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2015 Edgartown Race Weekend: Have it Your Way

by Barby MacGowan 7 Jun 2015 06:10 PDT 23-25 July 2015
Edgartown Race Weekend's 'Round-the-Buoy Races in 2014 © Michael Berwind

There are two ways to approach Edgartown Yacht Club's Edgartown Race Weekend, scheduled for Thursday, July 23 through Saturday, July 25. Come for Saturday only to compete in the 56 nautical mile 'Round-the-Island Race. Or for a full three days of total-immersion racing therapy, come Thursday and Friday for two days of 'Round-the-Buoy Races before circumnavigating Martha's Vineyard on Saturday.

Bill Finn and Francis Shiman-Hackett (Boston, Mass.), owners of the Elite 37 Sparkle Pony, have chosen the former approach while Stephen McManus (Annapolis, Md.), owner of the J/120 Saykadoo, has chosen the latter. It is for different reasons, of course – including time away from work and where their boats are scheduled to appear beforehand and after – but one thing is clear when talking to each: there really is no wrong way to participate in Edgartown Race Weekend.

"We had been cruising in the area for 10 years, and last year I thought Why not just do this regatta?, so we did, and we loved it," said McManus, who races Saykadoo primarily on Chesapeake Bay and this year will get the boat to New England by way of entering the Annapolis to Newport Race, which starts June 5. (Saykadoo finished second in her class at the 2013 Annapolis to Newport Race.) "You do some sailing outside the harbour, get a couple of races in each day, and it gets you warmed up for the weekend. You can't beat Edgartown in late July, and Edgartown Yacht Club does a fabulous job of hosting and provides good communication for someone like myself coming from a long distance."

McManus said that instead of renting a house, Saykadoo's owners have chartered, like they did last year, a 50-foot Beneteau that will sit on a mooring in Edgartown Harbor where the J/120 can easily raft alongside it in the evenings. He looks forward to competition from another J/120, Aprẻs, owned by Stephen Besse of Vineyard Haven, and the J/46 Wings, owned by Richard Egan of Hyannis, Mass.

"The J/46 rates similarly under PHRF, and we owe the J/109 time, but a 109 can beat a 120 and vice versa, depending on the conditions," said McManus, also mentioning the two very competitive Navy 44s, Tenacious and Gallant, that are returning from the Naval Academy.

And while the Annapolis to Newport Race takes between three and four days to complete, the 'Round-the-Island Race starts Saturday morning and typically finishes in the late afternoon that same day. "Last year, it was a really nice breeze in the low teens, and we had every point of sail: upwind while we went down the east side, a reach down the southern side, spinnakers on the way up Vineyard Sound, and a reach back to the finish outside Edgartown Harbor."

For Bill Finn on Sparkle Pony, give him that one day of exceptional 'Round-the-Island racing and he's happy.

"Always being aware of the current and all of the shoals is a major factor in navigating that race, but basically, it's what makes it fun," said Finn. "Even though you think you're just circling the island, there is always something to negotiate. For instance, the challenge in sailing upwind in current is that you are trying to get the boat in as shallow water as possible, meaning you're taking a boat with six or seven feet of draft and putting it in six or seven feet of water."

Most of Sparkle Pony's crew stay on the boat or with friends on the island...that is, if they don't come in for the day and go home that same evening, because it's easy to do. "We deliver the boat the day before, stay over Friday night, get up early to do the race, then enjoy the island (and social events) on Saturday evening and Sunday before delivering the boat to our next event (the Buzzard's Bay Regatta)." As whimsical as its name sounds, Sparkle Pony is not to be dismissed as a lightweight contender. With a crew of 12 (eight women and four men), she just won her PHRF division at the 2015 Figawi Race, and she was a division winner for last season's Wednesday-night racing on Boston Harbor. "We're a have-fun-first program, so we decided to come up with the most ridiculous name that other people would have to use, like when they have to say, "We were coming into the windward mark, and we were edged out by Sparkle Pony!"

Edgartown Yacht Club's Edgartown Race Weekend provides competitive racing for boats 28 feet and longer in divisions for IRC, PHRF (Spinnaker and Non-Spinnaker) and HPR. Specific classes for Double-Handed, One Design, and Classic yachts are added when at least three entries are entered for each discipline. The 'Round-the-Buoy Races and the 'Round-the-Island Race each have their own Notices of Race and entry forms. (A registration fee is required for the 'Round-the-Island Race; the 'Round-the-Buoy Races are free.) For more information and to register, go to or contact . Follow the Edgartown Yacht Club Racing facebook page.

In 2015, Edgartown Yacht Club also will host a J/70 Spring Tune Up (June 20), the 92nd Annual Regatta for one-design boats (July 16-18), and the 22nd running of the Annual 12 Metre Regatta (August 7-9). For more information and to register for Edgartown Yacht Club sailing events, visit and click on the racing tab.

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