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Whitebread: The Terrible Twenties

This year’s Race Around the Whirl was a wish sandwich

By Andrew Shemella

The Peconic Bay Sailing Association’s Whitebread Race had several years of light wind years ago, which turned a supposed adventure into a drifting endurance test. Not so for the last two renditions. Two years ago, the fleet fought a nor’easter into Gardiner’s Bay to round the maligned MO-A buoy. Racers were treated to a sleighride back to New Suffolk that left smiles all around. Last year was nearly a repeat, which engendered much back and forth over the winter regarding which year had more wind, or higher waves. All I know is that on the boat I sailed on, we retired from WB 20 because we were having trouble handling the boat. In WB 21 we scored a bullet. You can bet I was attesting that WB 21 was the worse.

Forward to WB 22: We’d had a windy and rainy forecast for over a week. We’d had flooding rain and easterly winds. The only thing that had changed was that the wind speeds were heading up…and there was a Category 4 hurricane – Joaquin – threatening. What could go wrong? Seriously, this was a time when I was glad not to be RC or the Commodore.

 It was a tough decision. On one hand, we had hundreds of sailors eager to get some adrenalin flowing and who had paid entry fees, bought tickets for dinner, and ordered gear. On the other was the question of responsibility. The actual racing conditions were predicted to be 20 -35 knots, which is manageable for the more experienced crews. But if there is one thing that goes wrong, even well sailed yachts can have a cascade of events that could lead to an injury. Worse, we would be asking participants to race and then head home to prepare boats for a major weather event while managing the risk to their loved ones and property ashore. That’s a lot. As I said, count me happy to be a seaman 2nd class in this navy.

So, as race day approached local racers had one ear tuned into the cacophony of weather reports and the other on the rumor mill.

“XXXX Weather has it going right up the coast!”

“No, the Europeans say it’s going out to sea! They were right about Sandy.”

No, YYYY says it’s going inland and will die in Ohio.”

“Ohio? Where’s that?”

“It’s next to Illinois”

“No, that’s Iowa”

“How does Iowa get to call the race?”

“Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh”

As it turns out, WB22, scheduled for Saturday, October 3, was canceled on Thursday, October 1. Here’s what PBSA Commodore Dave Bergen had to say about the decision:

“The leadership team of the Whitebread Race and the Peconic Bay Sailing Association share in the disappointment of the competitors, but the primary factor which drove the decision to cancel the race was the safety of the competitors, the Race Committee and all who were involved in the event on the water.”

The party was not canceled. We all thought the party would be unfocused without a race to precede it. Not so. In fact, without the race to tire us out and no awards to give out, revelers were eager to dance to a great dance band, NiteWork, and look forward to next year.

The Whitebread is sponsored by Gosling’s Rum, New Suffolk Shipyard, Preston’s Chandlery, Legends restaurant and Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. To learn more. visit pbsa.us.


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