By Tom McKeon
The Peconic Bay Sailing Association held their 29th Annual Whitebread Race on Saturday, October 1, 2022. Taking place on Long Island’s Peconic Bays, the event’s name derives from the significantly more arduous Whitbread Round the World Race. Like all Whitebreads, one thing is for sure. This one will certainly be talked about for many years to come.
At the beginning of 2022 I planned my calendar, and my fall in particular, around the Whitebread Race date. Family gatherings, kid’s soccer games, and even elective surgery were all moved to other dates. I never considered the impact a pesky hurricane named Ian would have, barreling across the country and descending on Peconic Bay on the day I’d looked forward to all year.
Fog, southeasterly winds from 18 to 30 knots, current against wind creating treacherous waters, and oh yes, the steady horizontal pelting rain made this Whitebread one for only the hardiest of hardy sailors. In full disclosure, I’m not one of them, as I was happy to sleep in and listen to the wind pelt rain against my windows at 6:30am. Seventy-three boats registered for Whitebread 29. Eighteen started. Twelve finished.
The 35-mile race course, which normally starts in Little Peconic Bay, rounds Shelter Island, through Gardiners Bay, past Greenport and finishes in Cutchogue Harbor, was shortened significantly for safety, keeping the race in the “protected” waters of Little Peconic and Noyak bays. Yet it was little protection from Ian. A J/105 main was shredded when a halyard cut into the leech. Another spinnaker boat broke its main halyard and sailed most of the race under jib only (with the crew still hiking out on the rail!).
The race committee had their hands full as well, trying to anchor committee boats in treacherous seas, anchor lines ensnarled with unseen fishing pot lines, and trying to communicate with boats that couldn’t see flags or hear horns. This is not to say that there wasn’t anyone having fun out there. One longtime Whitebread sailor told me, with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face, how his J/80 hit 16 mph surfing downwind on the first leg, and marveled at the wake he kicked up behind him.
As with all Whitebreads, the comradery and stories of surviving Ian’s wrath were on full display during that evening’s cocktail hour and awards ceremony in Greenport. Sailors told their tales of survival. Those that didn’t sail praised their decisions to stay at the dock. It was truly a successful 29th Whitebread, as no one was injured, no boats were lost, and all proceeds from the race will go to support youth sailing.
The PBSA Whitebread Committee would like to thank everyone who participated in the race, and volunteered for race committee in such extreme conditions, and acknowledge the overall winners. First overall in the Spinnaker division was Jeffery Pribor and the crew on Renegade from the Shelter Island Yacht Club, and first overall in Non-Spinnaker winner was Doug Davies and the crew of Gypsy Moon from the Port Jefferson YC.
The milestone Whitebread 30 is tentatively scheduled for October 7, 2023, and we look forward to seeing everyone out on the water for this historic event! To find more information on the PBSA and the Whitebread, go to pbsa.us. ■
Tom McKeon is a member of the Peconic Bay Sailing Association board of governors.