Russ Silvestri topped the 2016 North American Championships ahead of 6 Meter newcomer Eliza Richartz in an action-packed three-day event highlighting the best of the San Francisco sailing lifestyle.
The International 6 Meter Rule has been around for more than 100 years making the 6 Meter one of the oldest performance racing yachts and longest actively raced boats in sailing. Indeed, the 2016 International 6 Meter North American Championship and Fall Invitational held Oct. 20 – 22 at the St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco featured tight racing on the water and après-sail activities on shore as elegant as the boat itself.
A fleet of 11 beautiful modern and classic boats hailing from the US, Canada, and Great Britain put on a delightful show of yacht racing, sailing nine races held over the course of three days. After an especially breezy September, 6 Meter sailors were treated to pleasant sailing conditions with the wind filling into the low teens around noon each day.
The biggest battle on the water was between StFYC members Russ Silvestri on Sting and 6 Meter newcomer Eliza Richartz on Scoundrel—both boats are operated by StFYC’s new International Yacht Racing Foundation.
“I first started racing 6 Metres this summer because Russ found me in the bar and asked if I would be interested,” said Eliza. “Now, I’m obsessed. Scoundrel is such a beautiful boat. I think she is the prettiest boat out there and I love racing her.”
Silvestri had approached Richartz to ask her if she wanted to helm an all-women 6 Meter crew at the Europeans held in Switzerland in July. Without knowing any of the details, Richartz exclaimed a resounding, “Yes!” to the offer, and the rest is history. The Scoundrel crew finished sixth in the Europeans with Sting taking second.
While Richartz may be new to the 6 Metre, she’s been racing since she childhood. “I’ve been sailing since I was six competitively, representing the United States in Optis, 420s, Lasers; I sailed in high school, I sailed in college. At this point I feel like it’s learning a new boat and learning the venue and crew work, especially in these boats,” Eliza told Sail Couture.
Day one at North Americans was tough for Scoundrel; a mechanical mistake forced them to retire from the first race and skip the second. “Our crew was unfortunately not gelling well, and it showed in our performance,” explained Eliza.
At the end of the day, the Scoundrel crew could relax and re-focus, knowing that up to three of the total nine races would be thrown out. After racing, participants enjoyed a relaxing social at the dock and aboard TATOOSH, Bob and Molly Cadranell’s stunning 1961 80-foot custom ketch, once owned by actor Peter Fonda. On an exceptionally beautiful, warm San Francisco evening, guests nibbled on a selection of charcuterie and cheeses and sipped Dark & Stormys.
“We’d sailed TATOOSH from rainy Seattle to sunny San Diego, and guess what—there’s a 6 Metre moored a few slips away. We got involved with racing at the San Diego Yacht Club, and after every race, the sailors gather on the dock and drink Dark & Stormys. Black Seal Goslings with Goslings Ginger Beer. On winning days they’d add orange bitters and a quarter lime,” said Molly.
“Greg Stewart, the owner of the San Diego 6 Metre Sprig, suggested that we sail TATOOSH up to San Francisco so that the Sprig team and the Arunga team could sleep on board during the North American Championships, and we could host a real SoCal party for the rest of the competitors. Needless to say, I’ve never seen so many happy sailors! Nor have I ever made so many drinks!”
On day two, the competition was as dark and stormy as the evening before: Arunga, Sting, and Scoundrel swapped the top-three spots back and forth. Going into the final day of racing, every podium position was up for grabs—but not before they celebrated Lucie’s “birthday party.”
Owners Matt Brooks and Pam Rorke Levy call the party, a regular feature at Worlds and Europeans, the Lucie Birthday Party to honor their 85-year-old 6 Metre, which is one of the oldest in the fleet. “This was our first opportunity to throw a party in the US and in home waters, so we wanted it to feel really American,” said Pam of the Old West cowboy theme chosen for the party.
Boots were the suggested attire, and with a bandana and custom 6 Metre North Americans sheriff badges waiting at each place setting, it was fun to see the sailors, usually donned in Helly Hansen, Henri Lloyd, and Musto sailing gear, turn into authentic-looking cowboys.
Adventurers Pam and Matt have attended a number of cattle drives and subsequently, own quite the wardrobe of Western wear. Matt outfitted several of his crewmembers with hats and chaps.
Before dinner, Cultivar wine poured their Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay as guests enjoyed Hog Island Oysters and hors d’oeuvres. Beer sponsor Fort Point was also a popular choice.
