Classic 12 meters provided a classic thrill for yacht club members

Classic 12 meters provided a classic thrill for yacht club members

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28 crewmembers from the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club had the opportunity to race aboard America's Cup yachts last Tuesday. Photo by Susan Waldrop — Photo by Susan Waldrop

It was billed as the ‘Match of the Century,’ a faceoff between two great wooden 12 meter classics, Columbia and Heritage, in Island waters. For the 28 crewmembers from the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club who had the opportunity to race aboard the two historic 12 meter America’s Cup yachts last week, it was certainly the thrill of the century.

Last Tuesday, August 19, both classic 12 meters arrived at the invitation of the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club. Columbia won the America’s Cup in 1958 and Heritage contended for the honor in 1970. These sailing giants werethe first and the last of the great wooden 12 meters built for the America’s Cup Competition.

The yachts were crewed by VHYC sailors of all sailing abilities. Christine Dahl, Commodore of VHYC, said, “The member-crewed match race was the capstone to a summer long program to bring the joy and thrill of sailing to adult members who don’t usually show up at high performance starting lines.”

All summer long the Club has been running sailing clinics for beginner and intermediate sailors, and adults of all ages have been introduced, or reintroduced, to the joy of the art of sailing.

Margot Weston, who remains active in Club affairs to this day and turns 100 in December, served as the Honorary Principal Race Officer for the event.

The windward/leeward course was set up at the mouth of Vineyard Haven Harbor with a start off East Chop, and a course which took the historic boats westerly in a mild southwesterly breeze.

Brock Callen from SailMV, Ellen Pesch, newly installed Commodore of VHYC, and Sam Shannon set the course and administered the race. The result: Columbia edged out Heritage after crossing the starting line first.

Stuart Halpert, Chairman of the Adult Sailing Committee who organized the event, said, “Which boat won was hardly the point. The event gave the Club, its members and their children, a fun-filled day on the water, in, on and around, two of America’s sailing classics.”

The day started with tours of the boats which were moored in front of the clubhouse and continued with introductions and histories of the boats and their competitive histories. They still participate in an active and aggressive summer-long racing schedule. Club members not on the boats were shuttled out to the course so they could get up close to the action. It was a grand and memorable fun for all.