A group of Antigua’s top sailors gathered on October 11th to honor the memory of James Dobbs of Lost Horizon II fame, who passed away on September 4. It wasn’t a solemn affair at all. Instead, it was a day of keen competition and camaraderie as nine skippers and their crews, all friends of James, took to the waters off Nonsuch Bay Resort to race one-design RS Elite boats in the 1st Annual James Dobbs Memorial Regatta.
“Going into the last race, the 14th of the day, the top three of us – myself, Karl James and Marc Fitzgerald, were all tied at five points,” explains Tanner Jones who, with crew Shari Potts and Patrick Watson, finished 3rd in the last race, enough to make his team the low point winner. “What excelling came down to was getting a good start since the races were fast, quick and short. I think James would have enjoyed it. He would have blown the field away because he always hit his starts.”
Karl James’ team finished second, one point behind Jones, while Fitzgerald was one point behind James to end third.
“While the standard of sailing was high, the standard of rule observance was, frankly, quite low – lots of on the water shouting, but not affecting the after race camaraderie. I think James would have enjoyed it immensely. Nobody could ask for a better memorial event, in my opinion,” Fitzgerald said.
The day of racing went amazingly well for only three weeks of organization on the part of avid sailor, Bernie Evan-Wong, who finished in fifth place. About 60 people were in attendance, including family and friends. The weather cooperated too with beautiful sun and winds from the southeast at 15 to 17 knots.
The combination of races was a format never run before but something that race officer Clare Cupples worked out to keep everyone involved until the finals. It began with a morning round robin, where every team sailed against each other three times. The top three teams automatically advanced into the finals. Boat swapping minimized any differences due to equipment. In the afternoon, the lower six teams from the morning session had a chance to get into the finals.
It should have been a straightforward first three qualifying. However, the competitive factor was such that dinghy sailing became a contact sport among a few of the teams. Instead of stopping racing to put together a protest committee and start hearing protests, the two top offending teams were put into a single match race where the winner earned a spot in the finals. The finals were the last three races of the day, where competition came down to the last race to determine the winner.
“There is no better racing than one-design for fairness and close competition.” says Evan-Wong. “James would be all for close competition. In fact Nicola Pears (James’ partner) messaged me about how much James would have liked the event format. To quote her, ‘it’s a form of remembrance that James would have appreciated’.”
Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.