Conor Ruppen Takes Top Honors at 2016 Highlander Nationals

by Tom Dawson

Conor Ruppen of Berlin Yacht Club is the 2016 National Champion of the Highlander Fleet. Conor and his crew, Carrie Patterson and Joyce Spring, sailed like champions and ran away from the competition at Highlander Nationals held at Indian Lake, Ohio, from July 16 to 21, 2016.

Conor sailed Highlander 1959, which is owned by BYC Members Rob and Joyce Spring. As you may know, Conor is primarily a Thistle sailor, and he had only skippered a Highlander one time before Nationals. Conor praised his crew, stating that they did a fantastic job of playing the vang, calling the shifts, and watching the compass while he drove the boat.

Wind conditions were challenging at Highlander Nationals this year, with moderate winds on Monday, no wind Tuesday, very light and shifting winds Wednesday, and 8 to 10 knots of breeze on Thursday with shifty winds gusting to 18 knots. Conor explained that the Highlander has a big mainsail so it is very important to de-power the sail when necessary to sail fast. He said that Joyce Spring “made his job easy” with her excellent sail trim using the boom vang as needed.

Despite the challenging weather conditions, Conor and his crew turned in an amazingly successful performance in a strong field of 23 Highlanders. They won all three races on Monday, easily qualifying for the championship fleet. “We had low expectations on Monday,” Conor said, “but it got kind of tense after that because we were not expecting to be there [first place].”

Conor’s team had a 7th place finish on Wednesday, in light air with the wind filling in at different places around the race course. Thursday brought better wind and finishes of 2nd, 3rd, and 1st on the last day of racing. According to Conor, the last race of the regatta was a “photo finish” with the second place finisher in the regatta, and “it was a great way to finish the regatta.”

The nearest competitor scored 18 points overall to Conor’s 9 points, including one throwout score per Highlander National Rules. It is worth noting, however, that even if Conor’s worst score, a 7, were included in the 7 race series, Conor, Carrie and Joyce would still have won the regatta! This was truly a dominant performance.

With this achievement, Conor has joined the ranks of past Highlander National Champions and BYC Members John Bauer and Rob Spring. Berlin Yacht Club was also honored at the 2016 Highlander Nationals with the award for the club with the most traveling Highlanders. BYC Members John Bauer and Rick Myers also competed in the 2016 Highlander Nationals.

Conor pointed out that the 2017 Highlander Nationals will likely be at or near Berlin Lake, and he encouraged all BYC members to help with next year’s Highlander Nationals and to seek out opportunities so sail on a Highlander, which he described as a really fun boat to sail.