Disappointment Turns to Triumph

Crew of Triad Rebounds from Letdown to Win NEMA Trophy

GLOUCESTER DAILY TIMES, Mass., March 13, 1996 -- Sometimes a heartbreaking loss can be a blessing in disguise--just ask Gloucester's Tom Cox, skipper of the 42-foot trimaran Triad.

In Cox's case, failure to round a designated marker in the Black Dog Dash last summer -- just the second race of the sailing season -- cost the Triad crew a first-place finish. Cox left embarrassed and frustrated, but admitted the lessons learned from the error simply catapulted the Triad crew to its most successful season ever.

In total, Cox and his crew captured four first-place finishes and last month garnered the New England Multihull Association's Season Trophy at the NEMA annual dinner held at the Boston Harborside Hyatt. Reflecting on the season, Cox said the hard-earned victories eared the points, but the disappointing day at Martha's Vineyard likely made the difference.

"That day was awful, but it gave us the wake-up call we needed." the 48-year-old skipper said. "We didn't take anything for granted after that. We paid attention to every little detail.

"We didn't miss a single mark the rest of the season," he added. "And we didn't make a single error in navigations or tactics. We just stayed focused ... and really excelled the rest of the year."

The season trophy goes to the boat with the highest point total for its eight best days of racing. Points are based on place of finish and the number of competitors in the race.

The Triad crew topped the field of 44, earning 687.30 points, and knocked off Deborah Druan's Toshiba, the trophy winner the past two years. The rival Formula Forty trimaran placed second with 631.70 points, Keith Burrage's 40-foot Skateaway came in third with 576.60 points.

Cox credited the season to the extraordinary effort of his crew: Nick Bryan-Brown, 44, a Manchester-by-the-Sea native; Daren Donavan, 38, of Gloucester; Norman Zalkind, 57, of Boston; Spencer Mercer Merz, 65, of Brookline; and Mike McAleenan, 43, of Gloucester.

In addition, the Triad crew participated in 13 races during the season -- the most by any boat. This aggressive scheduling earned them the mileage trophy as well, and gave Triad an edge over other boats, Cox said.

"You need to sail in a lot of races. That's key," said Cox, who has owned the boat since 1992. "Sooner or later, you're going to get the conditions that suit your boat. And you win when you get the right conditions."

For Cox, serveral races were memorable, but two held particular importance.

Trailing Toshiba by 17 in the season point total, Cox's crew claimed a stunning victory in the New England Solo Twin Championship.

"This victory put us even with Toshiba, but it really put us over the top," he said. "We got off to a slow start ... but thanks to (co-captain) Spencer Merz, we settled down and we got into a groove. That really built up our confidence."

Weeks later, Triad harnessed the momentum and wrapped up the season trophy by winning the first three races at the Toshiba Unlimited Regattta,

Cox's crew captured an overwhelming 100.5 points by beating 24 boats, including Steve Clark's Little America's Cup champion Cogito, Dennis Conner's 60-foot America's Cup catamaran Stars and Stripes and Burrage's 40-foot tri Skateaway.

"This race had all the top candidates and all the professionals with corporate sponsorships, and we came out on top.. we were pumped," Cox said. "It was such a big lift. We knew we had the season title after that ... it just (capped) a great year."