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2009 ISAF Team Racing World Championship

The 2009 ISAF Team Racing World Championship will be held from January 31 to February 8 in Perth, Western Australia at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club and South of Perth Yacht Club. Fourteen teams are competing, representing Australia, Great Britain, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, and USA.

Clay Bischoff, Lisa Keith, Colin Merrick, Amanda Callahan, Pete Levesque and Liz Hall, who won the last edition of the ISAF Team Racing World Championship held at Gandia, Spain in 2007, have returned as the New York Yacht Club team (USA 1) to defend the title. Here is their story:

Day One - Day Two - Day Three - Day Four - Day Five - Day Six
Event Photos

Day One: Monday, Feb. 2, 2009
by Pete Levesque

Today was the first day of racing for us at the 2009 ISAF Team Racing World Championship in Perth, Australia. For those of you who have never been, Perth is a fantastic place. We have been trying our best to take in the local culture in our limited free time. More on that later, on to the races.

Today began with a light easterly breeze which lasted just long enough to get through the first 10 or so races of the rotation (we were actually quite happy the breeze died since it allowed us to watch the Super Bowl at 10am on a Monday). We are sailing "Pacers" which by all accounts are a junior boat and maybe not a totally popular one at that. They are in some ways a cross between a Lark, a Walker Bay rowboat dinghy, and a Firefly. They are about 13 ft long and have 5 chines that run the full length of the hull. The stern has very low free board and the gunwales are thin. So, we have to be very careful tacking them so as to not ship water over the stern. Our crews have been bailing constantly.

The two American teams that earned the right to compete here are the Tannery Loungers and New York Yacht Club. All of us are happy to escape the 30 degree Fahrenheit temperatures of the northeastern U.S. for the 30 degree Celsius temperatures here during Perth's summer. For our New York Yacht Club team, our most interesting race was our last race of the day. The sun doesn't set here until about 8:30, so the race officers wanted to sail us late. At this point in the day, the famous "Freemantle Doctor" was probably out of the office, because the breeze was starting to die quickly. This resulted in two competing breezes making their way around a hilltop that would skew the course dramatically so that it was never square when we actually had breeze. Our opponents, New Zealand 1, won the start getting off the line with a 1,3,5 combination aided by the huge left shift at the start. Colin Merrick and Amanda Callahan in 2nd were able to hold off a pass-back attempt by the 1st and 3rd boats long enough for the lefty to die. This allowed Pete Levesque and Liz Hall to get back into the race from 6th. By hitting some shifts in the light air that now consumed the course they were able to move up to 3rd. Meanwhile Clay Bischoff and Lisa Kieth were able to move into 2nd when the breeze filled in on the right so that NYYC could round the first mark 2,3,4.

The two trailing boats from NZL1 spread out on the run which at first looked like a losing move. But, as we approached the bottom of the run, the breeze that carried us there on the left had died and the right had filled. So our 2,3,4 combo was quickly turned into a 2,3,6 combo in the last few boat lengths before the leeward mark. Unfortunately, with Pete and Liz becalmed on the left there wasn't much to do except to set up for a pass-back later on in the race. Fortunately, Pete and Liz were able to redeem themselves by sneaking through a Mark 4 trap when the 5th place NZL1 boat tried to get too fancy creating a gap between the 4th and 5th place boats. With NYYC now in 2,3,5 and two different breezes heading toward the fleet Colin/Amanda and Clay/Lisa had to move quickly into controlling positions on the 4th and 6th place NZL1 boats. This allowed Pete/Liz to move up the course in the middle and threaten the 1st place boat for 1st forcing him to abandon a passback on the left. With our 2,3,4 now back and solidified we were happy to cross the line and be done with racing for the day as the conditions were deteriorating rapidly.

Today, at dinner we did our best to taste the local flavor. Tonight's menu included crocodile in a red curry sauce, emu and kangaroo. The kangaroo was awesome!

