Time and tide foil Vineyard Cup fleet

Photo by Louisa Gould

Vineyard Cup competitors were tested in this year’s weekend regatta by the strong and unruly currents of Vineyard Sound, and over the first two days of racing, the current mostly won. A strong southwest wind flow picked up for Sunday’s pursuit race, providing plenty of breeze to challenge the fleet.

In Friday afternoon’s opening race, two entire classes of racing boats missed the time limit of three hours battling light air and very strong tidal currents. Under the rules of the race, the first boat in each of the three classes must finish in less than three hours.

All went well for Class 1, with Bob Cunningham’s J/30 Ruffian finishing first on corrected time.

But with the current pushing hard to the west, the other two classes had a tough time on the last leg of the race, from a buoy outside of Woods Hole, back to Vineyard Haven Harbor. Against the wind, and against the current, the first boat was unable to finish in the three hour time limit, which effectively ended the race. All the boats in Class 2 and Class 3 were eliminated, despite sailing a long, challenging day.

There was some grumbling among the captains and crew of the 30 boats who raced but recorded only a “TLE” (time limit elimination), or withdrew from the race.

Domino, the first boat across the line missed the time limit by just four minutes.

“We finished before anyone else in all the fleets,” said Bill Maloney, who was at the helm of Paul Duffy’s Cal 33. “It’s one of those things you’ve got to get over.“

Race director Brock Callen said the situation was unfortunate, but he made a tough call not to shorten the course in mid-race, when the fastest of the boats rounded the mark for the final four-mile leg with one hour, 38 minutes left in the three-hour time limit.

Saturday’s race began with very flukey air, despite a good breeze blowing inside Vineyard Haven Harbor for the start. The wind vanished, however, when the fleet reached the first mark, near Hedge Fence shoal. After about 90 minutes of bobbing around, and in some cases going backward in the tidal current, a fair breeze kicked up.

“At the start, in a southwest wind, we thought, this is awesome,” said Andrew Berry who drove his Cal 33 Isobar to a fourth place finish on corrected time Saturday. “We got out past Hedge Fence, and it just disappeared. We spent an hour and a half drifting around. We were trying to get to the south side of the course, we couldn’t do it. Then the current pushed us there.”

Though many boats retired from the race, those who waited were rewarded with good air, and a mid-race decision to shorten the course. The fleet finished off Edgartown.

In Sunday’s pursuit race, the wind was strong and steady for the start, gusting to 25 knots throughout the day. Most of the fleet zipped around a short Nantucket Sound course in less than three hours.

“The 2014 Vineyard Cup proved to be an event that paid a premium to good seamanship,” said race director Brock Callen. “Sailors had a chance to prove themselves over three days where the conditions couldn’t have been more challenging.”

Despite the less than ideal conditions during the first two races, post race parties under a big tent at the Tisbury Wharf Company dock soothed some of the frustration.

“We’ve been coming from Salem for the event every year,” said Tom Tetreault, who raced his Bristol 355 Facet in the regatta.

“We love Vineyard Haven,” added his son Matt Tetrault, who served as crew. “Three days of racing, fantastic food, and great hospitality.”

After three days of racing, the cumulative scores showed the Nonesuch 33 Kitty Hawk, owned by Winthrop Sanford of Swansea, best in PHRF non-spinnaker Class 1. Kitty Hawk and crew won both the Saturday and Sunday race, according to scoring posted on the Vineyard Cup web site.

In the PHRF non-spinnaker Class 2 division, the Tartan 37 Toujours skippered by Brian Bush of Westborough took overall honors.

In the PHRF Spinnaker division, Francis Sutula won in his Hanse 355 Soma Holiday, besting Mr. Tetrault and crew aboard Facet by one point in the cumulative scoring.

In the Classic Division, the swift schooner Juno won top honors. Juno is a Gannon & Benjamin design skippered by Scott Dibiaso.

In a well attended Catboat race on Saturday, Andrew Staniar of Brewster skippered his 20-foot catboat Pandora to a win.

The home team Holmes Hole Sailing Association scored well, capturing one first, two seconds and two thirds in the overall scoring.

In all, 59 boats competed over three days of racing. Mr. Callen declared the Vineyard Cup a success, offering special thanks to primary sponsors The Black Dog Tavern, Morris Yachts, Sugarbush Resort, Gosling’s Rum, Sam Adams Beer, and Atlantic Subaru.

Proceeds from the Vineyard Cup, as well as the annual Seafood Buffet and Auction held Thursday evening, go to Sail Martha’s Vineyard programs. The organization provides sailing lessons for more than 400 kids each summer, helps with maritime studies at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, and sponsors the high school sailing team, among other activities.