Hot weather, hot racing draws boats to Martha’s Vineyard

Spinnaker sails flying on a downwind leg Saturday. — Photo by Steve Myrick

Updated July 25, 12:30 pm

They sailed in high-tech 47-foot racing machines, 22-foot family day sailers, 90-year-old schooners, and brand new sloops. For three days, they sailed and celebrated the 2011 Vineyard Cup.

More than 90 boats registered for the regatta in nine classes. Winds progressed from light and steady on Friday, to moderate and shifty on Saturday, to heavy and gusty on Sunday.

Conditions in the enormous party tent outside the Black Dog Tavern were consistent over all three days — healthy thirsts quenched, and sailors’ appetites satisfied.

“It was a great day of sailing,” race director Brock Callen said after Friday’s races. “Unbelievable, a great spirit out there on the water. Everyone under the tent seems to have a smile on their face.”

Boat crews competed under a system of equalized handicaps, figured according to a standard formula that takes into account boat design and equipment.

3… 2… 1… Bang!

The starting gun on Friday afternoon kicked off the first race, which followed a course around East Chop and along Joseph A. Sylvia State Beach, giving visitors a chance to see the racing from shore. Northerly breezes held steady at 10 to 12 knots all afternoon.

On Saturday, many of Vineyard Haven’s classic wooden boats formed a parade of sail around their home port, with flags flying and cannons roaring.

Later, more than 60 boat crews navigated a 19-mile course across Vineyard Sound, back to a buoy off Edgartown Harbor, and finally home again to Vineyard Haven Harbor.

On the last leg of the race, just before rounding the final mark before the finish, shifting breezes confounded many of the sailors. At one point, much of the fleet was nearly becalmed off East Chop, until the wind freshened, and the boat crews made a mad dash for the finish line just off Eastville Beach.

In pursuit

A popular pursuit race format marked the final day of racing in the 2011 Vineyard Cup. Southwest winds building to 18 knots with higher gusts challenged the fleet around Vineyard Sound.

In the pursuit format, instead of correcting time according to each boat’s handicap after the race, competitors are assigned individual starting times before the race. Myfanwy, a Sailmaster 22 was first to begin Sunday at 10:40 am, because she enjoyed the largest handicap, or time allowance. Race Horse, a W Class 37 with the lowest handicap, started the race more than an hour later, at 11:57 am.

“Theoretically, every boat should finish at exactly the same time,” Mr. Callen explained as the fleet gathered at the starting line in Vineyard Haven outer harbor. Such a finish would mean that the handicapping was perfect, and so was the sailing.

It was a thrilling finish, with most of the competitors finishing in the space of about 20 minutes.

Counting all three races, overall winner in Class 1 Was Mischief, a Rumery’s Alerion 26, skippered by Bob Lurie.

Gloria, with Roger Becker at the helm, was second, and Stormalong, sailed by Jerry Goodale, was third.

In Class 2, Kitty Hawk, a Nonesuch 33 owned by Winthrop Sanford, was the overall winner. Isobar, skippered by Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School assistant principal Andrew Barry, with two members of the high school sailing team aboard, was second. Toujours, owned by Brian Bush, was third.

Familiar local vessels dominated the classic division. Overall winner was Ishmael, a 47-foot schooner owned by Fred and Sarah Murphy of West Tisbury. Second in the classic division was Liberty, a 40-foot sloop designed by Nat Benjamin, built at Gannon and Benjamin, and skippered by Christian Cabral. Third was Malabar II, owned by James and Ginny Lobdell of Vineyard Haven.

Complete results are available on

Low key, high fun

The Black Dog and Men’s Journal magazine returned as the Vineyard Cup’s major sponsors. The event also attracted three prominent boat manufacturers. Alerion Express, based in Rhode Island, as well as W-Class Yachts, and Morris Yachts, both based in Maine, showcased their sail boats at the Vineyard Cup.

“It’s a great regatta,” Donald Tofias said. Mr. Tofias owns the company that builds W-Class yachts, very fast wooden boats built by a cold-molding process to a modern but very graceful design.

“They’ve got the right combination of racing, partying, and food. My crew loves the wine and beer, I like the food,” Mr. Tobias offered by way of a review of the weekend.

Scott Bryant, a sales executive from Alerion Express, said the Vineyard Cup is a chance for Alerion owners to get together.

“We’ve been coming back every year,” Mr. Bryant said. “It’s a great low-key event. A lot of our owners make it their destination for the week.”

There were mixed emotions aboard the 35-foot sloop Shy Fox, owned by Bruce Slater of Chilmark. He sold the boat recently to new owners in Maine. After more than three decades competing in local racing, the Vineyard Cup was his last race aboard Shy Fox.

“It’s a Vineyard-built boat,” Mr. Slater said. “I bought it back in 1979. It was a bittersweet day.”

This article was updated to reflect a change in the officials scoring for Class 2. The updated overall standings are Kitty Hawk, first; Isobar, second; and Toujours, third.