SHEBOYGAN, MICHIGAN – Lloyd Kitchin has been sailing thistles from the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club since he was six years old. On Friday, August 1, the veteran sailor made history when he and his crew, son Brian and Brian’s wife Catia, finished first in the 2014 Thistle Class Association National Championships hosted by the Sheboygan Yacht Club at Lake Michigan, the first time a team representing LHYC has won a national championship.
There were seven races held over a five-day period.
Team Kitchin was in first place after the second race on the fourth day of competition, needing a fifth-place finish or better to stay on top.
“We knew there were three guys we had to beat, one was behind us but two were ahead of us,” said the sixty-year-old Kitchin. “We were just hoping we did the math correctly.”
They did just that, finishing the race in fifth place and edging out the second-place winners from the Seneca (New York) Yacht Club by just one point.
“We didn’t know we won until we got back to shore, until we saw the score sheet,” said Brian of the delayed celebration.
This event was only the second time Lloyd, Brian and Catia have raced together as a team. Lloyd and Brian have teamed together many times, said Lloyd, but Catia has only been on board one other time, when the trio took first place at the Atlantic Coast Championships in Great South Bay in Sayville, Long Island, held in July. Catia, it seems, is the Kitchin boys’ secret weapon.
Team Kitchin began the week with a strong first showing, finishing in fourth place in the only race held on Monday, when strong weather caused five- to eight-foot rolling waves and lots of queasy sailors said Lloyd.
On day two of racing (Wednesday) the team had a fourth-place finish, then a disappointing 21-place finish. They bounced back on Thursday finishing first in race one and second in race two.
Friday started out with an 18th place finish, creating some concern but setting the stage for the final race and ultimately the championship.
“Our success was mostly derived from my son Brian,” said Lloyd who has been skippering his own Thistle since he was 29 years old. “My job was just to steer as fast as I could and his job was to get us through the course. He was the racecourse manager, the tactician of the course, something he does better than most,” said the veteran of 40 national competitions.
Lloyd has four other top-ten finishes at the Thistle national championships, finishing second as a crew member when he was younger and a tenth, eighth and fifth place finish as a skipper.
“I’ve had at least one of my kids on board with me in each of those races,” he said.
His daughter, Jessica Murphy, representing the Lake Hopatcong Yacht Club as well, also sailed at the Sheboygan event as a crew member along with her skipper husband Chris and family friend Brent Barbehenn. They finished just outside the top 10 in the 12 spot.