Sailors face the doldrums

Trinity makes its way in the wind. — John Stout

The word “doldrums” seems to have first appeared around 1802 to describe melancholy, sadness, ennui, or the blues. By 1824 it was transferred to marine terminology to describe being becalmed or making no headway. By 1848 it had shifted once again to identify a specific equatorial area of the sea where there is very little wind, and ships could be becalmed for weeks at a time, and doubtless those sailors suffered from all of the symptoms above. Anyone who has been becalmed in a sailboat for more than a few minutes definitely experiences the “doldrums,” listening to the flapping, ringing, and clanking of the rigging while helplessly drifting with the tide. The HHSA Thursday evening race was an excellent example. Seven of the 14 boats that showed up actually finished, more or less at the same time, the 1.5-mile course taking almost an hour and a half, the last 100 feet alone taking 15 minutes. The other seven couldn’t get enough momentum, and stalled. In the end, Starfish, a Brenta 38 sailed by Sail MV, limped across first. As can happen, a fickle little breeze picked out Altius and Trinity to boost them across the line for second and third while everyone else looked on. Altius is a Stuart Knockabout sailed by Alan Wilson, and Trinity is a C&C 37 skippered by David McDonough.

Sunday brought fears of a repeat. The race was postponed for half an hour while 12 participants plus five Herreshoff 12½s bounced and bumped around in a cluster until, exactly as forecast, a very serviceable 11-knot southeast wind sprang up in the space of a few minutes, and off went the fleet for a 7-mile course across the sound and back on a flooding tide. A guest boat, Tango, sailed by Rob Hale, joined the race. Among the Herreshoffs, Bazinga, sailed by Charlie Felder, came in first, with Stuart Halpert’s Providence in second. Jim Jones sailed Lila into third. It’s exciting to see the Herreshoff fleet build.

Trinity took another first place in the larger fleet, only one minute, 40 seconds, ahead of At Last, Jim Dixon’s Alerion 28, on corrected time. Gloria, a C&C 24 skippered by Roger Becker, slipped neatly into third, just 5 seconds after At Last.

Upcoming races: The Jewett Bowl race will take place next Saturday, August 15. It is an annual pursuit race in honor of Bob Jewett, a lifelong Martha’s Vineyard sailor and racer. Open to any boat of 21 feet or longer, it is sponsored by the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club. Details may be found on that website. And once again it is time to think about the Moffett Race, to be held on Sept. 12. Registration for the Moffett may be found on the Holmes Hole website, as well as information about the weekly races, to which all are welcome.