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Shelter Island racing yacht breaks down at sea

Prospector, owned and operated by Shelter Island Yacht Club members, under sail in a race last summer.

An Island-based racing yacht saw it’s mast fail in the early hours of Sunday morning during a Maryland to Rhode Island race.

On Sunday conditions seemed calm and Prospector, a Mills 68, and it’s 18-man crew were ready to break records in the Annapolis-to-Newport Race. According to the Maryland-based Capital Gazette, Prospector was “rocketing along at approximately 17 knots on a tight reach on Saturday and was soon out of sight of the large spectator fleet that gathered for the second Annapolis-to-Newport Race start.”

By the following day, Prospector found itself sailing upwind in 20-25 knots wind speeds and pounding into 8-foot seas in the Atlantic when the mast rigging failed around 3 a.m., according to the Annapolis-based paper.

Prospector is owned by Shelter Island Yacht Club (SIYC) members and Island residents Larry Landry and Paul McDowell. Unlike most 58-foot racing boats, where there is one wealthy owner and 10 to 15 hired professional sailors, Prospector prides itself on a mixed crew of amateurs and top-level professionals.

Mr. Landry and Mr. McDowell have been sailing all of their lives, but only started considering “bucket list” races in 2013, when a group of their SIYC friends formed the Shelter Island Transatlantic Partners and purchased the first Prospector, a Carroll Marine Farr 60, in hopes of sailing The Transatlantic Race in 2015.

Last July SIYC members and Prospector’s crew were riding high on their win of the Pacific Cup. The team competes in races around the world and places first, second or third in almost every event they enter.

In 2017, they won the Pineapple Cup, a race from Miami to Montego Bay, Jamaica and set the course record for the Marblehead to Halifax Race.

“We’re like a family. As a result of long-standing teamwork, we know what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are, and everyone knows their positions on the boat,” Mr. McDowell told the Reporter last summer. “When you’re out 2,000 miles from land, you’ve got to rely on each other. There’s a real sense of camaraderie and partnership and accomplishment among the 18 people on that boat. At three in the morning, they’ll be up there laughing and telling jokes.”

Their camaraderie and teamwork were  put to the test this Sunday as fierce gusts of wind and huge surges of waves threatened the boat.

But even as disaster seemed imminent, Mr. Roesch told the Capital Gazette that “I got on deck and everything was calm. There was a plan in place as to what needed to be done and everyone got to work,” Mr. Roesch, who had been sleeping in the cabin, told the Capital Gazette. “It was not real dramatic on deck. Everything was handled in a seamanship way.”