It’s not every day a 10-year-old sails his way to the Island from Cape Cod solo.
Briggs Kossmann from Duxbury began his trek to Vineyard Haven from Falmouth near Nobska Point Lighthouse on Wednesday, Sept. 20, not long past noon. His family traveled nearby in another vessel as a precautionary measure. According to Kurt Kossmann, Briggs’ father, the only time the family made contact with the young sailor was when they reached the harbor.
The Times met Briggs at the Black Dog General Store, where his mother, Sarah Kossmann, was excitedly and proudly relaying to a store employee what her son did.
“I was super-proud of him, especially because he came up with the idea and wanted to do it,” Sarah told The Times about Briggs’ “great adventure.” “I knew it was going to be challenging, but he had no fears or concerns about it, and I know he is capable.”
Briggs sailed aboard a 7½-foot-long Zim Race Optimist sailboat he named Invador, a reference to the cartoon show “Invader ZIM.” Both the Invador and the family’s vessel were tied up at the Black Dog Wharf and Marina.
“It was really fun,” Briggs said. “I sailed through many different conditions. It was really heavy at the start. [As] soon as I got into the protected areas, it started to get really light.”
Caroline Thornton saw the moment when Briggs arrived in Vineyard waters, and she hurried to photograph the moment with her Canon camera, a device she often carries with her.
“I just ran out to the water, I couldn’t help myself,” Thornton said. “And then he did some circles, and I took some pictures and I met the family.”
Thornton commended Sarah and Kurt for allowing Briggs to go on the sea-crossing adventure. “I said to them, ‘You must have been watching the weather like you were probably going to launch a space shuttle,’” she said.
The weather was certainly something the Kossmanns were keeping an eye on, especially since Briggs wanted to accomplish the expedition before he turned 11 years old, later this month.
“We tried to wait for a good weather day,” Kurt said. “The wind wasn’t in our favor at all, because you were heading pretty much straight up. So we ended up making our way to Woods Hole, and we crossed from Nobska Light straight on over.”
Kurt said Briggs made “good speed” and caught “serious air and waves” passing by West Chop, mooring fields, and the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club. Kurt guesstimated the route Briggs took, which took roughly three hours, to have been eight to 10 miles long.
Briggs began sailing last summer with a two-week introductory course in Duxbury, and continued to sail in Florida, where the family stays during the winter. This summer, Briggs competed in 12 regattas, winning six of them, and placing in the top three in most of the others.
“It became very, very, very serious,” Kurt said “He loves it, he’s good at it, and most of all he has fun doing it.”
Briggs said he wants to compete in bigger competitions when he grows up, such as on a two-man 420 ship. Eventually, he hopes to compete for the America’s Cup, one of the oldest and best-known trophies in international sailing.
For now, Briggs is preparing for the Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta, which is the largest international youth regatta in the U.S. When asked if he felt ready for the challenge, Briggs confidently answered, “Yes, I am.”
Meanwhile, Briggs’ sailing adventure adds one more page to the family’s history with Martha’s Vineyard.
“Kurt and I met on the Vineyard many years ago,” Sarah said. “We were here for a summer. We met, and we’ve been together ever since. So the Vineyard is a special place to us, too.”
After the interviews, the Kossmanns got ready to return to Falmouth, with Briggs ready to take another shot at sailing on the Invador.