Round Robin 1 finds USA 1 with 8 wins, 0 losses with five more races to complete the round. -
Event website

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Day Two: Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2009
by Pete Levesque

Having digested our Kangaroo from yesterday, we were ready to do battle on Day 2. This morning we were greeted with low-lying clouds and high humidity reminiscent of the San Diego marine layer. The locals assured us that the weather is "never like this" and that we should have a healthy seabreeze by mid-morning. As sure as we ate crocodile the locals were correct and the Freemantle Doctor did not disappoint.

Most of the day's racing was conducted in an 8-16 knot southwesterly bending around a hilltop that manifested itself as race changing lefties and righties. Our races have been very short, on the order of 5 minutes and there have generally been 5 or 6 big puff/shifts that come through during each race. This kind of constant race reshuffling put us in and out of many combinations - both winning and losing all day. We were, however, able to best our opponents through most of these conditions to remain undefeated so far in the event. Unfortunately, all that will get us is a better seed in the championship rounds.

The highlight race for us today was a race against our friends on USA2 (John Storck lll/Kaity Storck, Erick Storck/Lyndsey Gibbons-Neff, Charlie Enright/Meris Tombari). USA2, also known stateside as the Adirondack Tannery Loungers, started the event off slow (1-4) but have since gone on a 13-3 run to move into 4th overall. In our race with USA2, both Colin Merrick/Amanda Callahan and Pete Levesque/Liz Hall were over early. This helped USA2 reach the windward mark in a 1-2 combination.

At the top of the course, Clay Bischoff/Lisa Keith were able to chase the 2nd place USA2 boat of Charlie Enright/Meris Tombari high to allow the NYYC team to begin a "high/low" on the run. With Clay/Lisa threatening Charlie/Meris's air, Colin/Amanda were able to sneak through to leeward. Clay/Lisa were so effective that Colin/Amanda had time to pass Clay/Lisa up into 3rd improving NYYC's standing to a less than solid 2-3-5 approaching the leeward mark.

USA2, now in a 1,4,6 were not going to give up easily and used their 4th place position to trap NYYC's Pete/Liz at the leeward mark and improve USA2 to a 1,4,5. However, Charlie/Meris fouled and had to spin a 360, allowing NYYC to move back into a 2,3,5. On the reach to mark 4, the 4th place John Storck/Kaity Storck thought they had luffing rights on Clay/Lisa and attempted luffing them to try to break free of the cover. After contact between the two boats, the decision went to the umpires... red flag... they decided John/Kaity did not have luffing rights and assigned them a 720 penalty turn. This allows Pete/Liz to sail over Clay/Lisa and John/Kaity into 3rd and NYYC is now in a much more stable 2,3,4. The stable 2,3,4 and very short final beat did not give USA2's Erick Storck/Lindsay Gibbons-Neff many options for passbacks. NYYC finished 2,3,4 in one of the most competitive races of the day.

Tomorrow, the regatta organizers wish to finish Round Robin 2 and then move into the finals of the Under 21 Team Racing Championship. Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain have all fielded teams for the Under 21 Championship. These young team racers are quite good and have taken many races off of the more experienced teams at the regatta. They are certainly not teams to look beyond, so tomorrows U21 championship should prove to be great for spectating.

USA 1 finished Round Robin 1 with a 13-0 record, and is now 8-0 in Round Robin 2 with 5 more races to complete the round. -
Event website

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Day Three: Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009
by Pete Levesque

This update is brought to you by SLAM. SLAM has outfitted our team with some great gear to keep us cool in the heat wave down here.

"So you are mortal" were the words we heard from the event organizer as we rotated out of our boats. And we heard the cheers from the locals as we crossed the finish line in a close 2,4,5 losing combination to hometown favorites AUS2 at the finish. In our 25th race of the regatta, we had two boats spinning at the start. Clay/Lisa for an umpire initiated call of hitting the pin and Pete/Liz in for a windward/leeward mid-line. Colin/Amanda were able to get off the line quickly and sprinted left towards more breeze. But holding off two boats on the left allowed AUS2 to sneak a boat through to 1st on the less favored right. Pete/Liz rounded 5th and began to go high on the 4th place AUS2 boat to allow Clay/Lisa to move up. Meanwhile at the front of the line, Colin/Amanda began trapping the 3rd place AUS2 boat but fouled and had to spin. With NYYC now in a 4,5,6 starting the run, things looked very bad.

