By Donovan McSorley
The Gearbuster, hosted by Indian Harbor Yacht Club in Greenwich, CT and first sailed in October of 1956, has become one of the premier fall sailing events on Long Island Sound, and this year featured 57 entries from over 20 clubs. Gearbuster sailors normally compete on one of two courses, the 46.5-nautical mile Stratford Shoal Course, which includes five spinnaker divisions, and the 19nm Eatons Neck Course, which includes two non-spinnaker divisions. Originally sailed as an overnight race, it is now a mostly daylight affair given its 1100 first start.
This Year’s Race
The usual end-of-season gear-busting conditions were not in the outlook for this year’s race on Saturday, October 12. One professional weather prognosticator remarked rather drolly that he was concerned “that there will be enough breeze for decent sailing” (weatherman-speak for it’s going to be a good day for golf). Given this, the IHYC Race Committee wisely elected to invoke a “short course” option. This had the Stratford Shoal fleet sailing to Eatons Neck (19.0nm) and the Eatons Neck fleet sailing to Mid-Sound buoy “32A” (The Cows) and then to the finish (10.9nm). The forecaster’s concerns proved warranted and there was no second guessing the RC’s decision. One competitor aboard Rick & Skip Sinclair’s Farr 40 Bellerophon (Greenwich) understated the conditions as “a little bit slow.” Instead of having to persevere against a 30-knot easterly and steep seas, sailors instead were challenged by motorboat chop and a dearth of wind.
The Long Course
Morning temperatures hovered around 60 degrees paired with overcast skies, as competitors lined up for starts with a beautiful backdrop of the NYC skyline behind them. This year’s long-course fleet included five classes: Three fully crewed, a Plus One, and one double-handed.
The double-handed Class 1 started first and enjoyed an early jump on the fleet in the best breeze of the day. When it was over, Barry Purcell’s J/27 Lucida (Norwalk, CT; co-skippered by Richard Long) came out on top, bettering Josh Burack’s J/105 Peregrina (New Rochelle, NY) by just over nine minutes. Impressive also was Purcell’s 7th place overall finish given that Lucida was among the slowest rated boats in the fleet in what proved to be a big boat race.
Fireball, a J/111 helmed by Bill & Jackie Baxter (Stamford, CT), placed first in Class 2 and corrected out in front overall. Finishing second in her debut race was the aforementioned Bellerophon. In what was, for the Class 2 boats, mostly a reach up and back, Fireball made good use of her Code 0, something Bellerophon is not configured to fly. Michael Levy, aboard Steven Levy’s J/121 Eagle (Greenwich) in Class 2 described the conditions: “It was puffy at the start with about 5 to 7 knots briefly going up to about 9 knots and then fading. The race was about constantly shifting gears between the 5-knot range to the 8-knot range.” Unfortunately, the rest of the fleet would have been very happy if they only had to worry about dealing with lows of 5 knots!
Paul Sevigny’s GP26 Smokeshow (Darien, CT) turned in a remarkable performance, winning Class 3 by roughly 29 minutes. Even more impressive was that she finished third overall. Of the top six finishers overall, she was the only boat not among the faster rated Class 2 boats. Nevermore, a J/88 skippered by Ken & Drew Hall (Riverside, CT) finished second and eighth overall.
Easy Red, a J/92 skippered by IHYC’s John Cutting (Greenwich) persevered in Class 4 to take the class win and 20th overall as the dying breeze dashed any hopes of the smaller boats finishing well in the overall standings. Second was Eric Letellier’s Laser 28 CAYUGA (Larchmont, NY), a healthy 20+ minutes back. In Class 5, Arthur Hanlon’s J/112e Dauntless (Rye, NY) took first with David Cielusniak’s J/122 J-Curve (Manhasset, NY) taking second.
The short course fleet featured two non-spinnaker classes. Among this group, two boats continued their strong sailing in this race. Derek Ettie’s NY 36 Whirligig (Wilton, CT) finished first for the second year in a row in Class 6 (117 and faster), while John Ekberg’s Morgan 30 Foolish Pleasure (Greenwich) continued a run of dominance, winning the Non-Spinnaker 118 and slower class for the fourth year in a row. Ekberg described the day: “The wind was shifty, and at times we were out of wind. Once we had to tack away from a mark to get into wind shifts that we could see and follow.”
Though conditions were not bust-worthy, it was still a pleasant day on the water. By the early afternoon, the overcast skies turned to blue. And after a long day of racing, competitors gathered at IHYC to compare war stories and enjoy the traditional spread of Heineken beer and some of the finest post-race food on the Sound at the club’s stunning new South Patio. A great way to end the day — and for many, their sailing season.
Several years ago, the Gearbuster was paired with the spring Geartester, with trophies awarded for the best combined performance. Held in Mid-May, the Geartester allows sailors the opportunity to test their gear in an early season tune-up race. The notorious Gearbuster brings the chance to challenge the durability of one’s gear in the typically strong autumn conditions. Hence the motto “test it, then bust it.” These two races bookend the handicap racing season at IHYC. Results are posted at YachtScoring.com. To learn more about Indian Harbor Yacht Club, please visit indianharboryc.com. ■
Donovan McSorley is Indian Harbor Yacht Club’s Communication Director.