The meal served was one right off the range prepared in a pop-up kitchen in the StFYC courtyard. Two roasted whole pigs, chicken, and all the fixin’s crafted by Pam’s chef Jennifer Carvaly. The exceptional meal was capped off with apple crisp presented in a mason jar and a selection of cookies and candies including Fleur de Sel Chocolate dipped caramels.
The wine selection for dinner was Cultivar Chardonnay and Figure Eight Cabernet, donated by Matt and Pam; Matt makes the beautiful Knight’s Valley Cabernet in Sonoma.
After dinner, there was dancing to Americana band the Easy Leaves, showing just how much fun these 6 Metre sailors can have. It was cowboy jubilee on the water.
Going into day three, Silvestri, sailing with Craig Healy, Ethan Doyle, Chris Smith and John Bonds on Sting, were in first, with Richartz, joined by Brooks Price, Kermit Shickel, Gerard Sheridan, and Keith “Panda” Love, hot on his heels. Bob Cadranell’s Arunga was also in the mix. The competition was tight and nerves were running high; no place was secure with throw-outs still to be computed.
The first race of the day was civilized enough with a two-lap course around the Blackaller buoy won by Silvestri with Richartz in second and Cadranell in third. In race two, an aggressive start resulted in a multi-boat collision, a general recall, ultimately, Cadranell forced to retire from the regatta. Richartz won the race just ahead of Silvestri.
The final race of the day and the regatta was a nail-biter, but in the end, Silvestri posted the bullet with Brooks’ classic 6 Meter Lucie in second, and Richartz in third. Arunga was able to throw out the final two races and a last-place finish on the first day to maintain a podium position in third with 15 points; Richartz and the Scoundrel crew were second with 12 points.
Silvestri with won the regatta with a perfect six-point score after throw-outs. In the Classics division, Ben Mumford finished first aboard Llanoria with 25 points (they were fourth overall) followed by Matt Brooks on Lucie with 28 points (sixth overall).
“For a crew that had never sailed together, we did pretty well,” said Richartz. “I love sailing against Russ because he constantly pushes me. I’m a girl; I’m half his age; I didn’t grow up here and I haven’t mounted Olympic and America’s Cup Campaigns like him. Still, I like to think we give him a run for his money!”
Said Silvestri of his youthful competition, “Eliza has a great spirit. She’s spunky and always willing to fight.”
In addition to placing second in the Pacific Coast Championship Trophy and 6 Metre North American Trophy, Richartz was awarded the Lucie Bedford Cunningham Warren – North American Trophy for being the top-performing boat with a woman helmsperson or crew. She also won the President’s Trophy for being the top-performing boat with a youth helmsperson or crew.
“It could not have been a better event out on the water. The conditions were absolutely perfect, with plenty of sun and wind, and the fog acting as little more than a photo backdrop. We were able to get in the maximum number of races—three a day for a total of nine altogether—and nothing makes a 6 Metre sailor happier than the opportunity to sail lots of races,” said Brooks, who is the President of the International 6 Metre Association, as well as the regatta co-chair.
“The race committee did a great job of keeping all the wheels in motion throughout each day, and every day of sailing concluded with another social event featuring free wine, beer, and whisky provided by our race sponsors Cultivar, Fort Point Beer Company, and Glenmorangie with overall support from our marquis sponsor Fremont Bank,” Brooks added.
He commended the massive amount of support from club members, spectators, and press of the new St. Francis 6 Metre syndicate, funded by the StFYC International Yacht Racing Foundation. “I think it helped that the two boats the syndicate has already purchased—Sting and Scoundrel—performed so well at the North Americans.”
According to Brooks, in the US and Europe, more and more classic boats are being bought, restored, and raced at a very competitive level, both by individuals and small syndicates. “Spain is just one example of this where King Juan Carlos is actively involved in growing the Spanish fleet of 6 Metres. We look forward to competing with His Highness, hopefully next year in Vancouver at the 2017 Worlds or the following year at the European Championship in La Trinite, France,” he said.
“The 6 Metre event has a nice balance of high-quality racing and a casual fun social scene after that everyone appreciates and made an effort to participate in,” said Ethan Doyle. “There is a new energy to the class, a revitalization of what used to happen decades ago—Matt and Pam and the StFYC team have been instrumental in making that happen.”