Nov 15, 2023
By Alec Coleman
Photos: Elaine Brendel
On Halloween weekend, Oakcliff Sailing in Oyster Bay, New York hosted the final Oakcliff Match Race regatta of the season aboard their fleet of Swedish Match 40s. With nine teams invited from the US and Canada, the crews competed for valuable points for the World Match Race Rankings during the Oakcliff Halloween Invitational Grade 3.
Skippers included Chris Poole (world ranking: 1), Cormac Murphy (world ranking: 12), and top Canadian Peter Wickwire (world ranking: 28). The other Canadian team was the True North Sailing Team, a young team skippered by Alec Coleman of West Vancouver Yacht Club.
For this event True North Sailing Team crew was comprised of: Duff Paisley on bow, Tate Howell on mast, Edward Coleman on pit, Jack Porter on trim, and Andre Van Dam on main. While Alec Coleman and Porter are the lead skipper and trim for True North, it was the first time the other sailors had match-raced together. On a break from their journey training with the Canadian Youth America’s Cup Team foiling in Europe on Moths and 69Fs, Van Dam, Howell, and Coleman took the opportunity to test their team dynamic in a very different sailing discipline.
The first day of the event was an atypical late October day, sun shining and temperatures nearing 30 degrees Celsius with a light westerly breeze. The racing was no less intense, however, as teams battled through the round-robin series to see who would make the semi-finals on Sunday afternoon. By the end of the day scores were tight, with Derek Webster, Poole, and Peter Bailey in provisional semi spots, and on top of the standings with a record of 5-1, was Alec Coleman and the True North Sailing Team.
Sunday’s conditions were quite the contrary, as a weather system brought torrential rain and a stiff easterly breeze. The crews stepped up as the round-robin series continued, with competitive matches, collisions, near-broaches, and many tight finishes. At the end of the round-robin, the semi-finalists were announced: Poole, Coleman, Connor Bennett, and Bailey. Both Coleman and Poole took their semis in a clean 2-0 and headed to the final match-up. Bailey and Bennett battled in the petit-finals in a series where Bailey topped Bennett 3-2.
Over in the finals, it was a very much David vs Goliath situation between the world number one and the young Canadian. Unfortunately for Coleman and True North, it was not to be their day, as race one narrowly went the way of Poole, who then followed up with a race two victory to secure the event win.
The Canadians were proud of their showing at the event, competing with some of match racers from across North America, and proving they have what it takes to duel with the best. With an average age of 22 onboard for the event, Coleman and the True North team are sure to be back for a lot more racing.