Mass., returned to his old hometown last weekend to compete in the J/24 District Championship at Eastport Yacht Club, and walked away with a convincing victory.

The regatta, in which 28 teams from New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia took part, was a qualifier for the 1995 World Championships in Rochester, N.Y.

Sailing with Clark were Sandy Snead, Mike Devlin, Sean Healy and Ward Blodgett; each has sailed previously with Clark, but the entire team had never worked together before a pre-regatta practice a week ago Friday.

When racing began last Saturday, Clark and his team were first to finish the first race and placed second in the next event, although a 20-percent penalty for a foul at the weather mark earned the team eight points for that race, followed by a fourth-place finish in the day's final race.

Clark and his Dusty Work team won both races on Sunday, finishing 10.5 points ahead of Hampton, Va., sailor Eddie Williams and his crew, second-place finishers overall.

"I was nervous about the starting lines," Clark said. "With no throwouts in this regatta, it was important to be conservative, because one mistake and you're out of it."

Clark said that he found it better to stay a couple of boat lengths back from the line, giving up a little distance and a little clear air, to make sure he wouldn't jump the gun.

On Sunday, he said, "It looked like it was blowing harder than it was, because of the wind and the current being in opposite directions. The big choice was whether to use the genoa or the jib in the first race. We stuck to our guns and used the genoa, and we were one of only three or four who did, so that gave us an advantage."

As the final race of the series wound down, Clark said, things got exciting as he and Williams had to recover from sailing to the unfavored left side of the course. But, as the race went on, he said, "Ben Capuco, Rob Kyle, and we were all duking it out. We caught up in the final beat, and just got a little lefty [wind shift], enough to cross in front of them."

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