The Edlu Distance Race, first sailed in 1956, is one the must-do events on western Long Island Sound. Starting off the Larchmont Yacht Club breakwater, its 32-mile round trip course to the north shore of Long Island gets the season started, and the 64th edition on May 11 embraced the rise in shorthanded sailing. Beyond the two divisions of doublehanded teams were two 6-boat divisions of Plus One, a concept where the crew size is limited to one more person than the 10s digit of hull length. For example, boats in the 30 to 39 foot range had four people, offering a compromise to get boats on the water without the need for a full crew.

From left to right are Eric Bicknese’s J/105 Big E.Z., Deric Hetzl’s Salona 41 Bellatrix (obscured), Sara & Josh Reisberg’s J/120 Abilyn, Cory Eaves’ J/109 Freedom, and Brian Higgins’ Frers 33 Southern Cross. © Howie McMichael

Driving the Plus One concept is UK Sailmaker’s Adam Loory, who has worked with Larchmont Yacht Club, the Storm Trysail Club, and Stamford Yacht Club to include Plus One divisions in their regattas.

In this year’s Edlu, Mother Nature tested the crews thoroughly as Long Island Sound’s winds were as fickle as ever. A good 10- to 15-knot north-northwesterly breeze steadily died and was replaced by a southerly which then got replaced by the northerly. Both patience and sail handling were tested.

Thus far, Plus One feedback has been positive. “It was as much fun as I expected, which is to say tons!” noted Todd Aven, skipper of the J/92 Thin Man (Brooklyn, NY; 2nd in PHRF Plus One Spinnaker II). “Until this year, I’ve always raced the Edlu doublehanded. Doubling our crew size to four made it much easier for us to adapt to the constantly changing conditions without getting exhausted or taking a long time for evolutions.”

Josh Reisberg, owner of the J/120 Abilyn (Brooklyn, NY; 2nd in PHRF Plus One Spinnaker I) found the Plus One format kept the crew engaged throughout the race. “In large part, everybody on a racing sailboat wants to contribute in a meaningful way and be part of the problem-solving process,” he said. “At the fully-crewed level, problem-solving is quite siloed, with some just not being involved beyond pulling lines and serving as ballast. But in Plus One, nobody served as railmeat. Nobody was siloed. Everybody had distinct and numerous jobs. And that’s why, I think, everybody got off the boat with a grin from ear to ear – because everybody felt that they meaningfully contributed, and perhaps learned a bit more about their own personal capacity for resourcefulness.”

The upcoming races with Plus One divisions are the 20-mile New York Athletic Club’s 110th Annual Henry Abbott Distance Race (June 1), Block Island Race Week presented by Margaritaville (June 23 – 28), the 50th ‘Round Gardiner’s Island Race (August 24), and the 54th Valeur-Jensen Stamford Denmark Race (September 8).

In a world where it’s tougher and tougher to pull together a crew on a regular basis, and where many people aren’t comfortable with the doublehanded option, Plus One offers a format for fewer crew, more to do on the boat, and more possibly more fun too. ■