After a false start because of a downpour of rain on Thursday, the North American's were moved from Detroit, Michigan to Burlington, Vermont, on Saturday, February 10th. On Saturday evening, about 1/2 inch of snow fell. To the racers on Sunday, it gave the sensation that you were not moving very fast, when you actually were. Four races were held for both Gold and Silver fleet. Racing on Monday was cancelled due to extremely cold temperatures and winds out of the NW at 15 to 25 mph.
We started out believing the 1996 North American Championship Regatta would be sailed on the same piece of ice we had been practicing on for eight weeks straight - Anchor Bay at the north end of Lake St. Clair near Detroit Michigan. As registration opened on Thursday evening, the rains poured on what had been 18" of great ice for the last two months. The plan called for a small amount of "zamboni" action. The area received far too much rain. On Friday as the fleet practiced on the racing area, it became apparent the rain had caused too much damage. The forecast was for warmer temperatures the next day so off we drove Saturday morning (2/10) to Burlington Vermont to sail on Mallets Bay, Lake Champlain.
Racing began Sunday morning. What a great morning it was! Temperature in the low 30's and a beautiful breeze took us out to the middle of a hugh piece of near-perfect ice. It had snowed maybe one half inch the night before which gave off an interesting sensation that you were not moving very fast. Even though you were smoking along at warp, the snow cover took away the sensation of speed. You did not feel how fast you were going until you crossed tacks with someone or met an upwind/downwind situation. We were flying!
The wind decided to take a break at start time (10am) so everyone had a chance to make final adjustments and visit with their friends. The wind filled in after and hour or two and we were lined up in a good breeze that appeared to be steadying out for the day.
I stood on the starting line in the #14 spot on the left side of the course. My thoughts centered on the confidence I had developed racing with the Michigan crowd over the past two months. With more than 50 races and many hours of sailing during that period, I felt really good about my potential. The wind was in the low teens and the course was a good long mile of near-perfect ice with the dusting of wet snow. I had a good start and got up to speed quickly. I rounded 4th behind Paul Goodwin (4061), Ron Sherry (44) and Chip Cartwright (118). The race progressed with myself, Sherry and Cartwright trading places. Paul Goodwin performed the only true horizon job of the regatta. At the finish it was Goodwin first by a bunch, Sherry second, Van Wagnen third, Cartwright fourth and Jan Gougeon (1183) fifth.
I started in the three spot below Sherry and above Gougeon. The wind was building and the day was panning out to be a classic iceboat racing day. Good breeze, great ice, and a large course to stretch out on. I concentrated on having a good start and getting the boat up to warp as soon as possible. I was becoming more confident with my starting ability. I confirmed that confidence when we started and Sherry could not roll me with his near flawless starting ability. I was also able to slowly grind over Gougeon who may have been being held a bit high by the next sailor down the line. I held right and tacked at the starboard layline. At the first weather mark is was Sherry first, Cartwright second, Mike O'Brien (3456) third with Danny Connell (1630) and myself overlapped in fourth and fifth. O'Brien and Cartwright traded places rolling each other off to the right side of the downwind leg. I jibed early into a puff that carried me down to the leeward mark and into second behind Sherry. Cartwright ground me down on the next lap and we finished in that order. Sherry first, Cartwright second, Van Wagnen third, Connell fourth and O'Brien fifth.
Bigger wind! What an excellent day! My confidence continued to build. I started below Sherry and above O'brien in the number three spot, concentrating on a smooth start. It worked again as I was able to keep Sherry off my windward shoulder and sail high enough to keep to weather of O'Brien and the rest of the line up. My boat speed was excellent and I was beginning to feel I could point just a bit higher than anyone around me. This was a pleasant surprise compliments of a slight sail shape adjustment Skip Boston had made for the fiberglass mast group. The left side came into the weather mark better and I rounded about ninth coming in on the starboard layline over stood in what was the biggest wind of the day (puffs to maybe 18-22) eased out and flying low. I decided not to follow the crowd off to the right downwind so I jibed back into the puff which carried me almost directly back to the leeward mark. I felt the puff let up about 2/3's of the way down the leg so I jibed back and found myself in second behind Cartwright at the first leeward mark. Cartwright led this one wire to wire. I was second followed by Connell in third, O'Brien fourth and Eric Loenneke (338) fifth. At this point Cartwright led the regatta with a 4-2-1. I was 1/4 point back with a 3-3-2. Sherry and Goodwin did not recover from the teens in this race which gave Cartwright and myself a small cushion going into the fourth race.
