Class newcomers Stu McNay and Caleb Paine bested a star-studded fleet over 4 races sailed out of the Clearwater Community Sailing Center on February 12-13. Saturday’s marginal forecast proved optimistic to reality, with the RC helpfully running practice starts and short beats but without enough breeze to run a complete race, sending the fleet in at 230p. With a maximum 4 races per day, there was no possibility of a throwout race on Sunday.
Sunday provided another short wait before a more southerly-than-expected breeze came in allowing a course axis of 220 for a 4 leg windward leeward. Local favorites Ethan Bixby and Ted Huebner played rabbit and dutifully won the first beat, with McNay and Paine picking their way through the fleet to take the W. The second race started off with similar conditions but a huge right shift with good pressure came at the beginning of the second beat, rewarding those on the right and hammering boats on the left. Stu and Caleb notched a 6th with World Champs Mike Martin and Adam Lowry taking out the win to hold a slim lead over McNay/Paine and Mike Punnett/Rich Mundell.
The breeze bounced around a bit more before going even farther right and stabilizing into good wire running strength, and McNay/Paine scored a wire to wire win over perennial favorites Holt and Woelfel to regain the series lead as Martin and Lowry scored and uncharacteristic 7th. With a stacked fleet and no throwouts there was plenty to be gained and lost in the final 6 leg race, which started in champagne conditions but a brutal chop on starboard tack. Mayhem and mishaps featured at every top mark and mixed the fleet, but McNay and Paine were able to pick through the bones to take second over the line and first in the series over Martin and Lowry, with Punnett and Mundell third overall.
Though newcomers to the 505 fleet, McNay and Paine are no strangers to the top of the leaderboard, with 5 Olympics and a bronze medal between them. Stu chalked their edge up to great transitional work in the dynamic breeze conditions, and depowering later than other boats which left the with a height edge over the other front line contenders. Their downwind speed was also impressive, and they’ll start the North Americans on Thursday among the favorites for a title.
Thanks to CCSC for once again hosting a wonderful Midwinters, and stay tuned as we re-take the course on Thursday for what promises to be one of the most hard-fought North Americans in years.