By Diane Kropfl & Eileen Campbell, Ms. Race Co-Chairs
The Atlantic Highlands Yacht Club’s 17th Annual Ms. Race set sail Saturday, August 21st on New Jersey’s magnificent Sandy Hook Bay. The theme of this year’s race was “Dare to Make Waves” and the competitive group of female racers made waves again this year as they raised money for 180 Turning Lives Around (180nj.com), a non-profit organization devoted to protecting victims of domestic abuse.
The Ms. Race event began on Friday evening with a Virtual Captain’s meeting. Elaine Haher, experienced J/24 captain and past AHYC Commodore with a strong history of success in the Ms. Race including three first place wins, shared her instructive racing tips. Captains and crew members diligently prepared for the race throughout her talk with details of the race course, pursuit start times and weather conditions including possible preparations to cancel the race if Tropical Storm Henri made any significant movement towards the Jersey coast before Saturday’s race.
On Saturday morning, a cadre of Ms. Race sailors from three local yacht clubs gathered at the Atlantic Highlands Yacht Club as they prepared to participate in the day’s race. Captains and crews cautiously eyed the weather report for the day as Henri briefly threatened some foul weather Saturday afternoon. Only one guest boat from Liberty Landing was not able to make the race due to the pending storm.
With the sky full of billowy clouds and winds reaching a favorable 9 knots for race day, the nine teams of women sailors made their way towards their boats at Noon. The ladies were welcomed to the launch pier for team photos and were greeted by Latitude crew members with traditional Bloody Mary “docktails” to kick off the race.
Out on the water, the racing teams sailed around the Start/Finish line, in the light 9 knot ESE breeze, awaiting their turn for the Pursuit Race start. The AHYC Race Committee boat selected Ms. Race Course 2, the medium length course at 6.3 nautical miles, based on the winds for the day. The Pursuit Race started at exactly 2:00 pm with EDUAM from Raritan Yacht Club crossing the starting line followed by the eight other sailboats in succession. Friends, families and guests gathered on spectator boats shooting photos and cheering on the women with shouts of encouragement.
The conditions on Course 2 had the predicted light breezes that got the race off to a good start. There were a few pockets of lighter air, but best of all, no thunderstorms materialized throughout the race. Top honors in this year’s Ms. Race went to Laura Oncea from the Shrewsbury River Yacht Club on her Tartan 33 Confiscated with a crew of experienced sailors who crossed the finish line first in a quick one hour, 31 minutes, 27 seconds after the start. She was followed by expert J/24 racer Elaine Haher on her new J/24 named A “Better” Hair Day who steadily rounded the course with her seasoned crew to finish second. AHYC Ms. Race Co-chair Diane Kropfl and her well-practiced crew were excited to place third on her Tartan 3700 Saint of Circumstance.
Following the rejuvenating race, captains and crews celebrated on their sailboats at their moorings and then made their way back to the club for the awards ceremony featuring DJ music, delicious appetizers, fundraising and the presentation of the winning trophies by 180 Director Lynn Lucarelli. Lynn gave a heartfelt speech about the success of the Ms. Race fundraising for 180 as the first major in-person event since the start of the pandemic. She shared that donations from this year’s Ms. Race have been a very important source of funding for 180 due to the scarcity of fundraising events throughout the pandemic’s quarantine over the last year. Commodore Chris Stone recognized the Ms. Race participants, sponsors, donors, and club members for their ongoing support for 180. Allison Scaduto, founder of The Ocean is Female (TheOisF.com) and this year’s Platinum Event Sponsor, had representatives on hand to share the history of her charitable organization including the healing powers of the ocean and the personal meaning of the Ms. Race and 180 Turning Lives Around to her and her foundation.
It was another amazing Ms. Race and best of all, the event surpassed its previous threshold with sponsors and donors generously giving more than $18,000 during this year’s fundraising campaign. Notably, this year’s race reached a major milestone of $180,000 raised for 180 over the 17-year history of the race. For additional information on the Ms. Race, visit ahyc.net and facebook.com/MsRaceAHYC. ■