By Bryce Huntoon
Well, here we go again. The 2023 edition of the Sears Cup was the third go at the event for my crew and me. This edition was going to be very different from the past two. Firstly, the event had been turned into a standalone event as the ILCA and C420 events that were previously run with the Sears Cup had been folded into the Youth Championships. The other change to the event was that this time, there were twenty teams, two from each area. The second reason this event was going to be different was the fact that we were heading into this event as the defending champions. Having won the previous year, it didn’t feel like we were unknown anymore. Even though we knew we were going to have a bit more of a target on our backs this year, we had the same mentality as last year, go for a rip, have some fun.
When we got to Texas, we had flown in a couple of days early and had to find some things to do to kill time. The day after we flew in, we checked out the NASA Space Center. The day after that, the whole Hawaii team, even the crew from Waikiki, went go-karting. That day was also the registration day. After registering, the KYC crew even went and saw the Barbie movie! The next day was the practice day as we finally got to go sailing. Because there were twenty teams but only ten boats, teams were divided up into a rotation. We got to go sailing in the first rotation. The practice day was ok for us. We had good crew work, but the starts during the practice racing gave us some trouble. Because we were sailing in a lake, the course was very, very short. Coach Jesse said that the course was about one to two-tenths of a mile in length. That evening we had the regatta dinner, and turned in early for the night, as the first day of racing loomed large.
In the morning, we had the second rotation with no breaks in between our six races. The first day was incredible for us as we scored 1, 1, 2, 1, 1, 1. Although the scoresheet doesn’t reflect it, the racing was incredibly tight and tactical. The racecourse had been slightly lengthened from the previous day to about three-tenths of a mile. Throughout the racing, there were some crazy moments. The craziest had to come during the fourth race. Off the start, we thought we had been called over, and so circled back to clear ourselves. Later we learned that we were not in fact over the line. Up the beat, we could not make any progress into the fleet as we rounded the top mark in dead last. As we set the kite, the wind picked up. We started flying down the run doing 12-14 knots. The entire fleet had gone right in search of more wind. They all jibed onto port for layline, but we had been sailing lower than them the entire downwind. We caught four boats on starboard and made them jibe back, thoroughly messing up their races. We put a perfect jibe in and got inside overlap on the rest of the boats we had yet to pass. We went from last to first on one downwind. We held on to take victory in that race.
The second day promised lighter winds in the morning and about the same conditions as the previous day in the afternoon. We sailed the first and last rotation, which were early in the morning, and late into the evening. With just four races sailed that day, our score line read 2, 1, 3, 1. Going into the second day, we had a nine-point gap to the boat in second. Not only did we manage to keep that gap, but we also managed to extend it to eleven. Going into the final day, we knew all we needed to do was to stay within touching distance of the second and third place boats.
The morning of the third day promised the lightest winds we had experienced. It didn’t start out well for us, as we got eighth in the first race. After that first race, we had a waiting period where the wind shifted massively as the morning breeze battled the thermal. The race committee even moved to a different part of the lake for better wind. Our next two races were two 4s. Luckily for us, the boats in second and third going into the day had not had the best of days either. Going into the last race, we knew all we needed to do was not get disqualified and we would win. We did just that and witnessed a battle for the ages, between the San Francisco Yacht Club team and the Austin Yacht Club team, for second place. We didn’t know how to act over the line and sailed straight over to the fleet coach to get confirmation. He gave it, and it dawned on all of us that we had won the Sears Cup for the second year in a row.
Coming in, we were greeted with cheers from the Silver Fleet teams as well as many congratulations. We derigged the boat and prepared for the awards. At the awards, after we had taken the pictures, we hoisted the cup. Immediately, however, our minds started spinning toward next year. Next year, we won’t have Noe as she is aging out. We don’t know what the record is for times winning the Sears Cup, but we know we want to break it. We know that we want Kaneohe Yacht Club engraved on that cup as many times as possible. Team Live Action will return…