Meet Team Zonnenberg-Dalton of Clueless

by Christina Pandapas

Watch out Fleet 5, there’s a new team in town and if the 2009 season was any indication, they are a boat to contend with this year. J.P. Zonnenberg and Bill Dalton formed their new partnership on the snow last year when the first day of MRA racing was still many miles of skiing away. Standing together on the side of a slope at Sugarloaf in Maine, J.P. lamented that his wife Pat’s back problems were going to sideline her from sailing with him on Clewless (#3299), the Rhodes they bought in 2000 and had raced together ever since. It was serendipity. Bill and his brother Steve had recently sold the Rhodes they had raced together for years. He was a free agent.

Compatible personalities are key to successful co-skippering programs, and it seems that J.P. and Bill have found a good fit. According to Bill, “J.P. is really relaxed on the boat, which is nice to be around.”

Interestingly, relaxed is not a word that could be used to describe their work lives. Both Bill and J.P. are consultants with long hours and heavy travel schedules.

“I usually get on a plane Monday morning and don’t get back until late Thursday night,” explained J.P. “During winter, when we come up [to Sugarloaf] on weekends, I don’t think I ever see my home in daylight.”

With work and family demands always vying for attention, time on the water is precious for both J.P. and Bill. The deal is that the two of them split tiller time, but neither of them is so bent on driving that they always stick to that arrangement. If things are going well, they may not switch.

Things certainly went well during the 2009 Sailing World NOOD at Marblehead Race Week. Team Zonnenberg- Dalton posted six topten finishes out of eight races including a bullet. They seemed to find a solid groove, getting more and more consistent each day. They finished fifth overall in the 25-boat fleet. Not bad for their first regatta together.

Race Week is on the docket for the team again this year, and they have already begun pow-wowing about the season. Those Sugarloaf lift rides can provide a lot of time for strategizing.

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