By Chuck Gilchrest
The 2022 New England distance racing season kicked off in earnest as the New Bedford Yacht Club’s annual 109nm Whalers’ Race ran in ideal late spring conditions. After an hour-long delay to allow the breeze to build, the fleet left Padanaram Harbor in Dartmouth, MA in a light southerly as the start gun sounded at noon Saturday, June 4. Seventeen boats in five classes headed towards the Elizabeth Islands and a rounding mark southwest of Martha’s Vineyard before heading west to round Block Island and a return to Buzzards Bay the following morning.
As distance racing has become more inclusive towards younger entries, the Whaler’s Race offered a special class for boats crewed by sailors age 25 and younger, allowing a single 25+ year old safety officer onboard to offer assistance if necessary.
Spinnaker classes and Multihulls went off at 11:55 in a light (3-6 kt) southerly breeze on an outgoing tide. Digger, a J/44 skippered by James Phyfe, won the start, followed closely by Crazy Horse, a Baltic 52 skippered by Sean McLaughlin. Double Handed, Under 25 and Cruising Class went off at noon with Douze Etoiles, a Figaro Solo entered by Community Boating Center of New Bedford, winning the start.
As boats arrived at Sow and Pigs reef off Cuttyhunk, the breeze built to 10-15 allowing crews to set reaching spinnakers for the trip to Block. With eight boats competing in the PHRF Racing Class, it was Crazy Horse out of Dartmouth, MA moving ahead of the pack, culminating with an impressive 48-minute victory in front of Digger of Cranston, RI. Third place would go to a crew from the Mass Maritime Academy on High Definition. Don Watson of Dartmouth skippered his custom trimaran Swamp Fox to receive line honors and the Multihull victory.
A pair of Beneteau Figaro entries from the New Bedford Community Boating Center took command of the three-boat Under 25 Class, with Douze Etoiles besting Raza by just over 20 minutes over the full course.
With many of the young competitors experiencing offshore night racing for the first time, they shared the experience: “It was really important especially at night when we needed to get the spinnaker up and no one could really see. Even when it was light out we needed to all be on the same page and talking to each other. It was important that the skipper felt comfortable, which required communication between the people controlling the jib sheets, the traveler, and the mainsheet. One young competitor enthused, “It was so cool. I loved it! Being in the dark and getting to see the stars as we sailed was so beautiful. Something else. It wasn’t completely dark because of the moon and stars. It kinda felt like a dream.”
Non Spinnaker Cruising Class boats opted for a shorter 70-mile course that replaced the trip around Block Island with a buoy rounding off Newport, RI before heading to a finish in Buzzards Bay. Derek Hausladen of Dartmouth, MA aboard his Hanse 455 Nixie bested the fleet in front of the C&C 34 Grace skippered by Jim Seymour, also of Dartmouth, MA. Complete results of New Bedford Yacht Club’s Whaler’s Race are posted at regattanetwork.com. ■