The Prince Henry Navigator Race

By Nick Bowen

Editor’s note: We didn’t have room for this race report in our October 2020 print edition and, well, it sorta fell between the cracks…

Nick Bowen’s epiphany struggles to get to the starting line behind Tom Gieske’s Arigato, Bill Kneller’s Vento Solare, and E.C. Helmes’s Spirit.”   © Nick Bowen 

The Twenty Hundred Club had their fifth race of the season on Sunday, August 23. Prince Henry was the Portuguese explorer Dom Henrique, who lived from 1394 to 1460. He pioneered Portugal’s early maritime expansion. His first capture was Madeira, about 400 miles east of Morocco that he sought shelter on when he was blown off course in 1418. He would also oversee the settlement of the Azores. But it would be three centuries until he was given the nickname “Prince Henry the Navigator” in the nineteenth century by a German historian. 

The Twenty Hundred Club picked Henry as the moniker because they designed a race that was like, well, exploring Narragansett Bay for the first time.  First, the race has seven different starting areas around the bay: East Greenwich, Barrington, Bristol, Wickford, Newport, Warwick, and Portsmouth. Second, the start is called “fisherman” style. The boat is at anchor with the sails down and the crew down below. At the 9:00 starting gun (a radio broadcast that needs to be heard from Barrington to Newport) the crew scrambles to the deck, hoists the anchor and sails and is off. Each starting area has a set first mark (the Newport starts at G “3” near Rose Island and their first mark is G “11” at the Dumplings. But after that mark it is “pick your own race course.” 

There are 27 government buoys that the sailors can use as turning marks. The Sailing instructions define 51 segments between the 27 marks and assign a mileage value for each segment.  The goal is straightforward – log the most miles. In one of the most unorthodox rules in racing, boats are allowed to use their engines for a total of 30 minutes during the day. This is generally used to meet the incoming seabreeze a few minutes early. Finally, you must finish between 15:00 and 16:00 hours. Finishing after 15:30 you will incur a slight time penalty, and finishing 1 second after 16:00 gets you disqualified.

There were ten boats that competed in two classes. There were six spinnaker boats and four cruising class boats.

The forecast for the day was for morning northerly winds at 0-5 knots and afternoon southerly winds at 10-15 knots. High tide was at 11:58 AM. The tide and winds set the strategy and favors certain starting areas. These conditions favored Newport since you could at least ride the current up the bay waiting for the sea breeze and get the sea breeze before the other boats.  For the four boats that started in Newport it would take them 30 minutes to go one mile to the first mark. Two boats would continue to Beavertail (EC Helme’s Spirit) and Tom Gieske’s Arigato). Nick Bowen’s epiphany and Bill Kneller’s Vento Solare would turn and head up the bay.

John Whaley’s Whaylayed would win the spinnaker class with a total of 25.8 nautical miles (nm). He struggled heavily in the low winds to get the second mark, R “2”, just northeast of Jamestown by 12:38 which means he averaged less than 1 knot all morning. He then decided to north to Warwick, a decent decision because he was able to log another 22.8nm before his 15:28 finish.

Dick Waterman’s Allegro Vivace would win the cruising class with a total of 22.74 nm. He had a slightly better morning winds and was able to clock 5.56 nm before 12:22. He would put in an additional 16.2 nm before his 15:15 finish. 

Nick Bowen’s epiphanygot special honors for the most miles sailed of any boat but also earned a big DSQ for a bout of greed.  His strategy to ride the current north in the morning paid off when they were able to get to R “2” north of Jamestown by 11:43 – 7 nm sailed in the first 2:45 and be the first boat to meet the seabreeze. They had strong winds and were reach east and west all afternoon.  It was at 14:45 when they decided to grab and an extra 3.75 nm by looping from Despair Island to G “3” at Jamestown. They did not anticipate the currents and make it to the finish line with 33.9 nm at 16:10 missing the 16:00 deadline and getting disqualified.

To learn more about the Twenty Hundred Club and to register for our challenging races, please visit

Nick Bowen is the Commodore of the Twenty Hundred Club and races his Lyman-Morse e33 on Narragansett Bay.  He can be reached at