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Afloat: The green way around the Island

On Saturday, June 26, the Shelter Island Yacht Club (SIYC) was sponsor to an around-the-Island race for Etchells and Sonars.

Architecturally, both boats would be called mid-century design. The Etchells, 30-foot Daysailors, were designed in 1965; 23-foot Sonars in 1980.

Both use fixed keels. There were six Etchells and two Sonars on the starting line and all of them finished.

What I love about both boats, but particularly the Etchells, (full disclosure, we have one) is the Zen experience they offer. Other than a Mesoamerican log canoe, these one-design beauties are as simple as fresh winds. There are no motors or power assist in sail control, no electronics of any kind, and no sanitation facilities. Sailors need to leave and return to the dock or mooring under sail. However, there are numerous manual adjustments to the rigging and sails. Skills in tweaking them can take a lifetime to perfect. Should the wind die, a tow in is required.

Most Etchells are dry-sailed, meaning they are stored on trailers when not in use. The rare noncompetitive ones are kept in the water. There are even a few converted to “Gentleman’s Etchells.” These are luxury versions that have motors, comfortable seats and gleaming woodwork. The latter are transformed by the very talented boat builders-restorers-maintainers, Eric and Christian Langendal, whose father Anders made small boats a specialty. Sailing one of these beauties called Tryst was Greg Hodkinson and owner Didier Marie, who assured us, “Greg’s skills are improving after 30 years and we hope to be either first or second.”

The SIYC has a healthy fleet of Etchells that are raced on Saturdays, and some of the most gifted sailors in the class like Jay Cross and Scott Kaufman who regularly win national and international races. The Sonars are used by youthful members primarily to sharpen skills for big boat regattas and fun racing. Lizzie Martin, a SIYC sailing program graduate, is a Sonar sailor and, with her team, won her division (with 2 entrants).

Saturday the fog lifted and the rain squalls ceased for the noon start. With only a 10-minute delay, both divisions crossed the line to windward just off the Greenport breakwater. The course was counterclockwise, which meant close-hauled into the wind towards Southold, a bit of an ease towards Noyac Bay, broad reach down South Ferry, back to a close reach to Mashomack Point and then a run to Ram Island. The leg home was back on the wind. All of this was made even more tricky by a tide turn soon after the start. The professional race organizer Cooper Neffk made sure everything ran smoothly.

As director of sailing Jeff Bresnahan put it, “There are no government marks to honor, just get around the Island as fast as you can and try not to hit anything.”

The entire fleet was blessed with winds in the 10-15 knots range. They shifted a bit as some micro fronts came in, but never let up.

The Etchells fleet competitive boats were in a tight formation right from the start. They left our boat #888 and the Sonars behind. Their lead widened, and by the time the leaders were at South Ferry their sails were a white blur on the horizon.

Time around the Island was 3 hours for the lead boats and a half hour later for the slower ones.

The awesome team of Andrew Rowsom, Don Jones, and Steve Allardice aboard Mutiny took home the trophy for first. According to Andrew, “We had an epic race. I think we led from wire to wire. It’s magic to be back on the water post-COVID.”

David Esseks in #1198 finished second, with this to say: “Perfect wind, tricky tides, but a great day for racing.”

Third place was Roublard-Pierre Champigneulle.

David Cohen and I aboard #888 also had a great day on the water. Lively, energetic sailing with more than enough wind blowing across the deck to utilize our skills. We sailed in our own self-created “recreational division.” Basking in the bountiful winds, majestic Island scenery and water-born camaraderie, we overcame our last-place Etchells finish to experience a winning day — one to savor.

As a reminder to Islanders, the highly ranked junior sailing program at the SIYC is open to all. Scholarships are available to Shelter Island residents. Anyone interested in participating should contact the junior sailing director, Jeff Bresnahan at [email protected].