By Chad Corning
Where the 2017 edition of Stamford Yacht Club’s Vineyard Race featured dream conditions with a fresh northerly prevailing for most of the race, 2018 was much harder work with a brisk easterly featuring for the trip out to the tower. After taking their medicine, the fleet was largely disappointed as the easterly faded away to nothing making this year’s 84th running a long and testing contest.
The crew of Jason Carroll’s MultiOneDesign70 Argo – Westy Barlow, Jim Condon, Chad Corning, Thierry Fouchier, Sidney Gavignet, Scott Norris, Anderson Reggio and Alister Richardson – set a new course record for the 238-nautical mile Vineyard Race with an elapsed time of 14 hours, 58 minutes and 19 seconds. That’s an average speed of 15.9 knots! © Kevin Dailey/KevinDaileyImages.com
We had quite a few challenges on Jason Carroll’s new MOD70 trimaran Argo. First and foremost, the boat was purchased just three weeks prior to the race and was in Lorient, France. A perfect delivery window opened up and the boat had a mostly downwind run on the southern route, sailing 4,000 miles to Newport, RI in a bit over ten days. A fairly frantic maintenance period ensued, and with fitting some new sails along with some minor miracles, the boat departed Newport the day before the August 31 start.
While our test sailing in Newport had been fairly benign, the conditions on race day were anything but. Waves were crashing over the breakwater at the boat’s home club of Larchmont YC as we set out for the start with winds in the low 20s with the typical easterly lump. Once start time rolled around conditions had eased slightly, but the wind direction matched the course out of Long Island Sound meaning a long afternoon for the fleet. Aboard Argo, we quickly realized what a different beast we had our hands on. The boat sailed beautifully through the waves with just the leeward hull in the water, going 19-21 knots at around a 45-degree true wind angle. The sailing was fast but a bit rough; the best way to get around was usually crawling, especially when forward on the tramps. This got us out of the Sound quickly and with fair tide, and by 2200 Friday we were already around the Buzzards Bay Tower.
The leg home was thrilling. With the big gennaker up, the boat speed remained steady in the high 20s with some nice surges into the mid-30s. There were a few tense moments when we reconnected with the eastbound fleet and we definitely erred on the side of caution many times with the high closing speeds. Once back in the Sound, the 800-pound gorilla of the race record (set by Greg Slyngstad’s Bieker 53 catamaran Fujin last year) was on everyone’s mind but we were all far too superstitious to talk about it. Only when we were on the final leg did we realize that we would just squeak through and lower the outright record by approximately seven minutes.
A professional sailor, program manager, build manager and coach, Chad Corning is a two-time Melges 32 National Champion, two-time Viper 640 National Champion, Shields National Champion, and Melges 32 European Champion.