John Bentley Regatta 2014
Thanks to Chuck Gilchrest (assisted by “embedded reporter” Joe Berkeley) for this account of the 2014 John Bentley Regatta held at New Bedford YC on June 21 and 22…
Registration numbers for the John Bentley Regatta at New Bedford YC may have been lower than last year, but for the few that trekked to the shores of Buzzards Bay, this year’s event proved again that the Bentley Regatta delivers some of the best Laser racing found in New England. Racing in conditions ranging from 15-18 kts of white-capped sea breeze on Saturday to a more benign 8 kt Southerly on Sunday, some of the Nation’s top Laser competitors battled it out in 11 races held over the two day event.
Many of the competitors were friends of John Bentley, the local New Bedford YC sailor who passed away in December 2012, whose legacy of fun on and off the water lives on in this group. The regatta maintains a casual, laid back atmosphere and sense of camaraderie that epitomized John’s ethos towards the sport of sailboat racing, This is not to say that the competition was lacking as the action on the water included 9 time World Champion and current Laser Great Grand Master World Champ Peter Seidenberg along with Wickford Regatta Laser Champ, Mark Bear, Mike Matan from New York, New Hampshire’s Peter Follansbee, and other racers that frequent the top of the result lists in New England.
Saturday’s racing got underway with the sea breeze filling in just after noon. Racers saw wind and waves building in a classic Buzzards Bay Southwester with gusts reaching 20 knots through the afternoon. In total 7 races were completed on Saturday as a tired but happy fleet retreated to the docks of the New Bedford YC to enjoy a beer, dinner, and post race conversation. Seidenberg was quick to point out that while the wind forecast was less than ideal, “when the sun is out, you can always count on the sea breeze in Buzzards Bay”. Other competitors shared this viewpoint including Connecticut’s David Frazier who added “If you get an opportunity to go to a good regatta like the John Bentley, don’t let the weather forecast fool you….everybody sailed hard at every level in the fleet.” Other racers commended the race committee work, citing short waiting times between races and great mark placement which kept the action going and racing competitive.
The close of the first day of racing saw Mike Matan of New York, NY with a slight lead over Peter Follansbee, and Mark Bear of South Dartmouth, MA close behind in third. Individual race victories were shared by Follansbee and Bear with three wins each, and a single win by Matan. Bear ran into difficulties with equipment in the heavy conditions and was forced to make jury rig repairs to his boom on the water, with a disappointing DNS (did not start) in race #3. His repairs were successful and he won 2 of the last 3 races of the day.
Sunday morning held less promise for breeze and the Race Committee kept the boats on shore until just before noon with the hopes of getting in several races as the breeze turned from shifty Easterly winds to a more consistent SSW sea breeze. The wind didn’t come on nearly as strong on this day, but still allowed for good close racing. In the lighter conditions, Peter Seidenberg took his first win of the regatta in race #8, but it was the consistency of the local racer, Mark Bear, gathering victory in the final 3 races and with that, the overall win of the regatta. Second place by a single point would go to Mike Matan and Peter Follansbee rounded out the top three places, just 4 points behind.
As the awards were handed out over pizza and beer, many competitors discussed why the attendance was lower this year. Maybe it was partly because in previous years this regatta had had the added value of being the Area A Qualifier for the US Sailing Singlehanded Championship Regatta but when US Sailing revamped their selection process for the National Championships, there was no need for a local qualifier and the Bentley Regatta became a stand alone event. For the Laser racers from the immediate region, the weather prediction of light, flukey winds all weekend long might have been an added deterrent, keeping registration numbers lower than last year. So the message is, “Next year – don’t believe the weatherman!”
Sailors shared ideas of how to draw more competitors to the event, encouraging race management to utilize the Laser Class subsidies of Regatta Network registration to provide better online registration access and information – a good suggestion for all regatta organizers. Others felt that while the number of competitors was relatively small, the quality of competition was hard to complain about. James Jacob, hailing from Alexandria, VA, commented that while it was “too bad the Newport guys didn’t show up, I came for the competition and the breeze and was happy with both!” Joe Berkeley from Hull, MA added, “The breeze, the competition and the RC work were excellent. The Top Guys were FAST!”
Mark Bear, South Dartmouth (22pts)
Mike Matan, NY, NY (23 pts)
Peter Follansbee, New Castle, NH (27 pts)
David Frazier, Granby, CT ( 42 pts)
Peter Seidenberg, Portsmouth, RI (54 pts)
James Jacobs, Alexandria, VA (55pts)
Joe Berkeley, Hull, MA (59 pts)
Dwight Escallera, Wakefield, RI (78 pts)
Jeff Beckwith, Southport, CT (85pts)
Steven Kozacz, Cape Neddick, ME (87pts)
Frank Hennessey, Windham, NH (107pts)
Stephen Pollack, New Castle, NH (107pts)