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Silver Panda Recaps 2006 Team Racing Season
Update by Silver Panda - Photos by GTS Photos

(October 12, 2006) It has been a full year since our last update and much has happened. Two weeks after our second place finish at the 2005 ISAF Team Racing World Championship, we competed in the US Team Racing Championship for the Hinman Trophy and were eliminated in the semifinals. Needless to say, we were burnt out after peaking for the Worlds. With a disappointing fourth place finish at the 2005 Hinman, it helped to put team racing into perspective and we decided to change our approach to championship preparation for 2006.

After the Hinman, Patrick Hogan and Carlos Lenz retired from active Panda duty. Patrick and Carlos were instrumental in Panda success from 2002 until 2005 and left large hiking boots to fill. Knowing we needed to find a boat with experience, skill and boathandling abilities second to none, we asked Clay Bischoff and Lisa Keith to join the Pandas.

Tight action during 2006 Nationals
After taking the winter off, we jumped into the 2006 season by flying to the UK to sail the British Open Team Race Championships for the Wilson Trophy. We finished second losing 3-2 in a best of five series in the first ever all American Wilson finals. Having finished 2nd at the Wilson in '05, 2nd in '06 felt disappointing. The good part was that we knew we could improve and we were only feet away from the title.

In June, the start of the start of the US team racing circuit allowed us to start focusing our attention on winning the 2006 Hinman Trophy. During team meetings and goal setting we laid out an approach that we thought would put us in the best position to win. For the rest of the summer, we displayed one of the best season-long performances ever on the US Team Racing circuit.

This streak started by defending our title at the Charles River Team Race. This regatta is the largest event by number of teams in the United States. The Charles River Open, boasting its highest attendance ever with 24 teams, utilizes a modified Swiss league format that pits teams of equal skill and record against one another the whole time. This challenging format makes our record of 19-1 seem even more impressive.

The next event was the Falmouth Mid-Summas Team Race. Yes, that's "Summas" not "Summers." This has been one of the premier events in the country for over a decade attracting as many as 25 teams in the past. Sailing fast in a wide range of conditions, we were able to defend our title at this Cape Cod classic for a third year in a row.

Victory splash after 2006 Nationals win.
The next event was the Larchmont Team Race. By sweeping through the first two round robins, we were able to clinch 1st place before the final round robin even started.

With the Hinman only weeks away, a new event the NYYC Dinghy Team Race drew a very competitive fleet of 17 teams. Many teams used this event as their tune-up for the Hinman, but after closing with a 30-1 record we showed that practice pays off.

Sitting on this summer-long winning streak, we felt confident going into the Hinman. This year's event was hosted by San Diego Yacht Club and sailed on the San Diego city-front, a scenic location that lived up to its reputation. Pre-regatta rankings put us in the yellow and white #1 jerseys that seemed to act like a target on our backs.

The regatta got off to a shaky start. In Friday morning's races, we stumbled multiple times, but were consistently able to come back from extremely weak 1-5-6 combinations on the last beat to win. By mid-day Friday the butterflies were gone and we had finally settled down to go 10-1. After a strong Saturday and another 10-1 record, we secured the top seed for the elimination rounds on Sunday.

On Sunday morning, we had a quarterfinals match-up against the young and talented Adirondack Tannery Loungers. With some solid starts and mistake-free sailing, we were able to dismiss the Loungers 2-0. Next up: Wishbone, the team who edged us out at the '06 Wilson and the '05 Worlds. But by this point, we were in peak form and moved onto the finals with a 3-0 victory.

In the first-to-three finals, we faced off against the talented and experienced Larchmont Yacht Club. Two races in, we were up 2-0 with convincing 1-2 wins. A bad start in Race 3 left us in a losing 1-5-6 combination at the top of the run. Larchmont was able to defend their 2-3-4 on the run, leaving us in the unenviable position of trying to convert the last beat. With Pete/Liz in first, Clay/Lisa in fifth, and Colin/Amanda in sixth we began our assault. Pete/Liz began by slowing the second place boat, Larchmont's Sean Doyle and Caroline Hall. Pete/Liz then gave up first to slow another Larchmont boat (Danny Pletsch and Emily Whipple) while Larchmont's Cardwell Potts and Susan Doyle split left. Soon Pletsch and Whipple could not cross Colin/Amanda on starboard. This forced Doyle/Hall to have to sail back to Colin/Amanda to attempt to slow them down.

Silver Panda enjoying 2006 Nationals win.
Meanwhile, in isolation on the left, Clay/Lisa initiated a tacking duel with the Larchmont's Cardwell Potts and Susan Doyle. Avoiding the action on the right side of the course, Clay/Lisa gained leverage on the left. Approaching the finish, Colin/Amanda were able to slip by Pletsch and Whipple with some fine boat handling and the help of Pete/Liz aggressively positioning their wind shadow. As Clay/Lisa tacked back towards the finish Pete/Liz ducked and prevented Doyle and Hall from tacking and covering. With Clay/Lisa sailing for the finish, Pete/Liz held onto Doyle and Hall on the left. Approaching the finish on the right, Colin/Amanda held on to Pletsch and Whipple, completing an exciting 1-5-6 to 2-3-4 conversion and cinching the National title with a 3-0 record in the finals.

It was truly an incredible and rewarding summer of team racing. We started off strong but were still able to save our best for last!

Silver Panda

Amanda Callahan
Clay Bischoff
Colin Merrick
Lisa Keith
Liz Hall
Pete Levesque

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