The Mariner 19, with a weighted centreboard keel and cabin, and associated with the notable designer Philip L. Rhodes and Olympic medalist George O’Day, is one of the rare sailboats built during the “classic plastic” era of the 1960’s and 1970’s Years were built, the pleasure of continued production.
In this account, Miguel Casellas tells his story of what happens when a son asks his father to go sailing:
It was Sunday afternoon and I was watching TV with my son and wife after finishing the San Juan 500th Anniversary Regatta in San Juan, Puerto Rico. My son Sebastian, a senior at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and my designated skipper in our Mariner #3122 asks – why don’t we go to the Mariner US Nationals?
The Riverton Yacht Club would be hosting the 2022 event on August 20-21, just 15 minutes north of downtown Philly on the banks of the Delaware River, and its courses will begin right after. Founded in 1865, it is one of the oldest yacht clubs in America and has a rich sailing history. It is known for promoting one-design racing and producing world-class sailors.
My son wanted more Mariner racing and thought this was a great opportunity. In San Juan we sailed with a 46 year old “Made in Hong Kong” mainsail and a new North Sails jib. We were very happy with our results as we finished second but were keen to race with brand new crisp sails. Sebastian is very competitive and wanted to sail with me at the Nationals.
Shortly after that conversation I emailed the Mariner Class Racing Section to see if we could charter a boat for the Nationals. Three hours passed and I received a call from the Brant Beach Mariner Fleet – Bill Watters.
“I’m going to race my boat at the Nationals, but I can loan you my other Mariner,” he said. “Just take your sails with you. Arrive in Brant Beach three days before the Nationals and we’ll get the boat into good racing conditions. The boat is in pretty good condition but it will take us about nine beers to reach the bottom.”
Perfect. Sounds like a plan – I replied. That same night I bought a direct SJU – PHL ticket which was supposed to arrive at 9:45am on Wednesday morning. I told Bill we needed a mainsail because ours was 46 years old and we needed a good one to race the Nationals. He’s going – don’t worry I have a Quantum Main in good condition and it’s going to be fine. I had my son do the payment/registration and Terry Fennel – Mariner #919 – confirmed this in less than 10 minutes. BINGO! We were ready to go.
I started reading about Riverton and soon discovered it was a very difficult and tricky place to sail. Their newsletter is called The Current, so get the idea! I told my son go to YouTube and watch all the videos because the current is strong over on the Delaware River.
A week passed and I got a call from Bill. “Miguel – I have good news and bad news. Which one do you want first?” Bad news first – I said.
He goes on to explain that he cannot attend Nationals because his daughter is a freshman and he had to take her to the University of Rochester. Then I asked about the good news he said we can now use his #1 boat – Black Ice with one of his mains.
Black Ice (#860) is an all black Mariner in very good racing conditions. During COVID, Bill spent a lot of time getting the boat up to the highest racing standards. Bill really wanted to play Nationals, but he couldn’t, so he did everything he could to help us.
A week after Bill’s bad/good news, I got a call from last year’s Nationals winner Dan Walsh (#2778) telling me he had a new North Main available. We bought his lead and he agreed to wear #3122.
Our plan took shape, but unfortunately Bill couldn’t make it to the Nationals.
Bill brought Black Ice to Riverton at 1pm on Wednesday where we met Dan who gave us the new North Main. We tuned the mast and at 2:15 p.m. we practiced with Bill on board. He taught us a few tricks about the boat and how to handle the current. On Thursday we arrived at the club at 1pm and practiced for three hours.
On Friday morning, Bob Corney (#1095) weighed down the boat and inspected the sails. We double checked to make sure all gear was perfect and then headed back to my son’s house in St. Joe’s. First we stopped in Manayunk, a small town full of restaurants, bars, galleries, cafes etc. 20 minutes from Riverton.
We had a late lunch at Manayunk Brewing Company and talked about our race strategy for the series. Our strategy was very simple. Conservative Sailing.
At the Skippers Meeting on Saturday we met all the participants and the Race Officer gave instructions for the windward/leeward courses. Protests were not welcome and a 360-lap rule applied. Gentleman/old school racing. The Star-Spangled Banner was played and we were ready to go.
Tom Green (#738) from Surf City, NJ introduced himself with his wife/crew Michelle and we chatted about good times in the Caribbean. Moments later I looked to the right and there was Joanne McCarthy and Steve Creighton (#1362) from Cooper River YC who I met sailing in Puerto Rico last winter.
Immediately before race 1, Tom goes to my son – make sure you keep the board down and sail upwind, upwind. The wind was very light but the PRO managed to set three races. We rounded the first weather mark in 2nd place and crossed the finish line in 5th place. We finished race 2 last and race 3 we finished 6th. Riverton is a very challenging place to race, but thanks to all the help from competitors, we’ve started to learn the basics.
We sailed back to the club and Dan Walsh was waiting for us at the dock with a pitcher of beer and two large red mugs. What a master!! We got the boat out of the water and soon after, a Mexican party started with great food and drinks. As the band started tuning, I saw their lead guitarist in a Lynyrd Skynyrd shirt. I said to myself, ‘These guys aren’t mariachis.’ This is Rock & Rock. Good old rock ‘n’ roll. And it really was. We had a great time and then made our way to my son’s house.
The final day of racing started around 12:15 p.m. as there was no wind. Cumulus clouds came in from the east and when the wind picked up the race committee decided to start the races. In race 4 we finished 4th just ahead of Jim Irwin and his daughter Elizabeth (#3178) who had a spectacular run and finished 2nd overall. For race 5 the committee boat was favored and we positioned ourselves in an excellent place. We were very confident that we were going to get off to a great start but sailing in Riverton is no picnic and with 35 seconds to go the wind dropped.
We hit the Race Committee anchor line and it took us about a minute to get out of the mess. We took 9th place. Race 6 – I said to my son – the pin is favored and we can’t afford to make the same mistake. We need to sail closer to the port pin end and be ready to tack if we see trouble. Luckily we got off to a pretty good start and were able to sail the first leg upwind with clear air. We finished 2nd in a very close race, just ahead of eventual Nationals winners Bob and Billy Martin (#938) who sailed a very consistent and intelligent streak. BRAVO!
As first-timers to Riverton, we were happy with our 5th place overall. My son Sebastian won Best Rookie Skipper and Farthest Traveled awards and during the awards ceremony members of the RYC presented us with two hats and a Club Burgee.
I had a wonderful time with my son as he sailed the difficult waters of the Delaware River and met all the amazing people and sailors from the Riverton Yacht Club and other clubs. We’ll definitely be back, and next year we’ll do everything we can to make it to Nationals in Narrasketuck, NY.
Our thanks to Dan Walsh (#2778), Terry Fennell (#919), Harry Mayer (#664), Chris O’Brien (#3599) and all our competitors for a great time, camaraderie and hospitality. Our big thanks to Bill Watters for giving us the opportunity to race Black Ice and our big thanks to all the regatta organizers, RYC members, volunteers and PRO for hosting such a wonderful event. You are great!