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Race Week at Shelter Island: Something for everyone

I know it sounds strange, but sometimes the best sailboat experience is when the boat acts like a motorboat, i.e., when there is so much wind on all points of sail that the helmsmen can head where they need to go.

These were the conditions on Friday, Aug. 4 for the Around the Island Race, part of Shelter Island’s Race Week Regatta. This is the 10th anniversary of the event hosted by the Shelter Island Yacht Club (SIYC).

There were 31 boats on Friday in competition in five divisions. They ranged from family cruising ones to cutting-edge foil boards and everything in between. The course was counterclockwise around the Island starting and finishing in Dering Harbor.

Winds were southwest with gusts over 20 knots. With a breeze that strong, record times were recorded. There is a recent “sport boat” class, Vipers. Imagine a low wing on the water that can almost fly over waves. The fastest of these made it around in 2 hours 36 minutes. The slowest boat in the non-spinnaker class was around in 3 hours 31 minutes.

Saturday was buoy and navigational racing, but unfortunately there was little wind; only the ultra-light Vipers were able to race.

The Reporter sat down with SIYC Big Boat Chair Andrew Ward (of J111 Bravo fame) and Professional Race Officer Addison Caproni to better understand what Race Week is all about.

According to Addison, “We’re trying to organize the event in a way to get all the boats to finish at the same time so we can have a post-race social aspect. That involves aligning both the course and the starting sequences.”

Andrew added, “Our job is to ensure the best possible competition. We try to work around the PHRF (handicapped rating system) number to put everyone in the right division and to create truly competitive divisions. We have a relatively small fleet, as compared to say, Newport, so the disparity between the handicap ratings is harder to manage.”

That’s not to say the fleet is not growing. The expansion of the sport boat class is relatively new and off-Island participation is increasing.

Also, according to Andrew, the event thrives because of the Race Committee. “The number of volunteers and the fleet of committee boats has grown to the point where we can do multiple races in different locations. That is a huge win for the club. It gives us the flexibility to find the right course and the right winds for each class.”

Race Week continued after the Around Island Race and the Saturday races, with Sunday races for the Etchells class and the Herreshoff 12½’s.  Both fleets are strong with new members racing.

At the end of the day, Director of Sailing and Junior Sailing Director Jeffery Bresnahan attributed the success of Race Week to, “Total team effort. All the volunteers on and off the water made these events run as smoothly as they do. That commitment makes everything possible.”

For the final results go to: 2023 Race Week at Shelter Island, Yachtscoring.com