Featured Story

Sailing: An Etchells for the Island with hopes of many more

The weekend of September 26 was busy for sailboat racing in and around Shelter Island.

There was the 27th running of the Whitebread Regatta sponsored by the Peconic Bay Sailing Association on Saturday and the three-day Etchells Long Island Sound Regatta sponsored by the Shelter Island Yacht Club (SIYC) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with a practice race on Thursday. 

Normally a number of Etchells sailors participate in the Whitebread, but not so this year because of their own regatta. The Etchells class determines the date of the race and obviously did not consult with the Whitebread race chair. As commented by Etchells race participant and SIYC member John Kenney, “the downwind sail home, with chutes flying against a beautiful fall sky, reminded us how much fun and beautiful it is to be out on the water on the East End.”

Because of COVID-19, the Etchells class cancelled the Etchells North Americans. Instead, the SIYC sponsored the race and renamed it the Etchells Long Island Sound Regatta to give those sailors who had been practicing all summer for the North Americans a chance to race. 

Amanda Clark, Shelter Island’s Olympian, ran Race Committee along with Jeff Bresnahan and a slew of other volunteers. Course H4 was run for each race. H4 is a four-legged race, including two spinnaker legs. Its downwind finish with spinnakers flying was exciting for both the crews and Race Committee. From the start it was about 1 mile to the windward mark, where the boats rounded an offset mark, raised spinnakers and sailed to one of two gates down by the committee boat. After rounding the gate of your choice, it was back up wind and then the downwind finish. 

On Friday and Saturday the races started just east of Bug Lighthouse and ran toward Gardiners Island. The wind was almost nonexistent on Friday; by late afternoon it was still only a figment of someone’s imagination. Miraculously the wind picked up, howling at a strong 6 to 9 knots, and two races were run. John commented that the sunset cruise back to the club was beautiful. Three races were run on Saturday. Amanda almost cancelled the races on Sunday. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, from noon to about 2:30, the fog cleared and the wind picked up enough to run one race, which was held in Orient Harbor. 

The regatta had one start, but two divisions, Overall and Corinthian, based on crew makeup. Corinthians are your average day sailors, like yours truly. Overall crews can best be described as “professional” sailors, for lack of a better term. These crews can have paid crew members and coaches. The coaches have to stop communicating with their crews 10 minutes prior to the start of a race. Of the 26 Etchells that participated, 14 had Corinthian crews, and 12 had Overall crews.   

Several Menantic Yacht Club (MYC) members, including John Colby, Eric Langendal, Dave Olsen, Cole Colby, Betsy Colby and Peter Beardsley participated. There were also several family teams: the Colbys, Champigneulles, Needhams, Rowsoms and Langendals.

John Colby, along with his crew of his wife, Betsy, and Peter Beardsley, raced on Friday. It was Betsy’s first time racing on an Etchells, and due to the light winds, Peter was able to give her a good lesson in sailing Etchells. Betsy commented “it was quite a workout and tiring.”  

Peter left the team to sail in the Whitebread on Saturday. Dave Olsen, who has crewed for me for the last 14 years in the Whitebread (which I was unable to sail in this year), joined John and his son, Cole, on Saturday and Sunday. In one race, John actually placed 15th and was beating some of the “professionals.” Considering that he usually comes in dead last in the MYC Sunfish races, maybe he has found his calling.  

The SIYC held an awards ceremony on Sunday after racing. Before the ceremony I’m told that the real race of the day was getting to the lift out crane so as not to have to wait in line. After following COVID protocols, trophies were awarded.  

The top three finishers were “Stella,” crewed by Stephen Benjamin, Joseph Morris, Ian Liberty and Michael Menninger, “Rebel,” crewed by Scott Kaufman, Lucas Calabrese, Alec Anderson and Austen Anderson, and “Freedom,” crewed by Donald Manse, Fred Stammer, Evan Aras and Serena Vilage. Congratulations to all sailors who participated.

Dave Olsen, a long time Etchells sailor, helped build the Etchells Trophy that is encased at the SIYC.

According to Etchells’ fleet captain Don Jones, this was the 8th Etchells Regatta hosted by the SIYC, which has been given the green light to host the North American Etchells Regatta in 2021, and hopes to host the World’s in 2027. After last month’s huge success, SIYC now hopes to have an Etchells annual event.