Pete/Liz were able to sucker the 3rd place AUS2 boat into going high away from mark 3 so that Colin/Amanda and Clay/Lisa could move into a close 3,4. The reach to mark 4 saw NYYC in 3,4,5 chasing the AUS2, 1,2 combo. The final beat had become more and more skewed as the day went on and the breeze went further right. The starboard favored beat made chasing all the more difficult for us, but we were able to gain enough leverage on both sides of the course to nose our way back into the battle. Clay/Lisa tacked around the mark and found some pressure on the left. This forced the 1st place AUS2 boat to have to balance Clay/Lisa to maintain the AUS2 1,2. The 2nd place AUS2 boat began bouncing off of Colin/Amanda and Pete/Liz forcing them into several tacks while maintaining a small lead. As the 5 boats converged on the finish, Clay/Lisa shot the line for 2nd. The AUS2 boat on the right had given Pete/Liz a small bit of breathing room as he aimed for Clay/Lisa. As our two boats shot the line "TOOT"...."TOOT" and then the numbers were called... AUS2 had taken it with a 1,3 combo at the finish. They cheered, the crowd on the jetty saw them cheer and they too cheered.

So we finished Round Robin 2 with a 25-1 record overall. We sailed one race in RR3 before finishing early for the day. The event organizers then held the finals of the Under 21 World Championship which AUS1 won. Thursday is the lay-day as the event is changing locations from the South of Perth Yacht Club to the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club or "Freshy" as the locals call it. Freshy is said to have very shifty conditions and flatter water. We begin racing there on Friday.

Thank you to SLAM for the great gear.

Event website

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Day Four: Friday, Feb. 6, 2009
by Pete Levesque

Today's update is brought to you by Armadillo Crew Wear.

This update is going to be a short one. If you have read all of our previous updates, any references to the "Freemantle Doctor" were incorrect. We were previously dealing with the Freemantle Med Student. Today, we met the doctor and he was angry.

We sailed 8 races today (in Round Robin 3) and went 5-3 in them. Half way through the day we reefed our sails after the race committee saw 26 knots consistently with gusts to 32. The rotation stopped for about 30 minutes while the race course was moved to a more "protected" area where we only saw 22 to 25 knots of breeze. Our losses were to NZL1, AUS1 and GBR2. In each of those races we had several umpire calls go against us that we could not recover from. But, to improve our performance in the coming days we have decided that we need to get back to simplifying our starts and staying out of umpire situations.

Today's racing was held at the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club. It is a fantastic club and is a jewel on the shore side.

Thank you again to our supporters Armadillo and Slam:

Event website

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Day Five: Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009
by Pete Levesque

Today's update is brought to you by New York Yacht Club.

Today we finished the third Round Robin and began the fourth. We went undefeated for the day which moved our winning percentage back into the 90% area. We have several more wins than a pack of teams fighting for the final three spots in the championship round. At this point it looks like the championship round will be NYYC/USA1, GBR2, NZL1 and either AUS1 or AUS2. The AUS1 vs AUS2 battle is an interesting one to watch since the AUS1 sailors just won the Under 21 World Championship and the AUS2 team are their coaches who taught them team racing.

Today’s racing began in moderate seabreeze conditions which slowly built and went right all day. By the time we were done racing at 7pm the breeze had build to 28 with gusts to 32. In the big breeze we have had to resort to sailing these Pacers the same way we sail Vanguard 15s in about 18 knots. Lots of vang, go through lots of mainsheet, bow down and try to get over people. With the many hard chines, the reaches are a constant fire hose of spray for the crews. Unfortunately there is not much team racing going on when the wind is up. We have had many one tack beats and one jibe runs. This is partly for safety and partly because tacks are so costly.

Today's highlight was the sailing of Japan 1. This is a team who has attended the last four world championships. They have finished last in most of those and are probably going to finish second to last in this one. But today, they took some races off of some good teams and gave NYYC quite a test. NYYC teammate Amanda Callahan has been coaching JPN1 between races. Using flip flops and dinghy boots, Amanda has taught them the geographic start, several mark traps and pass-backs. They are clearly taking heed of the lessons and have shown much improvement throughout the week. JPN1 beat USA2, IRL1, and NZL3 today.

