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A Q&A with Bill Lynn on the 2021 Herreshoff Classic Yacht Regatta & Rendezvous

by David Schmidt 24 Aug 08:00 PDT August 27-29, 2021
2014 Herreshoff Classic Regatta © Ingrid Abery /

Call me a biased Yankee, but every time I hear the word "bristol" used as a nautical descriptor, my mind immediately pivots to the stately yachts that populate East Coast classic-yacht regattas. Being a native New Englander, my mind's eye further narrows to the classic Herreshoff designs that can be seen plying New England waters, often with many hours of shed time supporting each hour of sailing time. Therefore, it seems only fitting that the Herreshoff Marine Museum and the America's Cup Hall of Fame, located in Bristol, Rhode Island on the shores of Narragansett Bay, is hosting their Classic Yacht Regatta & Rendezvous (August 27-29, 2021) to celebrate their 50th anniversary Golden Jubilee.

Racing will take place from Friday through Sunday, with the first warning gun sounding each day between 1230 and 1300 hours. According to the event's NOR, the regatta is open to yachts with a valid 2021 Classic Rating Formula rating certificate (read: not just Herreshoff designs), as well as to Herreshoff S class and H12 class yachts.

Attending sailors can look forward to some great racecourse action, as well as fun shoreside events ranging from post-racing cocktails and the chance to rub elbows with other wooden-yacht aficionados, to the opportunity to tour the Herreshoff Marine Museum and the America's Cup Hall of Fame's impressive, historic facilities.

I checked in with my friend, Bill Lynn, who serves as the president and executive director of the Herreshoff Marine Museum and the America's Cup Hall of Fame, via email, to learn more about this exciting classic-yacht event.

How many yachts and sailors are you and the other organizers hoping to see at this year's Jubilee Regatta and Rendezvous?

I'd love to see 40 boats here and 250 sailors. It's a bit difficult to handicap the over/under at this point in another weird year, but for our 50th Anniversary edition, we're inviting non-racers to come join the party as well.

The event starts with a feeder race from Newport to Bristol on Friday, followed by a reception on the waterfront with the boats at our docks. It's an awesome party, and it would be fun to have as many boats-both Herreshoff and otherwise-at the dock that evening.

What kinds of shoreside events are planned? Given the nature the crowd, are there any interesting lectures or presentations planned?

Friday evening's "Living Boat Show" is a terrific event as it's open to the public, and we usually get pretty solid representation from the Bristol community and Herreshoff fans in addition to the sailors.

Saturday night's regatta dinner is always a raucous affair as well, with upwards of 300 attendees. Halsey will be talking about the founding of the museum.

How about the regatta side? How many boats do you hope to see on the starting line(s), and also what kind ofd racing are you anticipating—W/Ls, triangle, or "harbor tour" racing around islands and natural features?

The typical HCYR includes a feeder race from Newport to Bristol on Friday, racing around the northern end of the bay on Saturday, and a feeder race back to Newport on Sunday.

Saturday is the big day - the official Herreshoff Classic Yacht Regatta - and we hope to make it a two-race day this year instead of the single race we've run in past years.

One of the two races will likely be a race we ran during last year's Covid edition, which involves a "hot lap" of Hog Island, a small island just south of Bristol. It's about an eight-mile track with lots of turning marks, and last year's edition featured a duel between Weatherly and Nefertiti, in which the two boats were never more than a boatlength apart and finished within ten seconds of each other. Pretty fun to watch!

The S Class one-designs will sail W-L courses, but the bigger boats will go on a tour of the northern end of Narragansett Bay, a part of the Bay that many of the folks who sail regularly in Newport don't see very often which makes it fun and interesting.

How competitive do you think the racing will be? Are we talking about the intense pre-start jostling that we saw at the 2017 J Class Worlds in Newport, or do you think that owners will be a bit more reserved, given the historical nature of the fleet?

There are some interactions that are closer than anyone would like to see, but for the most part, it's about enjoying racing these beautiful boats with friends, and then relaxing on shore with an adult beverage or two.

No one wants to see these boats damaged, and no one wants to deal with the aftermath, so people are generally pretty well-behaved!

What kind of conditions can attending sailors expect to encounter off of Bristol, Rhode Island in late August? What are the best- and worst-case scenarios?

Depends on whether you like big breeze or not! The afternoon sea breeze in Bristol is pretty predictable, and it can build to 18-20 [knots]. The classics have a wind limit to try to avoid splinters, but it can get pretty fresh here.

If you could offer one (or two) pieces of tactical advice about the local waters to visiting and locally based Herreshoff owners (and crews), what would it be?

I think that the most important thing you can do when sailing anywhere on Narragansett Bay is to understand current. It can be your best friend or your worst enemy, and so many races are won and lost here depending on how you play it.

Get a good tide chart, talk to the locals, and poke around online for resources. Much of it is reasonably intuitive, but you ignore it at your peril.

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

The museum itself has converted to solar for our electricity needs, so we're trying to do our part to combat climate change.

I'd be lying if I told you we're the greenest event, but we and the other event organizers are taking steps to try to eliminate single-use plastic bottles, straws in cocktails and anything that might find its way into the Bay. We have recycling bins all over the waterfront, and while we haven't tracked the amount of material in them over time, they do get emptied quite frequently.

Our event relies on a very small team of volunteers so we don't use a ton of chase boats. And since we use mostly government marks, we don't need more than one mark boat.

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

What a freaking year this has been so far! Seems like folks are doubling-down on event and party attendance after a year off, and it is wonderful to see the number of people that want to come celebrate our 50th birthday with us!

The party continues through December, and you can find info on all of the HMM Golden Jubilee events at

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