Despite forecasts to the contrary, Saturday proved a wonderful sailing day for the 77th ’Round-the-Island Race, hosted by the Edgartown Yacht Club. Sixty-eight yachts from as far away as Costa Mesa, Calif., competed in nine classes for the fastest corrected time around the 56-nautical-mile course. The fastest elapsed time, at 6 hours and 20 minutes, was achieved by IRC Class participant Foggy, an exquisite wood/composite custom 74-foot sloop owned by Richard Cohen. On a corrected-time basis, Foggy was bested by Temptation, skippered by Arthur Santry, who was the IRC Class winner. Santry first sailed the race with his father in the 1980s, and first returned this year with his own son.
The majority of the participants were in the PHRF Class, where a handicap scoring system is used to level out the differences in boat designs and help every participant be competitive. The best corrected time among the PHRF fleet was achieved by Tenacious, a Morris Leadership 44, owned by the U.S. Naval Academy and sailed by Midshipman Jackson Niketas. Other classes included one-design yachts, such as the special class for the J-120, and a double-handed class, for yachts with only two crew aboard. Detailed results are available on the Edgartown Race Weekend website, rtirace.org.
The race tests the capacity of Edgartown Harbor, as many yachts arrive on the Wednesday prior to participate in two days of ’Round-the-Buoys races on a traditional windward-leeward short course in preparation for the longer ’Round-the-Island Race. In addition to the yachts, owners bring their families and racing crew to enjoy the splendor of Martha’s Vineyard. The U.S. Naval Academy brought 18 midshipmen on two yachts to participate in the races. The midshipmen, always impeccably attired for the awards ceremony and race functions, were provided housing by local residents.
The race course tracked north from the Edgartown’s Outer Harbor, and wound clockwise around the Island. Northeasterly winds and a favorable southwesterly current enabled a canvas of spinnakers to be seen flying down Muskeget Channel along the eastern shore of Chappaquiddick to the Mo (A) “Hooter” buoy at the southeast corner of the course. Thereafter, the fleet took off west along the south shore’s beaches toward Squibnocket. For many racers, progress halted as the wind took a break for several hours off Stonewall Beach. Robert Snyder of Katama, owner of a 54-foot Little Harbor sloop, said, “We saw our speed drop to near zero for an hour.” They took advantage of the lull to enjoy a lunch of grilled hot dogs while enjoying beautiful views of the south shore. The lunch break proved short-lived, and the afternoon wind returned, peaking at 18 knots. The wind direction shifted northerly in the afternoon, allowing most of the fleet to get around Devil’s Bridge to the southwest and travel up Vineyard Sound to West Chop without tacking. The Vineyard Sound provided a fair 1.9-knot eastbound current in the afternoon. This push by the current enabled most of the yachts to complete the race inside eight hours.
The ’Round-the-Island Race was first held in 1938, and has been run continuously since then, except for several years during World War II. The race was originally patterned after the race around the Isle of Wight in England, which was also the course of the first America’s Cup. The course passes seven lighthouses visible to sailors on its way around the Island: Cape Poge, Gay Head, Tarpaulin Cove, Nobska, West Chop, East Chop, and Edgartown. The 2016 race will be held on July 30.