Sunday we finish Round Robin 4 and then have a short break before the championship round. The format of the championship round is new to us, but apparently pretty common down here. In the first round, the 1 and 2 seeds face each other. The winner goes directly to the finals. Meanwhile the 3 and 4 seeds face each other and the winner sails the loser of the 1 vs 2 battle. Then the winner of that goes on to face the winner of the 1 vs 2 series for the championship. At least I think that is how it works.

Thank you for following along, and many thanks to the New York Yacht Club.

Event website

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Day Six: Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009
by Pete Levesque

NYYC Silver Panda Defends World Title!

The day began with another strong breeze, this time from the southeast. We finished Round Robin 4 by going 2-1 (12-1 for RR4) on the day losing to AUS2 and defeating USA2 and JPN1. Having qualified for the championship round we had a bit of a break before further racing.

With meditative naps, lunches and movie quoting behind us, we were relaxed and ready to face AUS1, the Under 21 Champions in the 1 vs 2 match for a ticket to the finals. In race 1 we lead in a 2,3,4 to the leeward mark when Pete/Liz were fouled by an AUS1 boat so hard that they were propelled backward and missed mark 3. This resulted in a foul by Colin/Amanda and a black flag against AUS1. As we began the final beat NYYC was in a 2,4, and deep 6. Clay/Lisa engaged the 1/3 passback on the right while Pete/Liz tacked free to the left. Pete/Liz moved into the 1 while Clay/Lisa were passed back to 4th. But, Clay/Lisa then had a potential play for a 1,3 finish or a 1,4,5 finish. However, Colin/Amanda were in too much bad air and were never free enough to consolidate their 5th place and crossed the finish line in 6th. With NYYC finishing 1,4,6 we had to depend on the outcome of the black flag hearing to win the race. Thankfully, the international jury decided that the foul against Pete/Liz at mark 3 was so egregious that the race should be awarded to NYYC. We went on to win the next race in a less exciting finish.

AUS1 then defeated NZL1 in the repecharge to earn a spot in the finals against us once again. We had terrible starts throughout our first series with AUS1 and this didn't change for our second series. In race 1 of the finals we trailed 1,5,6 until the finish when Clay/Lisa were miraculously able to draw a foul on one of the AUS1 boats forcing them to spin. This allowed Pete/Liz and Colin/Amanda to finish 4th and 5th for a 1,4,5 combo in race 1.

Race 2 of the finals saw NYYC trailing AUS1 with a 1,2 early on. Pete/Liz and Colin/Amanda double covered the 2nd place AUS1 boat on the run allowing Colin/Amanda to gain an inside overlap at mark 3. Now in a 2,4,6 we converted to a 2,3,6 on the reach leg. Meanwhile, up in the crowd, UK team racing legend Roger Morris was asked what he thought of the American's chances. He knew that in a 2,3,6 we couldn't be touched and felt that we would win. His comments proved to be prescient as Clay/Lisa had a better rounding than the 5th place boat and were able to move into a tie for 5th. Meanwhile Pete/Liz and Colin/Amanda were introducing AUS1 to the "Wall" for the first time as they blocked their 4th place boat from moving forward with any speed or from tacking. As the gap between 4th and 5th shrunk the American's chance only got better. Soon Clay/Lisa were able to tack free and Colin/Amanda and Pete/Liz split the two trailing AUS1 boats as they covered them towards the finish.

Race 3 of the finals was somewhat uneventful as we were finally able to get off of the line cleanly and Clay/Lisa and Colin/Amanda were able to cruise to a 1,2 race win and the championship title.

We would like to thank our supporters:
New York Yacht Club
US Sailing
Southport Sailing Foundation
Armadillo (

Thank you for following along, and thank you for your support.

Event website

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Event photography by Jen Sims and Richard Steuart.

Winning New York Yacht Club team USA1 from left:
Liz Hall, Pete Levesque, Amanda Callahan, Colin Merrick, Lisa Keith, and Clay Bischoff

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