It all came down to the final race, the sixth of six. On a near-perfect sailing day at Lake Pleasant (if you’re not bothered by a few random puffs), Thistle champ Scott Richards held a single point lead over Laser winner Joel Hurley. Joel would have to beat Scott in this single race—and finish first or second to take the tie-breaker. If he could, he’d win the Club Championship.
This is the annual Arizona Yacht Club race that pits the person in each fleet with the best score for the combined fall and spring race series. Each year those fleet winners compete in one-design boats in a race of champions. This year, the boat was the Thistle.
About one minute before the start of the final race, Scott Richards reached with his foot for the hiking strap. And missed. He was suddenly in the water, calling for sister Sharon to grab the tiller and head up so he could get back in the boat. Soaked and dazed, Scott still somehow managed a good start and joined five other Thistles in the race to the windward mark.
Joel and crew Will Zornik sailed a better beat and was sliding up inside two others to round first—but then, a slight header, forcing a quick tack. Thirty feet away a burst of downdraft suddenly shot Scott ahead and around the mark in front of them.
Downwind, Joel kept looking for a way around. Lots of jibes and jockeying for position. He managed to slip in front of Scott, holding second in the race, trailing only Mike Hester. If he could hang on, he’d win it all. Then upwind: Scott chose the right and Joel the left. Right worked; left didn’t. By the finish Scott was a couple boats ahead and celebrating his first AYC Club Championship.
This field included many of the club’s best sailors and they put on quite a show, with lots of lead changes and close tactics. Some of the best left frustrated. Seven-time champ Martin Lorch (sailing with former champ Trey Harlow) grumbled that he’d simply had a bad day.
Former champ Dave Haggart and wife Stacey started with a sixth and fifth, but then figured out the boat and scored a pair of bullets. Mike Parker and Tony Chapman struggled except they too won a race. Mike Hester and John Mayall, the reigning champs, sailed well, but a couple mid-pack finishes pulled them down to a close third overall at the end.
The workers: PRO Skip Kempff and his RC crew, including Tom Ohlin, Cedric Lorch, Tom Glover, David Newland, Maryellen and me. George Sheller had to miss the day, but he did the set-up and organization.
Special thanks to the Thistle fleet for providing their boats for the races!
Here are a few more shots Mike took: