International 5.5 Regatta 2018

By Jennifer Harker

Special weather advisories issued by Environment Canada for an afternoon of high winds (80 km/hr) plus squalls and rain forced the cancellation of races on the first day of the North American Fall Regatta on Friday in Midland, Ontario.

Two boats headed out for some last minute tuning in the morning before the predicted squalls including USA 75 Pride, under the new ownership of Joe Strelow of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Pride was designed by Texan Ernie Fay in 1962 and quickly rose through the ranks of racing. Attracted to her impressive race pedigree, Strelow bought the boat a few short months ago on July 22 with plans to race her this fall.

He quickly found she was in need of some focused TLC and major rejuvenation.

Told it was impossible to have her ready for September Strelow set out to prove the naysayers wrong.  There were definitely low moments. “A boat is not a boat if it doesn’t float,” he said, remembering his dismay at discovering several major holes and spreading rot. “Rot, mixed with regret and despair,” he said ruefully. However patience, persistence and passion paid off.

Strelow brought a regenerated Pride to Midland in mid-September. Thanks to the knowledge, expertise, guidance and spare parts of John Lister, Dean Harker and Matt Thurley her bare decks soon sprouted all the necessary hardware and fittings and Pride was race ready.

It is a perfect example of the teamwork and dedication of the North American 5.5 organization. Although racing 5.5s – and winning – is the end goal, they put equal effort into restoring and rejuvenating the fleet while building camaraderie and the social aspect of the group at the same time.

With wild winds predicted for Friday, the 5.5s stayed at the dock, but some skippers and crew decided to get back to the basics and headed out in Optis instead, joking that they needed some remedial racing lessons. Taking advantage of a weather window and the protected inner harbor eight boats enjoyed some good natured fun. Proving yet again, the worst day on the water is still better than the best day in the office.

Saturday dawned clear and cold with favourable winds and the fleet completed five races in short order. North America welcomed another new 5.5 to the line as Dan Rossi rolled out Savage for her maiden races on Georgian Bay. In keeping with North America’s goal of expanding the fleet and attracting new owners and crew, organizers swapped boats and invited guest skippers for the weekend. This year’s skippers were:

John Lister USA 51 Purple Haze

Hugh Loughborough CAN 22 Nantoria

Don Cameron CAN 79 O’Kelly

Joe Lambert USA 102 Aeolus II

Matt Thurley USA 75 Pride

Dan Rossi USA 33 Savage

Dean Harker CAN 30 Summer

In Saturday’s first race Pride took the favoured end and jumped out to an early lead. Summer was on her heels with Aeolus close behind. The race would prove to be exciting to watch with the fleet continually jockeying for position and it was anyone’s race to take. Pride rounded the first and second marks well ahead but Purple Haze was coming fast after taking the neglected north side when the rest of the fleet stuck to the south. The strategy paid off and Purple Haze would take the race handily but the race committee had to be sharp as the next five boats crossed en masse with about 10 seconds separating second from sixth place. Shifty winds kicked up keeping crews on their toes for the second race that saw Summer jump out to an early lead. Spinnaker-proficiency was the key to victory as Purple Haze and Pride battled for position. Aeolus had a beautifully smooth set around the mark and pushed into third place. By the second mark Nantoria was firmly in first and never relinquished her position. Race committee opted for a shortened course due to the shifting winds and Nantoria cruised to victory, followed by Purple Haze and Pride. While the course was reset Savage joined the fray. Owned by Dan Rossi, she is another work in progress and will need more work before she is in top form. Savage showed her form early with her crew working her into a fifth place finish.   Saturday would finish with Purple Haze registering four firsts and a second, followed by Nantoria with a first, two seconds and two thirds. O’Kelly finished the day in third overall with two seconds, two thirds and a fourth. It seemed like Mother Nature had blown out her energy and Sunday offered up light winds, keeping the racers to two just courses.   Check https://www.sailwave.com/results/MBSC-2018-5-5%20Meter%20NA%20fall.htm for full results from the weekend.  
At the North American 5.5 regattas, socializing plays a vital role as the group strives to encourage involvement to rebuild the racing class The fall regatta begins with a Thursday evening dinner hosted by Bill and Anne Mills where the good natured ribbing begins. Friday evening features a pub night dinner where the 5.5ers are welcomed by the Midland Bay Sailing Club. It is an excellent opportunity to spread the word about the class and to thank the club for its hospitality. The annual regattas could not happen without the generosity of MBSC and Bay Port Yachting Centre. This year 20 members of the sailing club, including Commodore Larry Donaldson, were on the water at some point during the three day event. Everyone looks forward to Saturday evening’s delicious dinner hosted by Matt and Cheryl Thurley and especially Matt’s speech from the balcony – an annual ritual that helps bring the families and friends together with 5.5 owners, skippers and crew. Following Sunday races, a well-choreographed haul-out happens before the awards and dinner and departure of out-of-town crews. Commenting on another excellent event, regatta organizer John Lister said, “It is wonderful to see so many people involved in the revival of this vintage class. Everyone involved chips in and clearly is enjoying being involved.” For more information on the North American 5.5M organization, including potential boats for sale, contact Dan Rossi at daniel@rossi-engineering.com or John Lister at  listersjohn@gmail.com