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An interview with Karen Tenenbaum on the BYC's 2021 Michael A. Mentuck Memorial Ocean Race

by David Schmidt 6 Jul 2021 08:00 PDT July 8, 2021
Racecourse action during the Marblehead to Halifax Ocean Race © Images courtesy of Craig Davis

The saying goes that necessity is the mother of all invention, but creativity also goes a long way in creating something cool. Such is the case with the Boston Yacht Club's inaugural 2021 Michael A. Mentuck Memorial Ocean Race (MAMMOR; July 8), which was cleverly devised to fill the void in the summer's racing calendar that was created by cancellation of the annual Marblehead to Halifax Race due to the still-closed Canadian border.

The MAMMOR will begin on the waters off of Marblehead and will take the fleet on a 253 nautical-mile course that stretches to Maine's Matinicus Rock Light before wending back to Marblehead for the finish.

With luck, given the prevailing winds, this course will translate into a memorable kite ride for at least one of the legs.

I checked in with Karen Tenenbaum, who serves as race director of the 2021 Michael A. Mentuck Memorial Ocean Race (and the Boston Yacht Club's race committee chair), via email, to learn more about this exciting 253-nautical-mile offshore race.

What kind of entry numbers are you seeing this year for the Mentuck Memorial Race? Also, how do these stack up to previous editions of the Marblehead to Halifax Race?

So far there are 20 entries. Given that registration opened in May, and prior to that the race wasn't even a blip on the screen, it looks pretty good.

Sailors around here can be notoriously last-minute in deciding when to sign-up for a race, particularly one that may require less preparation than Marblehead to Halifax. So, it's anyone's guess how many will eventually sign-up. The long-term forecast could play a role.

[It's] difficult to compare the numbers of the Mentuck to Halifax, as this is the first year of the Mentuck, which we put together only this past April/May. Prior to canceling the Marblehead to Halifax Race, we had about 50 entries. Since the timeline for the Mentuck Memorial Race is much more compressed, we could be looking at 35-40 entries, but it's anybody's guess.

Can you tell us about any particularly interesting entries? Also, are there any boats that you're eyeing for line honors or correct-time wins?

It's a nice mix of local and not-so-local boats. So far, the range is from Acadia, a J/34c, to John Davis' Jumpin Jack Flash, a Davidson 50. [Davis] is also racing in the Annapolis to Newport Race in early June, so he should be all warmed-up.

Notable out-of-towners include Michael and Connie Cone on Actaea, a Hinckley B-40 out of Philadelphia, and a mainstay of the Marblehead to Halifax Race, and Placetne, Frank Kendall's Sabre 426 from Falls Church, Virginia. Like Jumpin Jack Flash, Placetne is also doing the A2N Race.

What kind of decision-making process went into planning the course? For example, why did you elect to run a course that mimics the Marblehead to Halifax course, rather than maybe taking a hitch to the east?

I went back and forth on this, and decided that a race east wouldn't be all that interesting, plus going offshore meant that the race would remain OSR category 2 or SER Offshore, requiring more equipment and preparation than potential racers would have resources for on such short notice.

So, we determined that we wanted to run a coastal category race. I tried to put myself in the position of the racers in planning the course, what did I think they wanted to see? I asked several experienced offshore racers for their input. In coming up with the course we did, I was looking for a concrete destination, as opposed to GPS coordinates forming an imaginary turning mark. So, Matinicus Rock seemed to fill the bill.

When you consider the race's course, what are its different "chapters" and what are the key challenges of each chapter?

As this is a first-time course, the chapters are all waiting to [be] written. At the risk of stating the obvious, it will likely be a race in two acts, A northeast approach to Matinicus, then the southwest trip back [to Marblehead], which could be straight into the commonly prevailing wind direction that time of year.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter off of Massachusetts and Maine in early July?

Typically, the wind is out of the southwest to southeast, but there can be easterly sea breezes. In Maine, there's always the chance for fog. However, I've gone on at least part of the route of the course doing cruising deliveries, and have had great sailing in both directions, usually about a month later.

Given that the race will unfurl in July, when the Biden Administration anticipates a return to normality, are you also planning shoreside events? If so, can you please tell us about these?

Since Massachusetts in now in the final phase of the "new normal", we are planning shoreside events, while at the same time keeping in compliance with the BYC's house rules and local rules and regulations.

In order to minimize risk, most events will be held outdoors and under a tent. A band is planned for entertainment for the awards ceremonies on Sunday, July 11, which ironically would have been the start of the Marblehead to Halifax Race.

Can you tell us about any efforts that you and the other regatta organizers have made to try to lower the regatta's environmental footprint or otherwise green-up the regatta?

We have recycling facilities at the club where folks can separate out compost, trash, and plastics. By having the start on a weeknight, we will have cut down on the [number] of powerboats we'd need for crowd control. The only drop mark will be the starting pin, so fewer mark boats are required.

And rather than have a finish line set up for the end of the race, with the attendant RC/patrol boats, the finishes will be taken electronically by each boat's YB tracker device, in conjunction with the coordinates we set in advance for a virtual finish line. We'll come out and check on the finishers, but we won't be parked there for the duration, since they could be coming in at all hours.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add, for the record?

[We're] looking forward to running what should be an interesting and innovative race which has been the product of turning something negative into a positive. Check out the details at

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