With spinnakers flying : The 85th Edgartown Regatta
The 85th annual Edgartown Regatta sponsored by the Edgartown Yacht Club will commence with racing on July 10, and conclude July 12 with the Round the Island Race. Registration for the Regatta closes on July 10.
The racing on July 10 and 11 will be devoted to junior and adult one design competition in Edgartown outer Harbor and Cow Bay, the body of water off State Beach.
On Saturday, July 12, in addition to a full schedule of one design racing, the Regatta will culminate with the Round the Island Race, a clockwise circumnavigation of Martha's Vineyard sailed by a diverse fleet divided into racing and cruising classes.
One design racing entails competition of fleets of identical boats with identical equipment, making for close racing throughout the course. The racecourses, set by the Yacht Club Race Committee, are usually designed to maximize sailing to windward, or directly into the wind and to leeward, or running with the wind. These points of sail are the most difficult and the most skilled skippers and crew emerge at the top of the fleets.
The skippers jockey for position at the starting line where a five-minute sequence of flags, guns and horns culminates with a mad dash for the line. Knowledge of position, wind, current and right of way rules are crucial to a good start, which, in turn is critical to a successful race.
On the windward leg, the boats sail as close to the wind as possible with the sails typically sheeted in to the centerline of the vessel. A number of tacks are usually required to sail from one turning mark to the next. The skill required is to keep the boat moving as fast as possible and as close to the wind as you can while maintaining speed. Tactically, deciding when to maneuver from the port to the starboard tack can be critical. The best skippers sail the shortest distance and make the marks crisply.
On the run, or downwind leg, the key is to keep the sails full of wind. This difficulty arises because of the phenomenon of apparent wind, where on a downwind leg, the actual wind is decreased by the speed of the boat. Especially in light air, this creates a feeling that the wind has completely died out. The boats generally deploy a spinnaker, a balloon shaped foresail which maximizes speed on this point of sail. The best sailors keep the balloon full while sailing the straightest line possible to the windward mark.
The juniors have registered four classes: the 420, Laser, Opti and Opti Green. Up to 150 junior sailors are expected and five or more races will be run per class per day. The skippers and crew are from all of the island yacht clubs as well as the Cape, Nantucket, Scituate, South Dartmouth and other locales. The event has always been a great learning experience and a lot of fun for the junior sailors.
The adults anticipate four classes, and 40-50 skippers in the Hereshoff 12, Shields, Rhodes 19 and Wianno Seniors. The race committee will generally run a more leisurely one or two races per class per day for the adult skippers, although the competition is every bit as keen as the juniors.
The starting gun for the Round the Island race is at 8:00 am on July 12 in the outer harbor. This race is scored using handicapping systems to correct for the different boats, which sail at different speeds. The fleet is divided into racing and cruising classes, with the racing classes permitted to use spinnakers on the downwind legs. The race takes the fleet around Cape Pogue, south along the Chappaquiddick shore to Wasque, West along the South shore of the Island to Gay Head and Devils Bridge, Northeast up Vineyard Sound, and East into Nantucket Sound to the finish line. With a decent wind, the fleet will complete the 52-mile race starting in the early afternoon. This is a classic ocean race and always a great experience for the participants.
The Staff and Officers of the Edgartown Yacht Club are extremely hospitable and friendly hosts, opening the beautiful club facilities to the guest sailors. The races are run crisply and professionally. It is a truly first class sailing event and a highlight of the summer sailing season on Martha's Vineyard.
The Edgartown Yacht Club's 85th annual Edgartown Regatta begins July 10. 508-627-4364.
John Amabile, a Vineyard Haven resident, is a member of the Holmes Hole Sailing Assn. and frequently contributes sailing news to The Times.