Steve Besse lands a hat trick

Moffett Race starts with slight wind and builds to an epic finish.


If there is such a thing as a hat trick in the sailing world, Steve Besse accomplished just that last Saturday with an unprecedented third consecutive win in the Moffett Race. This was his fourth win overall, the first being in 2009.

Despite a daunting handicap from his previous wins, Mr. Besse crossed the finish line three minutes ahead of the second-place finisher in corrected time, six minutes ahead in elapsed time. There were times that Après, his J120, seemed to move ahead with no wind at all in her sails. Mr. Besse and his crew practiced some sort of sailing magic, burnishing his reputation as the Island’s most accomplished sailor.

The start of the race was delayed by half an hour due to very light wind, which caused trouble for some boats without a motor or a helpful tow. The first two hours were painful for all, as the light wind died altogether before the first mark. Most floated helplessly on the tide until their patience was rewarded around 2 pm. A breeze picked up, and eventually built to around 15 mph.

Emotionally and physically refreshed, most of the fleet finished the 10.9-mile course in good order, having crossed to Falmouth and back. In the end, the finish was close, despite the sluggish start. The shortest elapsed time (Steve’s) was 3:04. Of the 26 finishers, 17 crossed the finish in under four hours.

After giving Après a stiff challenge, Starfish, a grey Brenta 38 skippered by Brian Roberts, came in second with a corrected time of 3:32. Third place was won by Alan Wilson sailing Altius, his Stuart Knockabout, with a corrected time of 3:33. Alan has won the Moffett twice, in 1993 and 2001. Scheggia, another Brenta 38 sailed by Tim Gollin, took the fourth spot, and one of the four Alerion 28s, Jim Dixon’s At Last, was fifth. Full results are available here.

George Moffett, for whom the race is named, was an avid and adventurous sailor who would have enjoyed the vagaries of Saturday’s contest. This year the race was dedicated to the memory of two other stalwart sailors and supporters of Martha’s Vineyard sailing who died during the past year. Mait Eddy and Ged Delaney were both former winners of the Moffett, Ged in 1984, and Mait in 2004. Both men were passionate about all things related to wind and water, and are sorely missed by the sailing community.