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Afloat: Winds blow for Poor Memorial

After a summer noted for light winds, the Sept. 5 Poor Memorial Race hosted by the Shelter Island Yacht Club (SIYC) received what was needed — a robust breeze. The around-the-island race is the last of the three big boat races the club hosts. All are PHRF-rated events, open to all.

There were 25 boats on the water, divided into four divisions. The first three were spinnaker, and the fourth a cruising division. The latter saw the largest number of boats with 12 entrants.

The Race Committee called for a 1 p.m. start off the Greenport docks and the course was counter-clockwise around the Island. The gift of good winds filling in from the southwest appeared a half hour before the start and kept on blowing.

Aboard Sachem, my Sabre 38 Division 4 boat, some brilliant crew work saved the day. Right before the start, the jib shackle popped and down came the sail. Super-fast action saw us lower the jib, swap the spinnaker halyard out for the broken one and rehoist, all in gusty 15-knot winds.

Amazingly, we were able to start the race on time. So, profound thanks to David Cohen, Liss Larsen and Nigel Francombe for your deft handling of a situation that could have forced a withdrawal.

Division 4 went first. The boats headed up to Quinipet against a strong ebbing tide, forcing numerous tacks with the accompanying frequent and loud shouts of “Starboard” — the warning that sailing rights were being asserted. From there, it was due south a little off the wind to buoy 16 in Peconic Bay.

For the three spinnaker classes it was time to hoist, since the next leg was east to South Ferry. Leg 4 was a rounding past Mashomack Point. On the way everyone experienced some serious spreader envy as a sailing mega-yacht was anchored in the middle of the course.

Leg 5 was dead downwind. Some divisions were sent to round buoy MO “A” in Gardiners Bay while others were directed to leave the government marks to port and head to the finish line.

All in all a super day on the water, plus one that marked a milestone. Jeff Bresnahan, SIYC’s director of sailing, celebrated his 20th anniversary supervising the racing program. “This fun day on the water with competitive racing and a closely matched fleet was SI at its finest,” he said. “I have the best job imaginable and I look forward to many more years of great sailing and racing.”

Jeff also heads the junior sailing program, something parents of Island kids should check out. This highly ranked program is open to all.

Once again, Bravo won Division 1. Never satisfied until it’s a gale, skipper Andrew Ward wanted, “a little more wind, and fewer ferry crossings.”

Aboard Bravo is a remarkable crew member, Andrew’s father Sedge, who at 89 still serves as valuable rail meat coaxing the tricked out J111 ever closer to windward.

In second place was Jeff Pribor’s Renegade. Evidently, Jeff “almost boarded a ferry, we were that close.” Connor Needham added that Renegade felt like a big sled as she flew downwind. Third was Harry DiOrio’s J 105 Bella.

Jeff’s son JD, active in the big boat committee, was the official host for the event. He toasted his father’s second place at the closing party.

Division 2 saw Peter Beardsley’s Great Scott, a Viper 640, take the trophy for first. Peter, a new SIYC member, looks to be the one to beat since he’s committed to competitive racing, both at this club and several others.

In Division 3, first place went to my inspiration, Mike Rouzee, on Starlight, an Atlantic sloop. At 81, Mike is fit and hardy. He definitely qualifies as “able bodied” when it comes to seamanship.

I was shocked to learn his goal in this race was, “To pass Sachem. When we accomplished that I knew we were competitive.” James Eklund on Jul Bocken finished second and third went to Apocalypso, Derek and Jennifer Van Zandt’s Alerion Express 28.

Division 4 shook up the world of the usual suspects since the trophy for first went to Beth Van der Eems sailing her handsome new Alerion Express 38 Osprey. In order to secure the victory she brought aboard two serious competitive crew, Alicia Rojas and George Zinger.

As Alicia advised, “From the first warning horn, George and I were a dream team. We just clicked.” Of course club legend Paul Stewart was able to assist and the four of them powered their way to the finish. Graciously, Beth praised her crew while accepting the trophy. Nice to see new boats shake up the fleet. 

Last words belong to Race Committee member Chris Maurillo: “We had an excellent big boat race with full divisions filled with well-sailed competitive boats, lots of strong wind, and the best course of all, round our beautiful island.” See you on the water next summer.