Gray skies and sprightly winds launched the 80th annual Edgartown Yacht Club Regatta yesterday. A record number of 420 class sailboats turned out for the 10 a.m. start. At least 50 of these one-design sailboats crossed the line. William Roman, manager of the yacht club, said this year's regatta is clearly the year of the one-design sailboat, with record participation by young people.
The sailing scene in the outer Edgartown harbor is impressive and will continue through Sunday when closing awards ceremonies are held at the clubhouse.
At least 100 boats were visible to anyone standing on the shore beside the Edgartown Lighthouse. In addition to the 420s competing, there were also 64 Optimist class boats. The number of sailors and volunteers managing the races on the water in just that area of the outer harbor was over 300.
Encouraging young sailors is an important aspect of the summer regatta. For the first time in the event's history, there were four sailors from Sail Martha's Vineyard participating. Sail Martha's Vineyard is a nonprofit organization committed to teaching young Islanders how to sail, especially those who might not otherwise be a member of an Island yacht club.
"It is really thrilling having some of these kids participating in this regatta. These are the future sailors," Mr. Roman said.
Yesterday the junior yacht club was as busy as the larger main adult clubhouse on Osborne Wharf.
In the waters off Cow Bay, there were four classes of sailboats competing. High-speed catamaran Tornadoes and A-cat sailboats rounded their marks. These are the fastest of sailboats on the water and were readily visible to visitors at the Joseph Sylvia State Beach. There were also Solings and Shields in competition.
Brief periods of bright sunshine shone down on the water. At noon yesterday there was a light sprinkle. The winds were from the east and ranged from 15 to 18 knots.
In the enthusiastic competitive sailing, an Optimist capsized yesterday during the morning races. Optimists are entry level sailboats. They are eight feet in length and are sailing dinghies. Many young sailors who begin racing in these prams soon move on to the larger 420s.
Mr. Roman said 420s and Optimists are great boats for young sailors learning the techniques of competitive sailing. Much of what they learn can be applied to much larger racing boats.
The 420 is an Olympic class sailing boat and measures 13 feet 9 inches. There is usually a captain and mate sailing. The 420 class is a favorite among most of the yacht clubs in Southeastern Massachusetts.
The regatta has gone through many changes over the years. It has been long, lasting nearly a week, and it has been short. Said Mr. Roman, who has been club manager since 1989: "I think there has been quite a transformation. There is now a greater emphasis on the one-design racing, and there is a schedule that suits most people," he said.
Tomorrow the 60-mile 'Round the Island Race starts at 8 a.m. in the outer waters of Edgartown harbor. Sailors will race clockwise around the Island and be back in time for dinner if the winds permit. Sam Warriner, rear commodore and regatta chairman, said the day-long race will attract at least 30 cruising class sailboats. The boats range in length from 30 to 55 feet. Some come from as far away as Marblehead and Newport. Mr. Warriner said the currents will favor the sailors this year, and for the most part all should be back in Edgartown harbor by sunset. There will be no other cruising class races this year.
There are the familiar one-design classes. The regatta has a half-dozen Rhodes 19 sailboats competing. Rhodes 19 sailors are an older and spirited group. More than 30 years ago, the Rhodes 19 design was among the dominant sailing classes at the yacht club. The numbers have since dwindled, not because it isn't a great boat, but it is a boat that has lost favorites to other designs. There are also more than 20 Herreshoff one-design sailboats competing in this year's regatta.
Mr. Roman said of yesterday's sailing: "There was a nice wind. With 15 to 18 knots from the northeast, it allowed for spirited sailing for all classes."