Tune-up race opens 2017 season

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From left, Tango sailed by Phil Hale, Tamu sailed by Tom Westcott, Gloria sailed by Roger Becker, Sienna sailed by Jerry Goodale, Altius sailed by Alan Wilson, and At Last sailed by Jim Dixon. — Stacey Rupolo

A potluck supper on Saturday night, June 17, at the home of Steve and Pam Besse, preceded the tune-up race opener for the Holmes Hole Sailing Association (HHSA). The windy, overcast conditions on Sunday enticed only seven entrants for the harbor race of two trips around a triangle. (It’s also likely that many sailors are still scrambling to get their boats ready to go, in view of the uncooperative spring weather.)

After an upwind start, it proved a lively race with a gusty wind of up to 20 mph. Both A and B divisions raced together for the first and last time, as is traditional. Most boats sported reefs in their sails.

The winner was At Last, an Alerion 28 sailed by Jim Dixon. Just five seconds behind on corrected time was Penelope, another Alerion, skippered by Mo Flam, commodore of HHSA. Third place, just two seconds behind Penelope on corrected time, went to Alan Wilson sailing his Stuart Knockabout. The difference in time between the shortest elapsed time (Phil Hale’s Tango, a J100) and the longest was 16 minutes. On corrected time, the difference between first and last was 11 minutes. Handicapping is a subtle art.

By way of some history for those unfamiliar with Holmes Hole Sailing Association: 1976 was the year that a group of dedicated sailors decided that there needed to be an alternative to one-design racing. Making the fleet open to any boat longer than 15 feet, and coming up with a handicapping system, allowed for a diverse fleet.

Holmes Hole was the original name of Vineyard Haven. The name change came about when Vineyarders became prosperous enough to travel abroad, and thought that “Haven” was a more sophisticated and pleasant sounding point of origin than “Hole.” That thought seemed not to occur to our neighbors across the water.

In any case, by 1978 there were 35 boats in the fleet, and today there are over 50, divided into two divisions according to size. The usual turnout is around 20. Originally, races were all within the harbor on Sundays, as they are on Thursday evenings now, but in the early ’80s, three longer rendezvous races were included: to Robinson’s Hole, Tarpaulin Cove and Chappaquiddick. During the ’90s three more Sound races, about 10 miles in length, were added to the schedule. So now there are short sprints around the harbor on Thursdays at 6 pm, and longer races on Sundays. The Vineyard Haven Yacht Club is a staunch partner to HHSA, opening the grill for supper and race results on Thursdays, and providing a committee boat and captain for each and every outing.

All sailors in the area are welcome to participate in any race. Please visit holmeshole.org for details. The next race is on Thursday, June 22, at 6 pm.