I was standing in a starting spot I never stood in at a North American Championship. I was 1/4 point from the lead and the wind was going light. Oh No! I've got my "full metal jacket" heavy inserts on all the way around and my plank is one hole forward of where I set it for light air. There was still a sailing breeze but it was nowhere near the velocity we had enjoyed earlier. I pulled my halyard up inch (mostly for my head) and started left with O'brien below. Mike held me off as we got up to speed but I was happy to see not much had changed. I was sailing pretty evenly with him the first couple of minutes. I tacked to port and as I picked up speed and a lifting puff I noticed the right side must not have had good breeze. Our side was clearly ahead. I rounded first without a clue as to who was behind me (I knew O'Brien was there but not sure who else). I carried off to the right and got lifted. When I jibed back to the middle, I found Jeff Kent had passed me by using the same puff area I used in the third race. On the second lap we traded tacks. I came out on top at the second weather mark only to carry off to the right again and have Kent pass me again by using the left side puff. My speed and pointing were good and I was able to sneak by Kent at the third weather mark. This time down I realized I needed to cover the middle so I jibed back to the center. It worked and when I jibed again for the finish line there was no one in sight to my right. I had just won my first race in a major DN event. The top five rounded out with Cartwright second, Sherry third, Kent fourth and Gary Knapp (4628) fifth.
The forecast was for temperatures to fall into single digits and the wind NW 15-25mph with higher gusts. By 9am the temperature was 3 to 5 degrees and the wind was definitely up. Race Chairman Bill Van Gee deemed "by the powers vested in me, this regatta is complete". By using the tie breaker system to separate my nine points from Chip Cartwright's nine points, I had won my first major iceboat event since I began racing DNs in 1968/69.
Special thanks to my father Bob Van Wagnen who was an active DN sailor until about 1973 and who introduced me to iceboating in 1968. Also to my wife Maureen and son Greg for allowing me the freedom to "follow the ice" all winter. To Ron Sherry and the Michigan crowd for providing great tuning sessions. And to my teammates and traveling companions Dennis Butts (3868), Nick Vitale (1006), Scott Root (738), and Dick Parker (4738) for their support and for helping take some of the administrative load off during registration. Thank you all!by Ken Van Wagnen US4111
1996 North American DN Championship Results
|Pos||Sail||Gold Fleet Skipper||Sec||R1||R2||R3||R4||Points|
|1||US4111||Ken Van Wagnen||3||3||2||1||9.00|
|3||US44||Ronald J Sherry||2||1||13||3||19.00|
|4||US4230||Peter B Hill||13||11||6||6||36.00|
|5||US1183||Jan C Gougeon||Senior||5||16||7||9||37.00|
|8||US4009||Don C Brush||6||22||9||10||47.00|
|9||US338||Eric J Loenneke||17||8||5||18||48.00|
|13||US4732||Todd A Gamble||9||7||12||26||54.00|
|14||US882||Meade A Gougeon||Senior||18||13||8||17||56.00|
|15||US3535||Jeffrey S Kent||8||15||30||4||57.00|
|19||US3868||Dennis G Butts||7||25||28||11||71.00|
|21||US4315||Scott M Mcdowell||23||10||20||33||86.00|
|23||US4789||Chris L Clark||29||20||18||23||90.00|
|24||US45||J. Wendell Sherry||Senior||21||27||31||14||93.00|
|25||US4032||Robert V Schumacher||22||28||29||15||94.00|
|26||US3283||J Bruce Williams||Senior||15||24||33||24||96.00|
|29||US4542||Donald J Coe||32||19||23||32||106.00|
|32||US4110||John L Milbank||33||26||26||35||120.00|
|35||US1854||Robert J Thiessen||Master||34||32||DNF||34||137.00|
|Pos||Sail||Silver Fleet Skipper||Sec||R1||R2||R3||R4||Points|
|2||US2301||Daniel F Bierman||3||1||3||3||10.00|
|6||US4699||John I Harlow||4||6||7||7||24.00|
|9||US4212||Brian W Haumersen||7||9||13||15||44.00|
|10||US4897||Ronald Saccardo Jr||10||17||8||13||48.00|
|11||US4762||Matthew C Mccauley||DNS||10||6||5||50.00|
|14||US4411||Robert A Munsell||13||20||15||14||62.00|
|15||US3852||D Kenneth Johnsen||Master||15||13||17||17||62.00|
|16||US4417||Irene M Gonin||18||DNF||14||2||63.00|
|17||US4080||Richard H Price||Master||12||11||16||24||63.00|
|18||US1006||Nick R Vitale||11||14||12||DNF||66.00|
|19||US1925||Leo A Healy||Master||17||19||19||19||74.00|
|20||US4770||Curtis L Etzel||16||18||20||20||74.00|
|22||US4621||David A Koshiol||19||21||23||16||79.00|
|23||US800||Reuben P Snodgrass||Master||21||24||22||22||89.00|
|24||US3931||Frederick W Krause Jr||Senior||DNF||22||24||21||96.00|
|25||US4447||Stephen A Laurent||Senior||23||26||25||23||97.00|
|26||US3987||David E Burnham||20||23||26||DNS||98.00|
|27||US4512||Stephen D Madden||24||25||27||DNS||105.00|