The first segment of the annual Edgartown Yacht Club Race Weekend is the Big Boat Buoy Races that begin this Thursday, July 18 and continue through Friday, July 19 on Edgartown Outer Harbor and Nantucket Sound.
Jim Swartz’s Vesper at last year’s Edgartown Yacht Club Race Weekend
Twenty nine boats in IRC and PHRF (Spinnaker, Non-spinnaker and Double-Handed) classes will convene on the water at ten in the morning daily for multiple short-course races and finish with a Friday evening Prize Giving and Mount Gay 'jump up' at host Edgartown Yacht Club before the club presents Saturday morning at eight. Its renowned ‘Round-the-Island Race. That event, which Edgartown Yacht Club first held in the summer of 1938, has been held every year since except for the years of World War II and is said to be reminiscent of the race around the Isle of Wight in England, which was the course for the first America’s Cup. The ‘Round-the-Island Race’s 58-boat fleet—again separated into IRC, PHRF and Double-Handed classes--will sail around Martha’s Vineyard and is expected to finish the 54.7 nautical mile course by late Saturday afternoon or early evening and enjoy a second and final Prize Giving on Sunday morning at Edgartown Yacht Club.
For both segments of the event, Jim Swartz (Park City, Utah) and his crew from the TP 52 Vesper will be one of the teams to watch in IRC. Swartz has competed in the ‘Round-the-Island Race seven times, winning his class in 2007 and 2010, and posting the best elapsed time (for the Concord Cup) among all classes in 2007 and 2011. He finished third in last year’s first-ever Big Boat Buoy Races (which were inaugurated as a one-day event but now play out over two days), and this year looks forward to competition from the Hanse 545 Persevere (Arthur Baer/Colin Rath, New York, N.Y.), the McCurdy and Rhodes 48 Carina (Rives Potts, Essex, Conn.) and the IRC 52 Sled (Takashi Okura, Montvale, N.J.).
'It will be very challenging IRC racing,' said Swartz, who has a second home on Martha’s Vineyard. 'The buoy racing is fun and makes for a great warm-up for the ‘Round-the-Island.'
As for the latter, it is one of Swartz’s favorite: 'Each time it is different. It is a very tactically challenging race, and at the same time it’s hard not to be distracted by the sheer beauty of the island and the surrounding waters.'
The Vesper team, which has traveled the world to win countless national and international sailing regattas, enjoys the tactical challenges of a coastal race. 'Constant adjustments to mode and numerous sail choices lead to great variety during the day, but there are long periods to reflect, take in the natural beauty and to enjoy your teammates,' he said, noting that the Reichel Pugh 44 Miracle (Michael Cashel, Hingham, Mass.); the 90-foot maxi yacht Rambler (George David, Hartford, Conn.), which won the Concord Cup in 2009; Solution (Carter Bacon, Cambridge, Mass.); and the First 44.7 Slide Rule (Scott Bearse, West Barnstable) will join the competition for this second segment of racing, adding yet more spice to the IRC mix. 'This is anybody’s race. (In the past) we have been in first place for half the race and failed to place, and we have been in dead last place and won the race. All things are possible depending on the sequence of conditions, tidal change, and tactical choices.'
Richard Egan’s class winning Wings at last year’s Edgartown Yacht Club Race Weekend
The distance around Martha’s Vineyard is but a few miles longer than around the Isle of Wight, with similar views of cliffs and headlands, villages and open water. Tidal currents and wind effects are important, and one team that will defend its title as master of both in the PHRF Spinnaker class will be Richard Egan’s (Osterville, Mass.) aboard his J/46 Wings, which won its division overall last year.
'The ‘Round-the-Island Race has been a tradition for my family since the ‘70s,' said Egan, whose father used to race and whose wife, two sons, two brothers (with their sons in tow) and a nephew will sail as part of his 11-14 person crew this year. 'We like how it is located chronologically in the middle of the summer sailing schedule.'
Nevertheless, says Egan, it was hard for the working professionals on his crew to get time off from their jobs for the Big Boat Buoy Races, so he decided to team up with his 19-year-old son, Richard Egan III, to take a shot at the first-ever competition for Double-Handed (skipper and one mate) crews. 'We’ll try things for the first time, and hopefully in the end it won’t kill us. We haven’t done any double-handed sailing with the boat, but this make of boat has been used all over the place for it, so it clearly can be done.'
Class start at last year’s Edgartown Yacht Club Race Weekend
Among Egan’s double-handed competition in the Big Boat Buoy Races will be the event’s Chairman Sal Giordano (Bernardsville, N.J.), sailing his Alerion 38 Big Bird, which he also will sail double-handed in the ‘Round-the-Island Race. 'Basically, with both around-the-buoys and distance racing offered, and classes included for both racers and cruisers as well as full and short-handed crews, there is something for just about everyone at this event,' said Giordano, who won his class at last year’s event.
Wednesday, July 17 is the entry deadline for Thursday and Friday’s Big Boat Buoy Races, sanctioned as part of the prestigious U.S. IRC Gulf Stream Series, while Friday, July 19 is the entry for Saturday’s Round-the-Island Race, part of the New England Lighthouse Series for PHRF yachts. The Big Boat Buoy Races and the ‘Round-the-Island Race are scored separately and each have their own Notices of Race and entry forms; however, there is no additional entry fee to compete in the buoy races.
For NoRs, more information and to register, visit RTI Race