The 41st annual George Moffett Race was sailed on Saturday in the strong winds that have eluded the race in recent years, and the big boats took full advantage. Many skippers and crew were both exhilarated and exhausted as they completed the course.
Brian Robert’s Aileen, a powerful new 65-foot sloop, took line honors with an elapsed time of 2 hours, 16 minutes, and secured a close win on corrected time.
In second place was Holmes Hole Sailing Association Commodore, Mo Flam, in Penelope, an Alerion 28, trailing the first-place boat by just 2 minutes and 48 seconds after 16 miles of racing. Third and fourth places were filled by the two Hanses, Frank Sutula’s Soma Holiday and Geoffrey Gibson’s Full Circle, sailing in her first season. Alan Wilson in his Stuart Knockabout, Altius, rounded out the Moffett trophy winners, wrapping up a summer of racing in which he also took his sloop to the top of the Holmes Hole fleet in the B division.
Thirty-four boats registered for the race and, facing projections of 15-knot winds and challenging conditions on Nantucket Sound, only 32 went to the starting line. By afternoon’s end, only 26 boats finished, with some boats completing the race two demanding hours after Aileen. Several of the smallest racers pulled out after facing steady winds that were blowing 15 to 20 knots, with gusts of 22 to 24 knots, driving lumpy sets of waves against the bows of the boats struggling against wind and current. One 36-foot sloop suffered a dismasting off East Chop. The race course set out by race officer Brock Callen took the fleet out of Vineyard Haven, around East Chop, and down toward Edgartown inside Squash Meadow, then out into the middle of Nantucket Sound before returning to Vineyard Haven.
The winning boat is new to the Vineyard this summer, and already has a sterling record. In July, Aileen won the PHRF non-spinnaker first division in the Vineyard Cup. She’s a Sparkman & Stephen’s design from the hand of Brendon Abbott, the firm’s chief designer. Built in Holland last year in the yard of Royal Huisman, one of the world’s top yacht builders, Aileen is certainly the most technologically sophisticated vessel to have ever competed in the Moffett. Brian Roberts is no stranger to the Moffett: He has raced to second-place finishes three times before in three other boats, including an earlier Aileen, also named after his wife.
The completion of the Moffett Race marks the traditional end of the racing season for the Holmes Hole Sailing Association, the host organization, but sailors in the club will continue to line up to race in Vineyard Haven Harbor into the fall on Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons as long as there is interest — and enough wind and warmth. This year’s Moffett certainly had the wind.
Updated to correct the number of years the race has been held. -Ed.