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2022 Edgartown Race Weekend - Africa wins Venona Trophy

by Barby MacGowan 28 Jun 03:19 PDT June 23-25, 2022

The Edgartown Yacht Club's 2022 'Round-the-Island Race ('RTI) was one of the trickier ones in recent memory.

The 55-nautical mile circumnavigation is part of Edgartown Race Weekend, which started Thursday (June 23) with two days of 'Round-the-Sound ('RTS) racing before the 'RTI's 66 teams started early Saturday morning (June 25) in a barely-there 4-5 knot breeze.

In the end, ten boats retired due to the light air, while the balance of the fleet, divided into 11 classes, was rewarded with bragging rights for completing the race even if not for taking home trophies as top-three finishers.

The Tripp 41 Africa, co-owned and co-skippered by Bump Wilcox and Jud Smith (both Marblehead, Mass.) made the most impressive showing, winning PHRF Spinnaker A Class and the coveted Venona Trophy for best corrected time (12:21:26) of the spinnaker division. Africa crossed the finish line just before 8 p.m. Saturday night, while its closest class competitors, Irie 2 (elapsed time 12:35:45), which finished second, and Denali (13:57:22), which finished third, crossed ahead by 55 minutes and an hour and 29 minutes, respectively.

"It sounds pretty exciting," said Wilcox when told his and Smith's names would be added to a long list of luminaries who have won the Venona Trophy since 1938. (The 'RTI is one of the oldest distance races in America.) "Irie 2 and Denali are quite a bit bigger and faster than us. They're just gone, so we can't cover them...we just go as fast as we can to make up the time differential. At West Chop, we did notice that Denali went to the Elizabeth Islands side while we stayed on the Vineyard side. We must have done 20 jibes and the current was with us. Then we got becalmed at Land's End and decided to go in toward the beach. It was a risky call, but we picked up a light breeze and came out with good boat speed, which got us out to the northwest side of island. We also were able to carry our spinnaker to the finish."

Spinnakers came into play at the start, too, for Africa's class, when the wind shifted to the southwest after most of the other classes started in a northwesterly.

"It should be known that Jud is a 10-time world champion sailor and the team has been sailing together a long time. There's no friction on the boat, no losing it, or yelling" said Wilcox, himself a seven-time PHRF New England Series winner. "We mostly sail windward/leeward courses in Marblehead, so this was a refreshing difference, and I like the fact that it's a three-day event as opposed to all week; it makes it logistically easier."

Organizers moved up the event from July to June for the first time this year.

"We learn something every year, and we're always trying to make the next race better than the last one," said Principal Race Officer (PRO) Bob Hurst. "Holding Edgartown Race Weekend in June was a far better outcome...more moorings, rental houses and hotel rooms were available. "It's probably going to continue to be a June event for a long, long time."

Hurst pointed out that the 'RTI course for PHRF Spinnaker E, Non-Spinnaker A, Non-Spinnaker B and Double-Handed Non-Spinnaker was shortened at "Gate 1," scoring those classes over a 20 nm course, while classes for ORC, PHRF Spinnaker B, Spinnaker C, Double-Handed Spinnaker and Spinnaker D were finished at "Gate 2," giving them a 34 nm course. Only Africa's PHRF Spinnaker A and Multihulls finished the traditional 56 nm course.

Other class winners were Tio Loco, Twist & Shout, Hafa Adai, Upbeat, Seefest, Hope, Kaos, Artful Dodger, Firebrand, and Midtown Racing.

'Round-the-Sound

As for the 'Round-the-Sound races, in which Africa, Irie 2 and Denali again were pitted against each other in the same class (PHRF Spinnaker A), Africa finished third in a tie breaker with Denali, which claimed second. Irie 2 finished fourth, while another boat Tio Loco, a Club Swan 42 owned by Henry Brauer/Steve Madeira (Northeast Harbor, Maine) rose to the occasion to win that class with a score line of 2-1.

"Denali legged out on everyone the first day to win (the 19-mile race) and beat us by eight minutes on corrected time," said Jeff Udell, Tio Loco's navigator. "The second day started out in four knots and then it went flat, but the breeze eventually came in as a southerly and the small boats were able to catch up with the bigger boats." Tio Loco's win in that 15-mile race was enough to push back Denali to second overall.

This was a first time at Edgartown Race Weekend for Tio Loco owners and brother-in-laws Henry Brauer and Steve Madeira (Northeast Harbor, Maine), who take turns skippering. (Brauer drove for the 'RTS races.) "It was two amazing days...couldn't be better," said Mateo on Friday, before he took the helm on Saturday to post an 'RTI victory in ORC class. As such, Tio Loco, as well as Hope and Kaos, won the Edgartown Race Weekend Award for best combined performance in 'RTB and 'RTI in their respective classes.

Chris Bjerregaard and Joe Whelan (Bristol, R.I.) also loved sailing the 'Round-the-Sound races and winning their PHRF Spinnaker B class with their Alerion Express 38 Hope. They went on to win their class (PHRF Spinnaker E) in the 'RTI race as well.

"We just got our boat last year, so I knew we had to commit early in the season to make a difference in our our sailing, so we were the first to sign up," said Bjerregaard's wife June. "Everything went smoothly; it's a fun place and a good combination of racing opportunities." The Bjerregaard's son Ted sailed with them, while their daughter Kate sailed on Incognito, which finished second and was Hope's fiercest competitor in the class, which also included three Naval Academy 44s: Gallant, Tenacious, and Integrity.

Winning PHRF Non-Spinnaker was the Alerion Express 28 Penelope, skippered by Mo Flam (Edgartown).

This was the first year that 'Round-the-Sound races replaced 'Round-the-Buoys races that were introduced a few years back.

"We were pleased with how they went," said PRO Hurst. "Thursday was great wind, and Friday it started out slow but then the breeze filled in nicely. We got in early enough for the party, so everyone was smiling!"

Sponsors of Edgartown Race Weekend are Mount Gay Rum, North Sails, J Boats, Regatta Craft Mixers, Hinckley Yachts, Storm Trysail Club and Team One Newport.

For more information on Edgartown Race Weekend, go to rtirace.org.

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