Pent Up Demand for Racing On Narragansett Bay
By David Schwartz
The Narragansett Bay Yachting Association (NBYA) held its largest event in more than a decade on Sunday, July 26, showing that sailors hunger for the chance to get out of their homes and enjoy racing safely on a beautiful day on the bay. The fleet ranged from a TP52 to a fifty-foot schooner built a hundred years ago. In between were sportboats, Herreshoff S Boats, and dual-purpose racer/cruisers.
For the two spinnaker classes, the Ida Lewis Yacht Club Race Committee set up a 16-mile course around government marks starting right outside Newport Harbor. Legs were pretty short at around three miles each to help keep the crews on their toes. The start of the large spinnaker class with a dozen boats was very competitive and a hoot to watch. The crew of a certain 6,000-pound sportboat had huge grins on their faces as they made a 35,000-pound 60-footer (and four others) bail out at the boat end just before the gun. The crews on the affected boats did not look nearly as happy, but they soon made up ground.
Large wind shifts, puffs, wakes from 100-foot powerboats and a building breeze topping out in the high teens rewarded good tactics and boat handling. This was especially true on the first leg, a beat out to Beavertail, the point of land at the south end of the bay. Boats were fighting an adverse tide and nasty chop so most chose one side of the bay or the other. Those on the west side were doing best until the wind shifted 70 degrees to the south and the seabreeze filled in. End result was a dead heat as boats from either side rounded the first mark together.
The legs turned into a succession of almost dead downwind then upwind courses. The downwind legs showcased the differences between sailing a planing boat and a displacement boat. Time and again, a Melges 24 would come screaming in on a reach toward a Seguin 40 which was sailing with a symmetrical kite almost dead downwind. The boats were dead even. The 24 would try to surf by to leeward, hit the wind shadow from the 40, lose her plane and stop! Try and try again but no luck. Finally, the 40 had enough of being headed up and chose to slow slightly and duck behind the 24, missing her stern by six inches. Good, close racing even though the boats were vastly different.
The regatta also had a class for the seven S-boats, 28-foot wooden daysailers that were designed and built by the Herreshoff Manufacturing Company in Bristol, RI in the 1920s and ‘30s. They are distinctive as they sport very curved wooden masts. Tough to sail well and a bit fragile, the class hits a tender spot in the hearts of many sailors on the bay. The RC gave them two shorter races. Starts were closely fought, as you would expect in a one-design class. Once on the course, the boats spread out as some handled the chop and puffy winds better than others.
Racing ended in the middle of a very hot afternoon. What could be better after a day of competition than to wind up back at Ida for a cold drink on the deck? It was good to see the host club accommodate the crowd with grace, safely and with good social distancing. A near perfect ending to a near perfect day.
The NBYA Summer Race is a qualifying event for the GMT Boat Of The Year Series. To learn more about upcoming NBYA races, log into nbya.org/nbya-racing-events ■
1. Osprey Michael McCaffrey
2. Surprise Fred Roy
3. Stallion Donald Tofias
4. Lady Luck Nick Sollecito
5. Mischief Walter Bopp
6. Aquila Geoffrey Davis
7. Shona Robert Hutchinson
1. Das Blau Max Farr 30 Cory Sertl
2. Amadeus V XP 38 Jay Turchetta
3. Ghost Farr 30 Andrew Besheer
4. Wilde Agnes 1D 35 Mod Paul Grimes
5. Arethusa IC37 Phil Lotz
6. Full Send Melges 32 Ben Steinberg
7. Irie 2 Ker 55 Brian Cunha
8. Laura R/P 60 Francis Curren
9. First Light Class40 Peter McClennen
10. Resolute IV IMX 40 Terrence Arndt
11. Salacia J/120 Mark Nannini
12. Intrepid 12 Metre Michael Patterson
1. Zephyros Melges 24 Timothy Grimes
2. Mischief Lyman-Morse 40 David Schwartz
3. Leading Edge J/109 Tom Sutton
4. Altair J/30 Dexter Hoag
5. The Party Tree J/80 Samuel Cushing
6. Sparkle J/70 Hannah Swett
7. Fortune Schooner John Taft
David Schwartz is the current president of NBYA. He has raced Mischief, a Lyman-Morse Seguin 40, around New England for over 20 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.