Skipper Jim Sminchak of Cleveland’s Lakeside Yacht Club and the crew of his J/105 it prevailed over a strong field in SAIL’s 2010 Best Around the Buoys (BAB) contest and will be heading to Florida in January to take part in 2011 Key West Race Week.
Team it received the nod based on its outstanding performance this past year in a number of regattas on the Lake Erie, including the Mentor Harbor Yachting Club Regatta; the Lakeside Yacht Club Regatta; the 73rd Annual Falcon Cup, organized by the Mentor Harbor and Cleveland yacht clubs; and the offshore portion of Edgewater Yacht Club’s Cleveland Race Week. In each case, it took first place in its PHRF division and, in all but Cleveland Race Week, won first overall as well.
The crew also competed in a number of one-design events, including ILYA Bay Week and the Detroit NOOD regatta. In both cases, it took first.
According to SAIL publisher Josh Adams, the crew of it won out over the other 70 entries in this year’s BAB due to a combination of its performance on their local racecourse and its cohesion over the years. “With Best Around the Buoys, we aimed to reward a team for its local PHRF racing performance with a berth on the national stage at Key West Race Week,” Adams said. “Jim Sminchak and crew stood out as a winning team committed to performing around the buoys in their region. Their success and the impressive volume and quality of entries to BAB serve as a testament that PHRF racing is alive and well across the United States.”
Adams added that the BAB selection panel was particularly impressed by the team’s involvement and success in a wide range of events, including handicap racing, one-design racing and point-to-point races. Over the year’s, team it has also competed aboard a number of different boats, including a Tartan Ten, a J/22 and a Farr 30. Sminchak said his crew’s wins are no accident, but come as a result of “countless hours of practice, boat preparation and team bonding.”
“Our training has us ready to compete at any regatta,” Sminchak said.
This year’s BAB panel included Adams, SAIL senior editor Adam Cort and members from the other partner organizations supporting the contest: Jim Allsopp, head of marketing for North Sails: Peter Craig, president of Premiere Racing, which organizes Key West Race Week; J/Boats Chairman Stuart Johnstone; and Bill Goggins, CEO of Harken U.S.A. US Sailing and Pettit paints are also sponsoring the contest.
As the winning BAB team, Sminchak and the it crew will receive free entry to Key West 2011, housing, dockage and the use of a brand-new J/111 equipped with a new suit of North Sails, a go-fast bottom job supplied by Pettit paints, and hardware and sailing gear from Harken.
Johnstone, a former college sailor of the year and longtime Key West veteran, will work with team it to help them prepare their J/111 for the regatta. Johnstone will also be aboard during the regatta, but the it crew will be the ones doing the actual racing.
“I’m looking forward to sailing with Jim and his team at Key West Race Week. It should be a lot of fun, a great challenge for everyone to get up to speed and to sail competitively,” Johnstone said. “It will be fun to help them get around the track in Key West, one of my most favorite places in the world to sail! Since sailing the 1978 J/24 Midwinters in Key West with Mark Ploch as tactician—we won!—it’s always been a blast to get back down there and enjoy tropical trade-wind like conditions.”
SAIL magazine created the Best Around the Buoys contest to encourage more participation in sailboat racing. BAB provides local, regional sailors the chance to jump aboard a cutting-edge race boat and show the world they can be competitive at an event like Key West Race Week. The contest drew entries from skippers and crews from across the United States, including New England, the Gulf region, a number of small inland lakes, the West Coast and even Hawaii. Their stories spanned the full range of human experience, from heart-warming and emotional, to almost unbelievable in terms of the odds many sailors will overcome to remain a part of the sport they love.
Sminchak said he’s been sailing on Lake Erie all his life, after being introduced to the sport by his parents. He added that he and his crew are doing the same with their kids to keep the tradition alive. “Most of the crew has been sailing with us for more years than I can think of. We think of our group as family and we are competitive, love to sail and most importantly like having fun,” Sminchak said. “We take our kids or other young sailors along as much as possible, as we do believe that we need to show or teach them the world of keelboat sailing.”
As for Key West, Sminchak said he and his crew are looking forward to the opportunity, but know they have a lot of work to do. “We will get to grips with [the regatta] in the next couple of weeks when I know of all the plans. With the J/111 being so new, we will have a hill to climb in learning what will make it go,” he said.
SAIL magazine will be following team it closely, both in print and on its web site throughout Key West 2011. For complete contest details, click here.