Doug Sabin top finisher in Frostbite Racing event

Laurie Fullerton
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Marblehead’s frostbiting fleet got back out on the water Feb. 5, and while racers had to chip away at some ice in the boats before launching, the fleet benefited from the end of an Arctic blast and had far warmer temperatures and a steady southwest breeze for sailing on Sunday.

Doug Sabin of Marblehead was the top finisher on Sunday after seven races. He has been sailing consistently at the top of the fleet all season.

“I went to M.I.T., so I started sailing Tech dinghies as a student,” he said. “They are a great boat and are very evenly matched.”

Sailors head upwind after rounding a mark off the Corinthian Yacht Club. COURTESY PHOTO / BRUCE DURKEE

Sabin added that the Tech dinghy at M.I.T. goes through a developmental change every seven or eight years.

The Tech dinghies the Marblehead fleet purchased are about 10 years old and were used to teach up to 2,600 M.I.T. students how to sail. The hulls are the same, but certain configurations change.

They are built to take a beating, however, and are sailed hard both by students and by the current frostbiting fleet here.

The fleet features a great mix of some of our country’s most decorated sailors along with homegrown talent from the MHS sailing team who are encouraged to come and race.

Sailing greats like Moose McClintock of Newport, R.I., former Olympian Ben Richardson of Gloucester, former Tufts University sailing coach Joe Berkeley from the South Shore and world-class sailor Tomas Hornos of Marblehead are among the fleet’s regulars.

For students and locals, this means that although the learning curve is steep, it is an opportunity to compete at the highest level of the sport and have fun — an opportunity that most sailing towns do not have in winter. The series is run by the Boston Yacht Club and continues through April.

The Tech dinghy’s owners also loan out their boat to encourage participation, as is the case with the Marblehead High School sailing team. Over the course of the past three seasons, everyone from junior sailors to past and present U.S. Sailing Team members and Olympic hopefuls Nevin Snow and Chris Barnard joined the fleet for a day.

“The ‘Techs’ are really fun, and I got interested in them recently through Ted Moore of Marblehead,” said McClintock, who placed third on Sunday. “It is worthwhile for me to drive up on Sundays to race here and we have some great sailors in this fleet.”

A group shot of Marblehead’s winter sailors taken on Jan. 31. COURTESY PHOTO / JOE BERKELEY

McClintock can humbly count himself among those greats as he is not only a highly regarded sailing coach but has won six J24 World Championships, three J24 North American Championships, three J24 National Championships, a J-22 World Championship, a Swan World Championship and competed in several America’s Cups over his long career.

The fleet also has a deep reserve of sailing knowledge as Berkeley is a regular here after buying Jud Smith’s Tech dinghy last year. He travels up from the South Shore each week and has helped the fleet grow.

Hornos, too, has had a big role in making the Tech dinghies more accessible to high school sailors and local racers, helping people rig the boats and encouraging those new to the fleet.

When asked about the Tech’s stability on the water, Berkeley said that he does wear a dry suit because the boats can capsize. There are, however, support boats on the water during racing.

Ben Richardson of Gloucester also competes and is on hand to mentor sailors. In 2012, he was the chairman of the Olympic Sailing Committee, and he has competed in four Olympic Trials, is a Laser Masters World Champion and represented the U.S. at the Pan-American Games.

Richardson noted that, although the boats are not communally owned, if you can’t get here on a Sunday, it is quite straightforward to find someone else with experience to sail them. That kind of behind-the-scenes organization is helpful to keep a fleet active, he noted.

The responsibility to keep the racing going, especially among such high-caliber sailors, falls on the Boston Yacht Club Race Committee members and other volunteers who huddle around the little house on a float in the middle of the harbor during racing.

This week, the task of running the races went to Town Clerk Robin Michaud, who volunteers along with her husband. Karen Tenenbaum has also been instrumental in keeping the winter racing going as a Race Committee member.

World-class sailor Ben Richardson of Gloucester chips away at the ice before getting ready for Sunday’s Frostbite racing. COURTESY PHOTO / BRUCE DURKEE

“It is a fun group of people to work with, and I love that, in winter, there is absolutely no boat traffic in the harbor when we are running races,” said Michaud, principal race officer for the day.

This week, the committee kept an eye on boat No. 13, which was helmed by MHS sophomore Nicolas Regnault, who is a member of the high school sailing team, who was sailing a Tech dinghy for the first time.

Regnault is also a Laser sailor in the spring, summer and fall. After racing, Regnault said he learned a lot and would be back again.

Chip Terry, who placed second on Sunday, is an avid sailor who has been involved with the Courageous Sailing Center for many years. He lives in Winchester, and the drive to Marblehead on a Sunday morning to race against sailing greats is a rare and important learning experience.

“I love getting out on the water in winter,” Terry said. “Especially when the caliber of sailors is so amazing. We have a depth in this fleet and when there are 15 boats out there, we really can have some intense competition. Also, the Boston Yacht Club and Marblehead sailors are committed to making this accessible. What is great is that you have this nice, protected spot to sail. The Tech is a great fleet boat, and they are very even and pretty much bullet proof.”  

Final results

1. Doug Sabin, USA 28 “Miss Clara,” CYC/EYC

2. Chip Terry, USA 14 “Coach Ed Reed,” Castine Yacht Club

3. Moose McClintock USA 27 “Ruthie B,” BYC

4. Ben Richardson, USA 1 “Wildcat,” EP/E/NY

5. Joe Berkeley, USA 10 “Bermudiana,” Hull Yacht Club

6. Stephen Uhl, USA 52 “Jerry Milgram,” CYC

7. UIf Westhoven, USA 2 “Dan the Man,” EYC

8. Nicolas Regnault, USA 13 “White Pepper,” CYC

9. Garrett Hamilton, USA 12 “Seabury,” BYC

The fleet races every Sunday, and there are always boats available to borrow and slots on Race Committee boats. All are welcome. Anyone interested can message @marbleheadfrostbiting on Instagram.

1 Comment

  • What a great little story, Will! I love having this bird’s eye view of the frostbiters. (It’s been many years since I ventured out on the water in winter. Being a spectator is just fine for me.) Thanks!

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