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Afloat: Winds of change

A week ago Friday and Saturday saw 32 boats compete in the 9th annual Shelter Island Yacht Club (SIYC) Anniversary Race Week (RW).

Planning any sail in advance — from day sail to weeklong cruise — on the East Coast has a Zen-quantum component. It’s impossible to predict the outcome. One has to accept the winds may be nonexistent, less than desirable, or way too much. I know counting on anything that has the word “wind” in it is iffy.

With two full days of events, the SIYC Race Committee (RC) was satisfied everyone, even if some of the divisions had a short course the first day and there were light wind moments the second day.

One of the great aspects of SIYC RW is there is something for everyone. Friday is around the Island. Four Divisions competed based on PHRF ratings and a captain’s choice of sailing spinnaker or non. This course allows everyone to stretch their sea legs by using all the points of sail, plus the fun of bucking strong tides, dodging ferries (North and South) and avoiding the shoals. The race started a little late for Divisions 3 and 4 as the initial start was abandoned when the tides became stronger than the winds. Everyone stalled out. A few hours later the wind filled in from the southwest at around 10 knots.

Saturday was a Gardiners Bay round-the- marks experience. The RC was able to get four races in for all the divisions. Winds again were southwest, over 10 knots, for most of the day.

“Why would anyone race anywhere else?” was the observation of RC head and SIYC director of sailing Jeff Bresnahan. He added, “We got everyone on the water for both days and the results speak for themselves. The racing was close, exciting and a true test of each captain’s skills.”

According to Peter Beardsley, skipper of the ultra-fast and radical Viper 640 Great Scott!, “Boats are now traveling to race here. We have entrants from all the surrounding bays and now Newport.” Peter, by the way, won first place in Division 2.

The trophy boat for sure was Jim Madden’s Carkeek 47, Start Raving Mad IX, a racing machine and one of the most highly technical and thus competitive boats anywhere. His rating is so disadvantageous it’s in negative territory. Regardless, he and his pro-crew managed a second in Division 1. His tactician, legendary racer Tony Rey, had this to say: “Race Week has become a classic, one of New England’s best. The island setting, the club, and the well-run event made our trip west from Newport worth it.”

While some may think this sport has an elitist cast to it, nothing could be further from the truth. PHRF racing means the oldest, simplest, home-maintained cruising boat can get a rating and race. It’s about skill, teamwork and luck. PHRF is a great equalizer. The races are open to all.

Another positive development was the use of the club’s Sonar Wind by a youthful contingent of college sailors. They are the future of competitive sailing and using the club’s boat they were spared the expense and hassle of ownership.

The biggest winner of the regatta was the Island’s own Andrew Ward on his J111 Bravo. Andrew won Division 1 both days. His victory is no surprise. He sails often, not only every Wednesday night, but regattas nationally and internationally. He had this to say about his core crew, “They make it happen. We were nervous at the start with the stiff competition, but it all worked out. We love representing the Island and the club.”

Aboard Sachem, my Saber 38, crewmembers Liss Larsen and Nigel Francombe observed a competitive shortened course to buoy 16 in Noyack Bay. They helped Sachem achieve a 3rd in Division 4. One highlight was seeing prolific yachting writer Bob Harris sail by on a cruise east.

The true trophies however belong to the RC and all the hundreds of avid sports people who spent a great day on the water. They were blessed with the sweet winds that blow … when they feel like it … across the waters of lovely Shelter Island.

For the official results go to yachtscore.com.