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Clipper Ventures

The 64th Gearbuster: A test of perseverance

by Donovan McSorley 14 Oct 2019 05:47 PDT 12 October 2019

The Gearbuster, first sailed in October of 1956, has become one of the premier fall sailing events on Long Island Sound, and this year featured 57 entries from over 20 clubs.

Gearbuster sailors normally compete on one of two courses, the 46.5nm Stratford Shoal Course, which includes five spinnaker divisions, and the 19nm Eatons Neck Course, which includes two non-spinnaker divisions. Originally sailed as an overnight race, it is now a mostly daylight affair given its 1100 first start.

This Year's Race

The usual end-of-season gear-busting conditions were not in this year's outlook. One professional weather prognosticator remarked rather drolly that he was concerned "that there will be enough breeze for decent sailing" (weathman speak for it's going to be a good day for golf). Given this, the Race Committee wisely elected to invoke a "short course" option. This had the Stratford Shoal fleet sailing to Eatons Neck (19.0nm) and the Eatons Neck fleet sailing to Mid-Sound buoy 32A, The Cows and then to the finish (10.9nm). The forecaster's concerns proved warranted and there was no second guessing the RC's decision. One competitor aboard Bellerophon understated the conditions as "a little bit slow." Instead of having to persevere against a 30 knot easterly and steep seas, competitors instead were challenged by motorboat chop and a dearth of wind.

The Long Course

Morning temperatures hovered around 60 degrees paired with overcast skies, as competitors lined up for starts with a beautiful backdrop of the NYC skyline behind them. This year's long-course fleet included five classes: Three fully crewed, a plus one and one double-handed.

The double-handed Class 1 started first and enjoyed an early jump on the fleet in the best breeze of the day. When it was over, Barry Purcell and his J/27 Lucida came out on top bettering Josh Burack's J/105 Peregrina by just over nine minutes. Impressive also was Purcell's 7th place overall finish given that Lucida was among the slowest rated boats in the fleet in what proved to be a big boat race.

Fireball, a J/111 helmed by Bill & Jackie Baxter, placed first in Class 2 and corrected out if front overall. Finishing second in her debut race under Rick & Skip Sinclair was Bellerophon, a Farr 40. In what was, for the Class 2 boats, mostly a reach up and back, Fireball made good use of its Code 0 something Bellerophon is not configured to fly. Michael Levy aboard Eagle in Class 2 described the conditions, "It was puffy at the start with about 5 to 7 knots briefly going up to about 9 knots and then fading. The race was about constantly shifting gears between the 5 knot range to the 8 knot range." Unfortunately the rest of the fleet would have been very happy if they only had to worry about dealing with lows of 5 knots!

In Class 3, Smokeshow turned in a remarkable performance. The GP26, helmed by Paul Sevigny, won her class by roughly 29 minutes. Even more impressive was that she finished 3rd overall. Of the top six finishers overall she was the only boat not among the faster rated Class 2 boats. Nevermore, skippered by Ken & Drew Hall finished second and 8th overall.

Easy Red skippered by IHYC's John Cutting persevered in Class 4 to take the class win and 20th overall as the dying breeze dashed any hopes of the smaller boats finishing well in the overall standings. Second was CAYUGA, Eric Letellier's Laser 28 a healthy 20+ minutes back.

In Class 5, Arthur Hanlon's Dauntless took first with David Cielusniak's J-Curve taking second.

Non-Spinnaker Fleet

The short course fleet featured two non-spinnaker classes. Among this group, two boats continued their strong sailing in this race. Derek Ettie's Whirligig finished first for the second year in a row in class 6 (117 and faster), while Foolish Pleasure skippered by John Ekberg continued a run of dominance, winning the Non-Spinnaker 118 and slower class for the fourth year in a row. Ekberg described the day: "The wind was shifty, and at times we were out of wind. Once we had to tack away from a mark to get into wind shifts that we could see and follow."

Though conditions were not bust-worthy, it was still a pleasant day on the water for competitors. By the early afternoon, the overcast skies turned to blue. And after a long day of racing, competitors gathered at IHYC to compare war stories and enjoy the traditional spread of Heineken beer and some of the finest post-race food on the Sound at the club's stunning new South Patio. A great way to end the day — and for many, their sailing season.

Full results available here.

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