Club 420 Championships Come to Brant Beach
By Liam McKenna
Learning: a major aspect of journalism for readers, sources and — especially — writers.
For obvious reasons, sailing is a big sport on Long Beach Island. You’re usually within walking distance of a yacht club — whether you’re in Beach Haven or Barnegat Light. The SandPaper urged me to cover the sport.
While I admittedly knew nearly nothing about the sport, I was not going against my editor as he essentially urged me to spend the day on the water. So, I did some research and began picking up the sport. The fact most of our readers and I had the same level of sailing knowledge made the story easier to write.
From then until now, I discovered the best way for me to learn: never be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
I can read all of the sailing material I want, but nothing helps as much as chatting up sources.
Around the same time, I began learning Lightworks for video editing and RAW photography. Learning RAW, I leaned on the knowledge of The SandPaper’s photography staff. Learning Lightworks, I leaned on the knowledge of Youtube users.
With this story, my multimedia and niche sports writing abilities began to show their potential:
7.22.2014 — Winds, open water, accommodations and much more make Brant Beach Yacht Club among the ideal Long Beach Island locations for a major sailing event. From July 21 until July 24, the club is hosting the 2014 Club 420 North American Championship. It joins other clubs ranging from Surf City to San Diego in hosting events for the Club 420 Association.
“This is one of the best sailing venues in the country,” Club 420 President John Morgan said. “We are really excited to have one of our North America championships here.”
“This is a great location, especially on the East Coast, because you can come up from Florida and it’s halfway, and New England can come down,” regatta chairman Dave Coward said.
The Island also offers strong sailing conditions, which are not easily found during the summer. This relates to one big weather factor: wind. Coward said most places inland across the country lack proper gusts.
“What happens is – you see these clouds over here? These create a sea breeze. What happens is the mainland heats up, and the hot air rises and sucks the cold air out from under the ocean, which creates a sea breeze,” said principal race officer Paul Coward, Dave’s brother. “That’s an advantage for us because there are very few places that have wind in the summertime.”
The decision to hold the regatta on the Island is not just depending on whether or not the wind whips, though. Dave said the different classes of races are constantly looking for venues to hold races. The first regatta the club ever held was a Laser class event in 2000. In 2002, the club hosted a North American Laser regatta, which Dave described as “big.” This event signaled that the club was an ideal venue to host such races. In 2004, the club hosted the 420 North America Championships, and now in July 2014, it is hosting the event again. The event rotates around the country, but when it’s in this region, Dave said the Club 420 Association prefers to hold its events at Brant Beach.
“They like what we do, so they keep coming back,” he said.
However, there are even more intricacies in hosting these regattas. The events go out to bid, and the club must win the bid. Luckily, Dave said there are people who are affiliated with both the club and the association, so the club has a sort of “in.” Getting the event also takes time. Dave originally showed interest in hosting it back in 2011, and won the bid in 2012.
In order to make these regattas work, the club needs help from Long Beach Township. The township allows extra parking, on both sides of the street, during the regatta. It also accommodates visitors by allowing all of the boat trailers to be parked on Long Beach Boulevard’s cutouts from 60th to 64th streets. Each year, the club provides the township with a schedule in hope of getting a waiver.
“They accommodate us. They know what kind of commerce we bring,” Dave said. “Everybody’s gotta eat and sleep someplace.”
“This is a North America championship, so it’s a relatively big deal. There are people from all over the world who sometimes come to these,” Paul said. “There’s guys from San Francisco and Canada.”
“Most yacht clubs you go to everything is bulkheaded, so all you have is ramps to go down. We got lots of sand down there — beach — where they can launch from,” Dave said.
The regatta featured food, clothing and even a portable trailer containing restrooms. With all this going on, the club still had everyday activities going on. During the regatta, there were also two classes going on: one for swimming and another for younger sailors.
“Summertime is quite the hubbub around here,” Paul said.
At the event alone, there are over 200 racers, their coaches and some of their families. With these racers pairing up to man more than 100 boats, the bay became sprinkled with sails by 10 a.m. on July 21.
“We’ve got some great racing out there,” Paul said. “The good news and bad news is that we have this big, empty bay. Part of it’s empty because it’s fairly shallow. It’s also dead low tide.
“We sail out in the middle of Little Egg Harbor Bay, over towards West Creek a little bit,” he said. “This is an interesting course. There are all sorts of different courses, and this is called a trapezoid course.”
At the starting gates, there were about 60 boats at the starting line. The starting sequence lasts about five minutes; then about another five to 10 minutes pass until the next group of racers is sent out in hopes of minimizing potential wind shadow. Starting points alter to also help traffic flow.
“We have a particularly great place for small-boat regattas here — one of the best places in the country,” Paul said. “Everybody thinks of New Jersey as being one of the most crowded places in the world, except you can see there’s nobody out there.”
He said one of the reasons the bay is relatively empty is its shallowness. This keeps big boats from hogging up the bay.
“It leaves room for these small, dinghy-type boats that don’t draw any water, but we have a lot of them,” Paul said.
With small boats, combined with the knowledge of understanding the bay’s landscape, Paul has the ability to easily map out and possibly the change the course. Changes often depend upon conditions. For example, each race’s starting point must be into the wind.
“As the wind moves, we move the course,” Paul said. “That whole trapezoid must move as one, following the wind. So that can be a challenge if the wind changes a lot.”
The sport appears to have become much more technical and large-scale over the last few decades or so. Growing up, Dave never had the opportunity to participate in events like the regatta; very few existed at the time. Additionally, there were very few sailing instructors. Now, the Brant Beach club alone has eight full-time sailing instructors.
“These classes — there is no shortage of money,” Dave said. “They hire good coaches at the yacht clubs.”
The sport has also grown in terms of regulations. Among the boats out there not racing were those for judges. Missing a turn and fouling other racers are just two of the issued penalties that can result in the racer having to do something such as a 360-degree turn.
“We just want to make sure the race is safe, fun and fair,” chief judge Darryl Waskow said.
“Generally, sailing has been a Corinthian sport where you are your own judge, similar to the way golf has been,” Paul said. “You were expected to penalize yourself.”
As principal race officer, Paul creates and manages the course and the race. He has been at this for 25 or 30 years, he estimates. Additionally, racing has been a part of his life since he was 8 years old, so this has been a nearly lifelong passion of his.
“You cannot get the scope of what it is like to be out there and looking at it because there’s this panorama of boats, and if you’re videoing or taking pictures, it just looks like sea gulls on the water,” he said. “Everything is sort of slow motion. A boat going fast is still pretty slow. But, if you’re in it or you’re around it, it’s exciting, and it seems fast.”
Paul is certainly not alone in his passion for racing.
“This is a little nostalgic for me. I’ve been at eight North Americans, five Nationals, eight Mid-Winters, six Mid-Atlantics personally, and this is my last official act as a board member of the Club 420,” Club 420 Vice President John Barbano said.
Up next for the club will be the New Jersey Optimist States on Aug. 18 and 19. The club’s events for the season conclude on Oct. 11 with the Optimist Atlantic Coast Championships, which run until the 13th of the month.