By Emory Heisler
In the final race, and heaviest winds of the day, Jen Lee pulled off a first place finish under pressure to become the first woman to win the AYC championship! As the eighth and final championship race began, it became clear that Jen needed one more “bullet” to edge out Laser sailor and past champion Paul Miachika. With winds gusting into the 20s and pressure from Mike Hester, Jen and her crew, Joel Hurley, crossed the finish line with their fourth 1st place finish of the day, giving Jen the coveted AYC Championship ‘Punch Bowl’ trophy.
AYC founder, Ruth Beals, is surely dancing a jig in heaven in celebration of Jen’s landmark achievement of breaking the “glass ceiling.”
Dr. Jen Lee, a relatively new AYC member and audiologist from Flagstaff, has been making the drive up and down the hill semi-weekly since September to sail in the TTL Sunfish fleet. She proudly steers her simple little gaff-rigged boats we all sailed as kids in the challenging conditions of TTL. Making her accomplishment even more amazing is the fact that Jen had never even helmed a keelboat much less driven heavily overpowered Santana 20s. To win against AYC’s best proves that dinghy racing can build the skills you need to succeed at any level and can take you from Sunfish racing at TTL to the club championship. Perhaps the skills she developed in collegiate dinghy racing at UCONN and the ever-challenging gusty days at TTL helped her overcome both the competition and the pressure to earn the title of first woman Fleet Champion to compete in our club championship.
Her victory in a tie-breaker over Paul Miachika and the six other AYC fleet champions was no cakewalk. The conditions proved to be a true test of tactics and trimming for all our champions, and an endurance test for both our champions and the race management team. Winds built as forecasted, 8-10kts early, up to 15-20 by late afternoon, with gusts at 20+ causing knockdowns, roundups, blood and breakdowns. To quote Dave Newland, “Having a highly competitive and challenging race day where a 1-2-2-2-2-1 gets you first loser! Priceless!”
Even the Race Committee (RC) faced challenges holding station in the high winds and washing machine conditions of powerboat wakes and wind waves. Led by Principal Race Officer (PRO) Marshall Williamson, the RC not only ran eight races, they successfully managed over 50 round-robin boat rotations amid the “controlled chaos” of wind, waves and wakes. Thanks to the sailing and “fending off” skills of our champions and their crews, and the hard work of RC members like Marc Danner and Bob Naylor, the boat swaps all came off without a hitch.
The day wasn’t without a few unfortunate events. Flesh wound “boat bites” left a trail of bloody smudges across several boats as the wounded rotated from boat to boat. Mike Parker’s Purple Haze suffered a catastrophic forestay failure and dismasting. Fortunately it happened between races and with no injuries. The Mark Set Boat team, consisting of Deb Heisler, Tony Chapman and Mike Ferring, safely guided “Mr. Pawkaw” and Purple Haze back to the marina. Finally, the AYC RC barge engine refused to start, requiring a tow home by the Mark Set team.
With the racing season officially concluded, it’s important to thank all those who made the championship day such a success. Thank you Santana 20 fleet boat owners for volunteering your boats for the event. A One Design round robin regatta of this size is an impressive achievement for us as a club and impossible without the support of sailors like those in the Santana 20 fleet.
Thanks, as always, to the Race Committee volunteers, running the boards and managing the scoring and rotations. Thank you Mark Set Boat team for adjusting the courses and towing boats home. Thanks to Mike Ferring for pulling double duty as event photographer and Mark Set Boat crew. And, unique to this event, thank you to the owners’ representatives that were aboard each boat for the day. Those folks had front row seats to see AYC’s best in action.
Congratulations to the 16 racers, seven boat owners and owners’ reps and eight RC volunteers who played a part in making the 2022 AYC Club Championship one of the best ever.
Santana 20 boat Owners and Owners’ Reps (ride-a-long)
Bruce Andress, rep: Deb Huntsman
Jeff Coulter, rep: Fay Powell
Marc Danner, rep: Myles Danner
Joel Hurley, rep: Jeff Bryant
Martin Lorch, rep: Kyle Clark
Will Nowak, rep: Will Nowak
Mike Parker, rep: Mike Parker
Fleet Champion Skippers and Crew:
C14.2: Dick Krebill, Ron Simzyk (crew)
C22: Neil Thibodaux – did not participate
Laser: Paul Miachika, Dave Newland
Portsmouth: Emory Heisler, Aaron Rodriguez
PHRF Spinnaker: Sean Brown, Brianna Voron
PHRF Sport Boat: Mike Hester, John Mayall
Santana 20: Martin Lorch, Cedric Lorch
Sunfish: Jen Lee, Joel Hurley
Thistle: Dan Schott, Greg Ullrich
Marshall Williamson – Principal Race Officer
Mark Set Boat:
Mike Ferring, Photographer