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Poor Memorial Race at the Shelter Island Yacht Club

From the look of it, things seemed normal for the Shelter Island Yacht Club’s (SIYC) Poor Memorial Race on Sunday, Sept 6. A little closer look, however, revealed that avoidance of COVID-19 was one of the new rules of the race.

Many crew members wore masks, launch capacity was limited to a smaller number of sailors, entrants had to sign a lawyer-drawn-up liability waiver, and there was no official after party.

Additionally, the open air and wind blowing across decks allowed for a measure of safety.

The Poor Memorial is the culmination of the SIYC’s annual three “Big Boat” race series. All the races are open to everyone with a PHRF certificate. Despite COVID-19, the Race Committee was able to run all three this year, a strong statement about the desire for sailors to race and the organizers’ ability to make that happen, while acknowledging all the mandated virus suppression rules.

This year’s Poor saw 22 boats in four divisions — three spinnaker classes and one non-spinnaker. The start was staggered for each division, but everyone was underway by 1:40 p.m.

The sailing did not look promising since the counterclockwise course around the Island required a beat up Shelter Island/Greenport Channel to Jennings Point in very fluky light air. Arriving at the Point increased the displeasure as the wind decreased and forward momentum came to a halt. In the strong sun and rising temperatures, thoughts of bailing out entered some minds.

However, patience was rewarded. As if by magic, a strong, sparkling southwester came in and filled everyone’s sails. This leg was to buoy 16 in Noyac Bay leaving the Paradise Point buoy to starboard. From there it was spinnakers up and a turn downwind to South Ferry.

Then came another beat to the southeast and the search for a dropped mark off Mashomack Point. The wind held up its end of the bargain as the boats headed north. Some of the faster-rated divisions went to round the MO(A) buoy in Gardiners Bay while others headed back to the Greenport Channel and the home stretch.

As expected, the Channel was a busy place on this Labor Day holiday. Amidst loud cigarette boats, fishing boats, jet skis and ferries, the fleet had to fight its way past the breakwater and to the finish line at Dering Harbor’s entrance.

The new normal sure felt good as Shelter Island waters were once again filled with sailors, as they have been since the SIYC’s founding 134 years ago in 1886.

This year’s Poor Memorial racers were enthused with the love of a sport, humbled by the majesty of the Island’s waters, and blessed with bountiful winds.

For a list of participants and ranking of the finishers, go to yachtscore.com/index2.cfm.