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August 7, 2020

Pent Up Demand For Racing On Narragansett Bay

Do people want to be able to get out of their houses and onto the water to race?  You betcha that they do!  The work that we did in the Spring to coordinate the efforts of all the clubs to figure out how to hold safe regattas, has paid off.

On the Junior side, we have been able to run essentially our normal schedule of events; three regattas each for Optis, 420s and Lasers.  With the season half done, over 200 sailors have flocked to these events.  To keep everyone healthy, these have been tow in regattas where the clubs transport the boats and sailors to the start area.  This eliminates all the congestion and chance of contagion at the normal beach launching area.  It is actually a page from the 1960’s before trailering became popular when tow-ins were the norm. This method did make for some excitement after the first Opti regatta.  A thunderstorm with heavy rain and wind came through for those going back to the East Greenwich area.  The instructors got the kids into the fastest powerboats and hustled them safely home.  They left the Optis with a few adults who sheltered behind Prudence Island until the storm passed.  An eventful end to a very satisfying day of racing.

On the Senior side, we held our largest event in more than a decade.  Ida Lewis Yacht Club Race Committee set up a 16 mile course around government marks starting right outside Newport Harbor. The fleet ranged from a TP 52 to a fifty foot schooner built a hundred years ago.  In between were sport boats, Herreshoff S boats, and real dual purpose racer-cruisers.

For the two spinnaker classes, the legs were pretty short at around three miles each to help keep the crews on their toes.  The start of the large spinnaker class with a dozen boats was very competitive and a hoot to watch.  The crew on the 6000 pound sport boat had huge grins on their faces as they made a 35000 pound, 60 footer (and 4 others) bail out at the boat end just before the gun.  The crews on the affected boats did not look nearly as happy, but they soon made up ground.

Large wind shifts, puffs, wakes from 100’ power boats and a building breeze topping out in the high teens rewarded good tactics and boat handling.  This was especially true on the first leg, a beat out to Beavertail which is the point of land at the south end of the bay.  Boats were fighting an adverse tide and nasty chop so most chose one side of the bay or the other.  Those on the West side were doing best until the wind shifted 70 degrees to the south and the sea breeze filled in.  End result was a dead heat as boats from either side rounded the first mark together.

The legs turned into a succession of almost dead downwind then upwind courses.  The downwind legs showcased the differences between sailing a planeing boat and a displacement boat.  Time and again, a Melges 24 would come screaming in on a reach toward a Seguin 40 which was sailing with a symmetrical kite almost dead down.  The boats were dead even.  The 24 would try to surf by to leeward, hit the wind shadow from the 40, lose her plane and stop!  Try and try again but no luck.  Finally the 40 had enough of being headed up and chose to slow slightly and duck behind the 24, missing her stern by six inches.  Good, close racing even though the boats were vastly different.

The regatta also had a class for the seven S-boats that registered.  These are 28 foot wooden daysailors that were designed and built in the 1920’s and 30’s.  They are distinctive as they sport very curved wooden masts.  Tough to sail well and a bit fragile, the class hits a tender spot in the hearts of many sailors on the bay.  The RC gave them two shorter races.  Starts were closely fought as you would expect in a one design class.  Once on the course, the boats spread out as some handled the chop and puffy winds better than others.

Racing ended in the middle of a very hot afternoon.  What could be better after a day of competition than to wind up back at Ida for a cold drink on the deck.  It was good to see the host club accommodate the crowd with grace, safely and with good social distancing.  A near perfect ending to a near perfect day.

More racing events to consider:  https://nbya.org/nbya-racing-events/  Race Results: https://yachtscoring.com/event_results_cumulative.cfm?eID=13071

David Schwartz

President NBYA