Buoy racing followed by a circumnavigation of Martha’s Vineyard made Edgartown Yacht Club’s three-day Edgartown Race Weekend (July 24-26) the just-right combination for dozens of teams competing. The Thursday/Friday Big Boat Buoy Races, a separately scored fleet racing series that made its full debut last year after organizers trial-tested a one-day buoy racing event the year prior, hosted 32 boats, while the 77-year old ‘Round-the-Island Race -- decidedly more storied, if not downright legendary -- saw 67 boats taking on the hearty 56 nautical mile rounding of one of America’s most beloved island vacation destinations.
For the Big Boat Buoy Races, Jim Swartz’s (Park City, Utah/Edgartown) IRC 52 Vesper, which recently concluded a successful campaign in Europe, topped the eight-boat IRC fleet, trading victories with Gunther Buerman’s (Newport, R.I.) IRC 52 Hooligan in the first day’s two races that saw a northerly breeze build to 15-17 knots by early afternoon. A third race that had been started was abandoned after Hooligan snagged a race mark and it broke free, rendering the race unfair to those who followed behind, but there was still Friday’s racing for settling scores. In the lingering northerly that weakened throughout the day, Vesper won two of three races sailed, while Hooligan, taking the hit of two seventh-place finishes, fell to fourth overall. Steve and Heidi Benjamin’s (Darien, Conn.) Carkeek 40 Spookie improved its score line to rise to second on the scoreboard, while Takashi Okura’s (Tokyo, Japan/Montvale, N.J.) Sled settled in for third.
Big Boat Buoy Races on Thursday - Michael Berwind
'It’s great to get such a good fleet of big boats here,' said Swartz on Friday afternoon while his crew was busy switching the boat into 'coastal racing gear' for the ‘Round-the-Island Race. 'Vesper, Hooligan, Sled, Interlodge…we’re all very evenly matched. It’s very competitive on the water, but on shore it’s a very friendly, good group of people.'
The 10-boat PHRF Spinnaker class also completed three races on day two for a five-race series, and it was the Naval Academy Sailing Squadron’s Farr 40 Ranger that held all the cards in that class. 'Sailing in light wind is stressful,' said Andy Bonn (Camden, N.C.), Ranger’s 20-year-old helmsman, after Friday’s racing. 'He who has the most patience makes the best gains; that’s what we found today.' Bonn said his team’s closest competition came from the Naval Academy’s second entry here, the J/122 Dolphin, which wound up tied on point score for second with John Schimenti’s ID35 Zefiro Torna but having to settle for third place because of tie breaker rules. 'With the way the (PHRF) rating system works, Ranger and Dolphin were close in time,' said Bonn.
Chip Hawkins’ (Barrington, R.I.) Pearson 10 Metre Caneel and Richard Egan’s (Hyannis, Mass.) J/44 Wings won the eight-boat PHRF Non-Spinnaker and six-boat Double-Handed classes, respectively, counting four races total for their series.
Chip Hawkins, Big Boat Buoy Races class winner and Upbeat Cup winner in ‘Round-the-Island Race - Media Pro International
'We have everything else, we just don’t have a chute (spinnaker),' laughed Hawkins, a champion in his home waters of Narragansett Bay who would go on to be the only competitor with a victory 'two-fer' after he won his PHRF Non-Spinnaker Class C in the ‘Round-the-Island Race and claimed the Upbeat Cup for best performance among all non-spinnaker classes. 'This is our first time for this event, and we’re still feeling it out, but it’s very good competition and great fun.'
Sailing with his 18-year-old son Joe, Richard Egan said he was a bit overpowered on Thursday: 'With a big boat like ours and just the two of us, it’s hard to change sails.' Joe still liked the bigger wind, however, calling Friday’s races 'painfully slow' and was looking forward to the projected heavy air in the ‘Round-the-Island Race where his brother and two cousins were due to join him for a fully crewed attempt at victory there.
'What’s happening is we’re seeing an evolution, which is really healthy, of a shift to the next generation,' said the elder Egan, who has been sailing this event since he was his son’s age. 'They know how to make the boat go, and I have total confidence in them to run the boat.'
Big Boat Buoy Races Friday - Michael Berwind
Sailors had to tuck in early on Friday night to be ready for 6:30 a.m. boat calls Saturday morning--before the 8a.m. start of the ‘Round-the-Island Race. And that hadn’t been easy with the now-traditional Mt. Gay Jump-up Party dutifully following Friday evening’s awards for the Big Boat Buoy Racing. A building 10-12 knot breeze for the start made it all worth the effort, however, and the memory of a dreaded alarm clock going off was replaced with adrenalin-infused concentration on the next task at hand: to hit the starting line right on the money and, if you had them, immediately hoist a spinnaker for harnessing as much downwind power as possible.
Even Dean Barker, best known internationally as Emirates Team New Zealand’s skipper in the last America’s Cup, got in on the dramatic starting line action, serving as back-up driver and strategist for Interlodge, but it was Sled that would rule at the end of the day in IRC class, taking home a class victory and the Commodores’ Concord Cup for shortest elapsed time around the island (5:49:22) and Dave Alexander’s Arcona 430 Pressure Drop that would win the coveted Venona Trophy for best overall performance among all spinnaker classes.
America’s Cup legend Dean Barker on Interlodge - Media Pro International
Defending champion Douglas Curtiss (New Bedford, Mass.), who won PHRF A class with his J/111 Wicked 2.0, said the 8-10 knot breeze, a south/southwesterly, kept filling in after the start, and by the time his team got to East Chop it was gusting to 18. 'It was a beautiful, beautiful day out there,' he said, adding that victory was not easy. 'First and second place (won by Vanish) was decided by three minutes over 7½ hours of racing, so if you boil that down to percentages, that’s a 3% difference in speed. The Naval Academy, too, was toe-to-toe with us, and they held two out of the top five finish positions, so I’d say that they have a very competitive program for sailing, and it is making a difference.'
Dolphin won the Hobart A.H. Cook Maritime Award for best performance by a Naval, Coast Guard or Maritime Academy boat, while Buzzards Yacht Club (Pocasset, Mass.) won the Yacht Club Team Trophy with the performances of Bruce Robinson’s Morris 51 Eider Down, Matthew Schmitt’s J/105 Hard Tack and Allen Eddy’s Pearson P36-2 Kinsale. Eider Down was, additionally, a class winner (PHRF Non-Spinnaker A), as was Stephen McManus’s J/120 Saykadoo (PHRF B) and James Swent’s Alerion Express 38 Osprey (PHRF Non-Spinnaker B).
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