International Skeeter Association Regatta
2004 International Skeeter Association
March 20-23, 2004
Lake Champlain, Vermont
2004 ISA CHAMPIONSHIP REGATTA
The 2004 ISA Championship Regatta was held March 19-21 on Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont. It was the least attended regatta in ISA history, but that did not keep it from being one of the most competitive.
After weeks of postponements, the eastern fleet was told on Wednesday morning March 22nd, "We have no sailable ice in Wisconsin. If you can find ice…have the regatta, but no one is coming from here". So, we found ice. Near perfect ice was discovered on the St. Lawrence River in Montreal, Canada.
Wednesday night though we received a call from Canada, "The ice breaker is working up the river and should be on the race course by Friday." So at the last minute, the site was changed to Burlington, VT. Lake Champlain had smooth hard ice with only a dusting of snow and they were having the DN Easterns there.
Friday morning, the fleet headed out to a huge patch of ice. A long course was set and the first race was sailed. The sky was sunny, the ice was hard, the temperature was in the mid-thirties, and the wind was blowing at 8 to 12 mph. Clapp took the early lead with Nichols hot on his trail, but Nichols had winch trouble and watched Clapp sail to victory. After the first race, some sailors went to the pits to change sails and/or runners. Rob Marsh broke a steering turnbuckle missing the first race.
Apparently, the changes Pete Rochelle made were correct as he was much faster in race 2. Rochelle took the early lead and held onto it until the third upwind leg when he decided to go up the left side of the course. It worked for Nichols the lap before, but not for Rochelle. When Rochelle reached the upwind mark Clapp had already rounded it. After four laps, it was Clapp, Rochelle, Nichols, & Stavola.
After race two, it was too early to quit for beer. So, with such a perfect day (ice, wind, course, temperature, etc) the fleet ran several scrub races. The results of which were much different than the official races. In four races, there were four different winners. It was amazing how evenly paced the top four boats were. Regardless who won, they all seemed to finish within boat lengths of each other.
Saturday was colder with more wind. The temperature was in the mid-twenties. The wind was blowing 18-24 mph. The sky was dark and filled with snow flurries. Most boats left the pits with small, flat, high wind sails. However, the thin wet snow on the ice the day before was now firm and very sticky.
After rounding the weather mark in the
first race, the tightly packed fleet lead by Tom Nichols was heading down
wind. Dan Clapp and Pete Rochelle lost their momentum as the stiff snow
rapidly slowed them down. As the fleet sailed past, they struggled to get
their boats back up to speed especially with such flat sails. It took Dan
all four laps to catch and pass Rob Marsh and Jordan Glaser. Tom Nichols
won the race with Bill Stavola riding his shirt tail. Dan Clapp was
waaaaaay back in third.
Clapp later said, "Had we been out west when this happened, I would have been rolled by a dozen boats or more and I would’ve only caught maybe 2 or 3. And that would have cost me the ISA. Jordan is getting better each year. He was nearly impossible to catch in the old pink boat."
Pete Rochelle went in to change sails, but not Clapp. He was hoping the wind would build. If Nichols won the next race and Clapp was third again, Nichols would be leading the regatta with only one race to go. And if Clapp got second, the two would be tied going into Sunday. Not making any changes was a big gamble for Clapp to take considering Nichols was clearly the fastest boat in that condition. As the fleet was lined up to start race four, a blinding snow squall rolled in making visibility almost non-existent. The start of the race was postponed. So the fleet cautiously ventured back to the pits and went to lunch.
After a two hour delay, the fleet headed back out to the course in 15 mph winds and clear skies. But the wind was blowing the snow around making visibility poor within two feet of the ice. It looked like fog on the stage of a rock concert. Almost every competitor replaced his flat sail with his AP (all-purpose). The intensity was still high as this next race could decide the outcome of the regatta.
The fleet started race four sailing to the right side of the course…everyone at equal speed. As soon as they reached the layline, all Nichols would have to do is tack for the mark and the fleet would follow in order: Stavola, Clapp, Marsh, Davison, and Rochelle. But it didn’t happen like that. If it did, Nichols would have won the ISA. Instead, his travel partner decided to tack onto Starboard before the layline. That caused everyone to tack early. Racing 100 yards below the windward mark, Clapp and Stavola were the first two to locate it in the poor visibility conditions. They finished the race several hundred yards ahead of the other boats. Stavola was only a boat length from winning his first Lindstedt Trophy.
Sunday morning it was lightly raining, but there was no wind. The fleet waited around for a few hours for the conditions to change, but they didn’t. So the regatta was over. Dan Clapp won his seventh ISA title: one away from Melges eight and seven away from Mattison’s fourteen. And until race three, the three year old orange boat INSANITY was undefeated in competition. Will Clapp and the western fleet need to go 28 feet high to compete with Nichols, Stavola, Rochelle, and the other Stavola??? Only next year’s Northwest & ISA will tell.
Photo Credits: Walter
Courtesy of Rob Marsh