Stephen Besse captures rainy Moffett Cup
Foul weather, good sailing, and spirited camaraderie marked the 32nd Annual George Moffett Race last Saturday. Forty boats competed in the race named after legendary Island sailor George Moffett, Jr. The race always features fierce but friendly competition among Martha's Vineyard's best racing sailors and top off-island competitors. This year's coveted trophy went to Stephen Besse, who nailed the start and never looked back, sailing his J/120 Apres with his wife Pam among the crew.
"It's a special race," Mr. Besse said moments after he was awarded the trophy, a half-model plaque with the names of the Moffett winners engraved.
Mr. Besse and his future wife met when they were 12 years old and taking sailing instruction at the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club. He subsequently represented the club in international and national youth sailing competitions and went on to excel at everything from sailboards to 12-meter yachts. He spends increasingly elongated summers in Vineyard Haven, and the rest of his time in Guilford, Connecticut.
Early in the first upwind leg of the race, it was clear Apres was not going to live up to its French translation, after, but would be before the fleet most of the day.
"We got a very nice start," Mr. Besse said. "The boat sails really well to windward. Having a fast boat is having a real advantage. If you have speed, you can do things."
Apres was first across the line, in an elapsed time of 2:30:25. That was more than six minutes ahead of Starfish, a Hinckley 42 skippered by Brian Roberts, who finished second. George Delaney aboard Ardent, an Avance 33, was third.
Conditions were challenging, with persistent rain showers, and generally light winds. The race crews, in a rainbow of brightly colored foul weather pants and jackets, made a colorful contrast to the gray day. The race committee shortened the course in mid-race to ensure the fleet could finish in reasonable time.
The competitors gathered at the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club in late afternoon to devour cups of hot chowder and a wide assortment of delectables.
The winner takes away a year's worth of bragging rights: the Moffett Race title is a valuable commodity on an Island full of accomplished sailors. But the race has always put fun first.
At the skippers' meeting the evening before the race, sponsoring Holmes Hole Sailing Association commodore John Amabile advised the assembled sailors not to charge across the line and crash into a million dollar boat, just because technically, they have the right of way. "It's been a lot of fun because it's attended by a lot of people that really enjoy sailing," he said. "Every time we have one of these Moffett races, we get something different out of them. The one thing we always have is fun."
Honorary race chairman Hugh Schwarz exemplifies the Corinthian spirit of the race. He no longer sails competitively, but he holds court on the committee boat, helping to keep track of the fleet.
"It's an honor," Mr. Schwarz said at the skippers' meeting, "to be connected with this event. It's the men and women and community of sailing that make it so." Despite a very wet day that called for some scrambling on the part of the race committee, he was no less enthusiastic after the Moffett Race.
"As long as I can keep from falling in, I'll be out there," Mr. Schwarz said.