By Diane Kropfl & Eileen Campbell, Ms. Race Co-Chairs
The Atlantic Highlands Yacht Club (AHYC) in Atlantic Highlands, NJ hosted their 16th annual Ms. Race on Saturday, August 22, a race hosted by and for women sailors. The theme of this year’s race was “Stay the Course” in deference to the unprecedented times for this charity event that benefits 180 Turning Lives Around, a charity dedicated to protecting, advocating and supporting victims of domestic violence and rape in our community.
This is not a typical year, and this was not a typical Ms. Race. When we were planning back in March and April, we had no idea if we’d be able to host a race this year. But we did and what a race!
The event began on Friday evening with a virtual captain’s meeting that welcomed captains and crews from ten boats representing three local yacht clubs. Elaine Haher, AHYC Past Commodore, seasoned J/24 race captain and three-time Ms. Race winner, shared racing tips with sailors anxious to understand the details of the racecourse and pursuit start times as they prepared for Saturday’s race.
A delightful late August afternoon on the majestic Sandy Hook Bay with no storms on the horizon greeted the amazing group of female sailors from the New Jersey Bayshore and New York region. The Ms. Race has been expanding in reach and popularity with each passing year. A nice addition to this year’s race was the experienced sailors from New York. Captain Nitzan Levy, founder of Sailors NYC, along with Ayme Sinclair, Vice President of the National Women’s Sailing Association, joined AHYC club member Janet Wurch to race on her family’s new J/109 Aviato. Dale Wolfield, Trustee of the Hudson River Maritime Museum, was affectionately referred to as their ‘secret weapon’ while racing on AHYC Past Commodore Paula Del Coro’s Sabre 402.
Out on the water, ten sailboats sailed up and down the Start/Finish line, in the light 6-knot breeze, awaiting the selection of the course for the day. Ms. Race Course 3, the shortest course at 5.45 nautical miles, was announced by the committee boat captain at 12:30 sharp. The Pursuit Race started at exactly 1:00 pm with the sailboat Eduam crossing the line as the light downwind breeze died and boats cautiously and slowly limped across the line until a slight breeze picked up again. Eduam was followed over the starting line by the nine other sailboats as friends, families and guests gathered on spectator boats shooting photos and cheering on the women with shouts of encouragement and praise.
The conditions on Course 3 had mostly light breezes with several challenging light to no wind conditions for most of the boats. But the variable conditions did not impact Karen Harris and her crew on her prized J/120 named Cygni. Karen effortlessly sailed the course to win the race at a remarkable 1 hour, 45 minutes, and 48 seconds. She was followed by Elaine Haher’s J/24 A Good Hair Day, who readily rounded the course to finish second. Ms. Race Co-Chair Eileen Campbell and her crew, decked out in matching T-shirts and masks, cheerfully placed third on her C&C 33 CODA.
The magical race day ended with a virtual awards ceremony to recognize the winners and the sponsors, donors, club members and friends who supported the Ms. Race and 180 Turning Lives Around. Commodore Jack Glass shared his appreciation of the fine work done by the Ms. Race committee members in sponsoring this featured AHYC club charity race. Anna Diaz-White, Executive Director 180, and Lynn Lucarelli, Director of Development 180, were on hand to give their heartfelt thanks to everyone who supported 180 throughout the Ms. Race. Wiping tears from her eyes, Anna shared her appreciation of the AHYC Ms. Race for being one of the few events taking on the challenges of hosting a charity event during these unprecedented times.
We wrapped up the celebration with the results of fundraising for 180 Turning Lives Around and sponsor recognition. Lynn, looking like a classic Jersey girl, joined the virtual event from the Sandy Hook beachfront with her family, sharing genuine thanks to the Ms. Race supporters who helped raise over $15,000 for this year’s event. In the sixteen years the event has been held it has raised more than $170,000 for 180.
It was another wonderful Ms. Race and Co-Chair Eileen Campbell nicely summarized the success of this year’s event. “I am amazed that during this difficult year the 2020 Ms. Race campaign was everything I hoped it would be. We tried new virtual events, were successful with fundraising, and had a good turnout for the regatta. I’m so happy that sailors outside of our area came to race. We met wonderful women who promised to come back next year. I think the key to our success was all the support we received from our sailing community. Everyone adapted to the new protocols and worked hard to get things done.” For additional information on the Ms. Race, please visit ahyc.net and facebook.com/MsRaceAHYC. ■