O’Brien Twins Edge SCYC Duo in C420 State Championship Regatta

Jul 19, 2017
Courtesy of: Barbara Boetticher Several of the lead boats head for the turn marker during one race in the C420 New Jersey Championship Regatta at Surf City Yacht Club on July 14.

For just their second regatta competing together in a C420-class sailboat, Colleen and Michaela O’Brien certainly put on a show. Following an eighth-place finish in the second race and starting Day 2 of the C420 New Jersey State Championship in second place, the 15-year-old twins finished second, first and second during the final three races and ended up winning the title on a tiebreaker.

“Michaela and I have been racing together for about a month and this is only our second regatta,” said Colleen, who along with her sister represented Bay Head Yacht Club and Shrewsbury Sailing & Yacht Club in the annual event, hosted by Surf City Yacht Club July 13-14. “We had been sailing Optimist boats for years, but now that we’ve aged out of that class we figured we’d try the 420 together. It’s been a little bit of a challenge.”

The O’Brien girls started off well, taking second in the first race of the regatta on July 13, but taking eighth in the second race set them back a bit – albeit temporarily, because they raced to the top spot in the third race and then took fourth in the fourth race, landing them in second overall heading into the second day.

Knowing that the eighth-place finish would drop them from the scoring if they finished higher than that during the final three races, Team O’Brien’s goal was to push for the top few spots.

“The goal was to stay consistent,” said Colleen, who skippered the boat. “We tried to stay on the favored side of the line, set up in a pretty safe spot and tack whenever we wanted. We just had to find the right spot on the course. The puffs were really visible and we just had to sail to the right side of the pressure, and then tack and go to the shift. We did that and we were able to stay near the front the whole time.”

And even though the petite teens – weighing all of about 170 pounds combined – were light in the fairly big boat, they managed to keep to their plan, keep flat on the water and sail into a tie for first.

“You never really know what’s going to happen out there,” Michaela said. “So, we just stuck to the plan and tried to stay as consistent as possible. It worked for us today.”

Unfortunately, what worked out really well for them didn’t work out as well for Surf City Yacht Club’s Declan Botwinick and Brooke Schmelz, who a week earlier had won the C420 race of the Junior Commodore Regatta. After taking third, second, second and first during the first day’s four races, the 14-year-old tandem took first in the fifth race but then took a dip to third in the sixth race and finished ninth in the final race.

“We tried to repeat our success of last week, but we ran into some trouble in the last race,” Botwinick said. “We were very powerful in wind of about 15 mph, and that’s why we did so well the first day. But today, as the day went on, the wind got really light and that worked more in their favor.”

Factoring their dropped results, the top-two boats each ended up with 12 points. The first tiebreaker was the number of first-place finishes and each had two. The second criteria was number of second-place finishes. The O’Brien twins had three, while Botwinick and Schmelz tallied two.

“We knew it was close going into that last race,” Schmelz said. “We had to keep them at least one boat behind us, but we made a couple of tactical errors and let them slip by us. We didn’t cover them enough. We need some more practice in lighter air.”

In third place was the SCYC team of Brielle Willoughby and Tommy Green, who finished as high as second in the fourth race on Day 1 and won the final race of Day 2, ending up with 21 points. Metedeconk Yacht Club’s Charlie McKenzie and Ethan Kelly finished fourth with 23 points, winning on the second tiebreaker ahead of the Sarasota Youth Sailing duo of Bryce Tone and Riley Baugh.

SCYC’s Jessica Boetticher and Sophie Lusty finished sixth with 31 points, eight ahead of clubmates Ian Willoughby and Sam Resibord in seventh.

— David Biggy


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