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An interview with Alex Nugent on the 2021 Edgartown Race Weekend

by David Schmidt 20 Jul 08:00 PDT July 22-24, 2021
2019 Edgartown Race Weekend © 2019 EYC / Stephen Cloutier

While New England's storied waters are renowned for providing some of the best cruising and racing opportunities in the USA, it's tough to find an area more "New England" than Martha's Vineyard. And Edgartown, which is situated on the island's eastern flank, right near Chappaquiddick Island, is easily one of the island's true gems. It's also famous in sailing circles for hosting the Edgartown Yacht Club's annual Edgartown Race Weekend, which is set to unfurl between July 22-24.

The three-day event begins with the 'Round-the-Buoys competition (Thursday, July 22 and Friday, July 23), which is comprised of two days of windward-leeward racing or triangular-shaped courses, followed by the longer 'Round-the-Island race (Saturday, July 24), which takes boats on a lap around Martha's Vineyard. Yachts can race under ORC, PHRF-NE, or multi-hull handicaps, but they need a minimum of 28 feet of waterline to compete in either the fully crewed or double-handed classes.

I checked in with Alex Nugent, who serves as co-chair of the Edgartown Yacht Club's Big Boat Race Committee, via email, to learn more about this classic New England regatta.

What kind of entry numbers are you seeing this year? Also, how do these stack up to previous editions of the Edgartown Race Weekend?

For the 2021 iteration of Edgartown Race Weekend, we are seeing historically strong numbers, particularly when measured against the past three or four years.

On a year-over-year basis, we've seen [more than] 40% growth in registrations in 2021, currently sitting at over 65 teams registered for either the buoy racing segment, 'Round-the-Island segment, or both.

We had a large number of doublehanded teams last year - we're hoping to have strong numbers this year as well.

Can you please describe the regatta's culture for anyone who hasn't been lucky enough to participate in this race?

Edgartown Race Weekend is a one-of-a-kind regatta - there truly is something for everyone at this event.

The racing is highly competitive, yet organized for boats of almost all caliber to have an optimal experience.

On-shore activities are immensely popular, and serve as a major draw to Edgartown Race Weekend, given our focus on creating a fun and welcoming atmosphere for all.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter off of Martha's Vineyard in late July?

Weather conditions in late July tend to be fairly consistent: Sunny and warm, with light winds in the morning that ramp-up to mid-teens starting around 1300 hours, which makes for fantastic afternoon conditions. Martha's Vineyard at that time of year offers optimal coastal racing conditions.

Can you tell us about any particularly interesting entries? Also, are there any boats that you're eyeing for trophies or particularly strong finishes?

For the first time in a few years, we're going to have multiple Service and Maritime Academy entries for Edgartown Race Weekend. In addition to class awards, they also compete for the Hobart A. H. Cook award, which goes to the Naval, Coast Guard or Maritime Academy sailing yacht with the best corrected time. The U.S. Naval Academy is bringing two boats, as is the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. We're also expecting Massachusetts Maritime Academy to send a team, and potentially the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

We're also expecting a few multihulls and mini-maxis this year, which should make things interesting and highly competitive.

What style of racing is more popular with skippers and crews—the round-the-buoy racing on Friday and Saturday, or the round-the-island race on Sunday? Also, what makes one type of racing more popular than the other?

Most teams compete in buoy racing at their local clubs, whereas 'Round-the-Island is a distance race that contains a multitude of challenging factors that make it a top regatta for boats and teams of all sizes and calibers.

If you could offer one (or two) pieces of advice to first-time regatta entrants (ad even returning race veterans), what would it be?

Study the tide charts, and treat Muskeget Channel with a lot of respect. The currents are fierce.

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've gone fully digital for Edgartown Race Weekend, saving significant amounts of paper and other resources, and substantially cutting down on waste. We also communicate with sailors as to where to best offload rubbish and the like to keep our harbor clean. Teams are typically very respectful of the island and the harbor.

Anything else that you'd like to add, for the record?

Our primary objective is to deliver the optimal regatta experience for sailors, which includes perks such as free moorings for two days for the first 50 'Round The Island registrants.

Free [moorage] is a real convenience since it is nearly impossible to book through the harbormaster during the middle of the summer, and [it] helps curb costs. Additionally, we encourage anyone to reach out to our team with any questions, concerns or feedback. We are here to help!

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