Doublehanded Sailors Ken Read/Suzy Leech Win Coveted Venona Trophy
Sailing doublehanded on the Jeanneau Sunfast 3300 Alchemist, Rhode Islanders Ken Read (Portsmouth) and Suzy Leech (Jamestown) collected a boatload of trophies for their ‘Round-the-Island (‘RTI) Race performance at the annual Edgartown Race Weekend, hosted by Edgartown Yacht Club in Edgartown, MA on July 22-24.
The most impressive piece of silverware – the prestigious Venona Trophy, which dates back to the origins of the race in 1938 – validated the duo’s overall victory (on best corrected time) in the Spinnaker Division, which hosted six classes. The duo won Class 1/PHRF Spinnaker A; collected the Eolis Trophy as top double-handed boat; and claimed the Yacht Club Team Trophy for best corrected time by a three-boat team (New York Yacht Club).
“What a blast,” said Read, one of the world’s most accomplished sailors with nine World Championships and three Volvo Ocean Races under his belt. “The lesson learned here is that sailing shorthanded doesn’t mean you’re not competitive in the fleet. (Todd Johnston’s Seaquest 36 Goat Rodeo (East Greenwich, RI), which finished second in the same class, also sailed doublehanded to finish second overall in Spinnaker Division.)
“It’s my goal at this stage in my career to encourage more sailors to get off the dock,” said Read, “and they can certainly have fun by simplifying with double-handed racing. It’s hard, but anyone can do it with practice; that’s what makes it fun.”
Read, who last competed in Edgartown Race Weekend many years ago aboard a fully crewed 90-foot monohull, enjoyed chasing Goat Rodeo for 56 nautical miles around the island. “It was a slippery boat, sailed really well,” said Read. “They would stretch (out in front of us) and we’d have to catch up. They had to beat us by ten minutes or so at the finish to win, and boy was it harrowing, those last ten minutes of the race.”
With Goat Rodeo leading Alchemist over the line by 9 minutes, 50 seconds, Alchemist handicapped out to win by one minute, 22 seconds. A total of 78 boats competed in the ‘RTI, which also had four Non-Spinnaker classes and a class for Multihulls. The ‘RTI started Saturday, July 24 at 8 a.m. and was preceded by two days of ‘Round-the-Buoys Racing.
“Conditions panned out better than what the forecast was showing,” said Event Co-Chair Alex Nugent, explaining that instead of no breeze all day, it blew 4-7 knots out of the east/northeast at the start off Edgartown Harbor, then clocked around to the south and then a bit west of south to reach 10 knots by the finish. “Spinnakers were needed on every leg of the course except the first short sprint to a turning mark off the north side of Chappaquiddick and the last one from Oak Bluffs to the finish near the starting area. Although Laurence Phillips’ M32 Catamaran Midtown Racing (Newport) and Jim Swartz’s 72-foot Mini-Maxi Vesper (Park City , UT) finished around 4:30 in the afternoon, the bulk of the fleet finished closer to dusk or after.
“Our start with Vesper was kind of neat,” said Andrew Weiss, skipper of the Ker 40+ Christopher Dragon XI (Mamaroneck, NY), winner of Class 0-ORC. “We started at the pin end, which was heavily favored, and they had to duck us about ten minutes into the race. After the first mark upwind, we made one jibe to the southeast corner, then were on a dead run to the southwest corner on a 15-mile leg. Vesper and the other big boats went far outside around the southwest corner of the island, but we tucked in tight, jibing in to 10-12 feet of water. We never stopped.”
Christopher Dragon ’s biggest competition was Bruce Chafee’s R/P 42 Rikki (Boston, MA). “We give them time and were watching them behind us,” said Weiss, adding that Vesper was now in front of them. “Vesper gives us a lot of time, and we figured since we could still see them, we were probably pretty good.” Weiss also won his class in the 2020 edition of the race, but prior to that had last raced here 25 years ago on this father’s Farr 43. “We’ll try to do it every year now,” he said. “We had a lot of fun. It’s a great race…ends in a day, before dark, and this time no foul weather gear and no water over the deck!”
Kevin Shannon (Boston) is another who said he’ll be back, perhaps to sail in Spinnaker Division next year. He co-skippered with Sebastien Mannai to win Class 7-PHRF Non-Spinnaker with their Posey 35 Firebrand. “I had never done the race before, and we only bought the boat two years ago,” said Shannon, explaining that he and Mannai restored the boat during last year’s shutdowns. “We are really strong upwind, so we were waiting and waiting, but never got it. We used a huge 149% genoa and sailed wing-and-wing when necessary but tried to make it more of a reach as much as we could.”
Shannon says he has an old spinnaker he hasn’t rigged yet. “We watched everyone with spinnakers, and it put the bug in us to do that next year. I’m impressed with all the boats, and it’s one of the most scenic regattas I’ve ever sailed.”
The ‘RTB Races also offered light-air challenges for fourteen boats in three classes. In Class 1-ORC, Art Santry’s Ker 50 Temptation-Oakcliff (Oyster Bay, NY) posted victories in all but one of five races to win, while Ted Herlihy steered his J/109 Gut Feeling (South Dartmouth, MA) to replicate Santry’s same scoreline ( 2-1-1-1-1) and win Class 2-PHRF Spinnaker. In Class 3-PHRF Non-Spinnaker, Chip Hawkins’ C&C 41 Caneel (Barrington, RI) climbed from second overall on day one to top the leaderboard by the end of day two (2-1-2-2-1). Best combined performances in the ‘RTB and ‘RTI races were achieved by Gut Feeling (PHRF Spinnaker), Caneel (PHRF Non-Spinnaker), and Rikki (ORC).
Dates for Edgartown Race Weekend 2022 have been set for June 23-25.
Sponsors of Edgartown Race Weekend are Mount Gay Rum, North Sails, J Boats, Regatta Craft Mixers, Hinckley Yachts, Storm Trysail Club, and Team One Newport. For more information, visit wrtirace.org. ■