NEMA Fleet Bested By Newcomer
By Andy Houlding, Photos by Laurent Apollon
The New England Multihull Association (NEMA) held its second annual Gotham Multihull Series regatta in New York Harbor late May in gorgeous weather that lasted just until the second day’s race was completed, followed by a major thunderstorm. Our list of competitors grew by one boat this year, the F-27 Entourage sailed by Ben Carver, a member of the Chesapeake Bay Multihull Association who trailered up from Reston, VA.
Lining up for Sunday’s start © Laurent Apollon Images
Once again our racers met in Great Kills Harbor, hosted by the Richmond County Yacht Club. We had 11 trimarans: Steve Gross’ 44-foot Explorer Falcor, with a minus-50 rating; Glenn Reed’s Condor 40 Intruder, a large cruising tri; Laurent Apollon’s Dragonfly 800 Windsinger, the smallest in the fleet; Mike Divon’s Corsair 37 Milk & Honey; three Corsair 31s: John Sampson’s Flight Risk, Keith London’s Scooch Over, and Pat Harris’ Gypsy Heart; my Corsair 28R Skedaddle; and three Farrier F-27s: Entourage, Peter Vakhutinsky’s Tritium and Steve Parks’ Flying Fish.
I delivered Skedaddle from Branford, CT sailing down to Norwalk on Thursday night, where I met Gypsy Heart. We motored and sailed down the East River together Friday on an ebb tide. Once we got below the Narrows, we flew down the shallow channel on the west side of the bay at 16 knots and grabbed moorings in Great Kills.
My crew joined me Saturday morning. Having never sailed on Skedaddle, they needed a quick tour of the ropes and made sure we could get the spinnaker up and down before the race began. We had a good start but found ourselves seriously outpointed in the first easterly upwind legs, and watched much of the fleet walk away from us.
The course took us across the Lower Bay and then north with spinnakers flying to a mark just above the Verrazanno Bridge. But the wind around the bridge was confused and contrary, and we couldn’t keep the chute flying. With a huge tanker coming up the channel we dropped the chute and crept over to the eastern side of the bridge, eventually getting back into a bit of air and hoisting the chute again.
Gypsy Heart heads for the Statue. © Laurent Apollon Images
The leaders were far ahead by this time, but the wind built from the south and we picked up some speed as we moved north toward Governor’s Island and then across the harbor to the big green can “33” east of Liberty Island. That’s where traffic is heaviest with Liberty cruise boats, water taxis, sailing school J/24s, and multiple powerboats flocking around the Statue of Liberty.
We then sailed northeast toward Manhattan with the kite pulling like crazy, my crew calling out boatspeeds of 15-16-17 knots before we hit the windshadow of the towers along the Manhattan waterfront. Back across the Hudson now to the New Jersey side, with a turn just outside Liberty Landing Marina followed by an upwind leg back toward the Statue. It was after this turn that we found ourselves about two boatlengths from one of the Liberty Cruise ships, whose captain delivered some choice words by loudspeaker. We tacked clear across his bow and beat our way back to “33.”
The last leg got the spinnaker flying again. We finally caught our nearest competitor, Tritium, as they had to duck a ferryboat that came out from the Jersey shore at speed. The finish line was just off Pier 25, where we had reserved moorings for the night, and we could see that most of the boats were already tied up, the race over. No podium for us!
We had a night in the city and convened Sunday morning for a skippers’ meeting graciously hosted by the Lilac, an old steam-powered lighthouse tender that is under restoration on the north side of Pier 25. With forecasts of a light southerly breeze and early afternoon thunderstorms, we plotted a short course in the harbor south of Manhattan. The hottest competition was between the F-27s Flying Fish and Entourage. Both boats were sailed well, exchanging the lead as they fought for advantage. Entourage finished in first place both Saturday and Sunday. Flying Fish got the silver medal, with Intruder third.
Gypsy Heart, meanwhile, had decided to skip the race and head back toward Norwalk Sunday morning despite the adverse tidal flow, and got home just before the thunderstorm arrived there. On Skedaddle, we dropped off crewmember Reilly Scull in Manhattan, and Casey Brown sailed with me back up the East River at slack tide, catching the beginning of the flood at Hell Gate. We got flushed into Long Island Sound as thunderclouds spread north and east behind us, and dropped sails after passing under the Whitestone as squalls and lightning strikes threatened. We pulled into Port Washington, tied up at Louie’s dock in drenching rain, and watched the storm roll through from the comfort of Louie’s Oyster Bar & Grille.
It was a great race even if seen from the back of the fleet, and we’ll be back next year to try our luck again. Thanks to all competitors and crew, and a special thanks to race organizer, coordinator and photographer Laurent Apollon.
The Gotham Multihulls Series supports Brooklyn Boatwork (brooklynboatworks.org), a unique program founded by naval architects Carl Persak and Jeremy Wurmfeld that provides middle school students with an opportunity to build and sail their own Optimist.
Andy Houlding is the editor of the excellent NEMA newsletter. Laurent Apollon is a freelance journalist.