With a year to plan and find and restore a boat to racing condition, skipper Greg Eiffert recruited his longtime crew to take one more stab at winning an Ensign Class Nationals title. Greg’s crew included Greg Eiffert (driver/mainsail), Mike Frankovich (mainsail/tactics), Alex Crerand (bow/wind/traffic), and Quantum’s own Doug Burtner (genoa and spin trim/overall boat speed/ballast). The plan was to find a boat going into the 2018 season, fix it up, and race in a few regattas prior to the 2018 Ensign Class Nationals at Seaside Park Yacht Club (SPYC), New Jersey. Their plan came together perfectly, and the team earned the long sought-after Ensign Class Nationals title for 2018.
Here’s how they did it.
Restorations to the boat included smoothing out the bottom, covering 50-year-old dingy yellow paint with a nice gray on the topsides, and sprucing up the wood floor and benches with some TLC. The spongy top deck took reinforcements in addition to replacing the wood cam cleats and blocks. The boat was outfitted with a Quantum sail inventory, which Doug facilitated, designed to meet the one design class standards. Lines were run forward for maximum efficiency for adjusting the traveler and backstay. The team arrived at SPYC two days early for extra practice runs and any last-minute fine-tuning. The practice days allowed Greg to get a feel for his time on distance routine so he could nail the starts and punch off the line in clear air and with speed, and it gave the boys a chance to get the major crew work timing dialed in.
Seaside Park Yacht Club, NJ, has a reputation for a strong southerly sea breeze; however, a low pressure system off the coast caused light-to-moderate winds throughout the event.
Day One saw 6-8 knots out of the NE with lifts found to the right, as that became the favored side. The day included the traditional Ensign Nationals practice race followed by the first official races. A large line of storms passed in time to get three races off, including the practice race. Mike and crew were a bit too ready for the start of the first official race of the regatta; they were called early and had to climb their way back to take fifth place by going to the right side of the course and playing the lifts there. The second race saw a good start in clean air, followed by a tack to duck several boats to get to the right side of the course. This paid off again for the team as they were able to leverage staying farther right than their competitors and grab a win for the race. Their six points for the day secured their overall lead for the regatta and set the precedent for the following days.
Day Two saw 10-12 knots from the SW with advantages to either side of the course as opposed to playing shifts up the center of the course, which cost Doug and crew a 12th place finish in the first race of the day. With heavier wind and their poor finish in mind, the team quickly learned to stay left and avoid the shifts up the middle. Good starts and sticking to the plan of protecting the left side earned the crew a second and first place finish on the second and third races of the day. With five races in, the 12th place became a throw-out, and the team was able to maintain its overall lead in the regatta by four points.
Breeze out of the NW at 10-14 knots on Day Three meant a definitive favor to the left side of the course, likely from the extra velocity of wind coming down the river and forcing a nice left shift approaching the mark on the port lay line. The direction held for the final day of races, but with light winds of 5-6 knots with a few puffs close to 10 knots, the river kept the left side of the course favored. The day produced results of 2-2-5 for Greg and crew, largely due to staying left.
Going into the final day of racing with a seven-point lead overall, the boys went into defense mode against skippers Bill Murphey and Alex Hering. Even if it meant letting other boats get away or holding a tack they didn’t necessarily want to be on, the team stayed in front of Bill and placed fifth in the first race, with Alex taking first when the course was shortened due to dying breeze. After a two-hour delay and several boats retiring due to no wind, the final race took place. The crew’s strategy to have a good start, not foul, and keep an eye out for Bill and Alex paid off: Greg and team held the lead, finishing in front of both Bill and Alex and securing the regatta win.
“I think it’s good that low pressure hung around the coast all week,” says Quantum’s Doug Burtner. “We were nervous that racing a boat that hadn’t had a good test of heavy air in maybe 20-plus years might seriously ruin our week. Greg, Mike, and Alex are fun and always a pleasure to sail with. Bill and Cheryl Murphy hosted an amazing event, and I can’t wait to get back to SPYC. The food and drink was topnotch. The team there ran 10 superb and very fair races. Thanks to Mike and Kate Frankovich for hosting us at their beautiful house and to Mike and Steve Finnan for pulling 350 clams from the bay the day before we got there. The Nationals are coming up to our neck of the woods next year, and I look forward to seeing all my Ensign friends there.”
When asked about his Quantum sails after the regatta, Greg Eiffert commented, “Our speed and point were better than the boat next to us at all times during the event. I never questioned anything about the sails as our speed off the line was superior. We were able to pinch off any boat above our hip at will and chomp down boats downwind. I’m a customer for life.”