The 31st running of the George Moffett Race sponsored by the Holmes Hole Sailing Association took place on Saturday, Sept. 6, with the start and finish off East Chop in Vineyard Haven harbor.
With tropical storm Hanna bearing down on the Island, the race committee consisting of honorary chairmen Hugh Schwarz and Harry Duane, principal race officer Brock Callen, commodore John Amabile, race secretary Kathy Logue, Roger Becker, Jerry Goodale Irving Gates, Nat Benjamin and Sally Culkin, had a tough decision to make at the Friday night skippers’ meeting at Gannon and Benjamin. Was it safe to go forward with the race? With careful monitoring of all available weather data, it was determined that a safe race could take place, and the Saturday, 11:20 a.m. start was confirmed.
Fifty-one vessels had entered this year’s race, with 28 posting at the East Chop starting line and 26 finishing the race. It was overcast, with the threat of rain and a south-southeast wind of 10-15 knots. Although a tropical storm warning was in effect, the wind never exceeded 20 knots, and there were glimpses of sunshine, along with periods of rain. The race committee boat, with honorary event chairman Hugh Schwarz, principal race officer Brock Callen, Mary Worrell, Charley Felder and Marian Hammond on board, set the starting line, and principal race officer Callen made the final decision that the race could safely go forward.
As the diverse fleet of boats ranging in size from 20 to 60 feet approached the line for the 11:20 start, the skippers jockeyed for position, sailing in close quarters. The race committee had divided the fleet into two divisions, with the starting gun for the slower division II boats firing at 11:20 and the faster division I boats crossing the line at 11:30.
A 15.3 course was set which took the fleet from East Chop to buoy RW NW Mo(A) Bell in Nantucket Sound, then to Red Bell 16 near Falmouth harbor, then to Red Bell 2 at Waquoit Bay, then to Green Can 13 at L’Hommedieu Shoal, then to buoy RG near Oak Bluffs, then to Green Bell 23 at East Chop and back to the finish line.
The fleet started in good order and ran down wind to buoy RW NW, allowing for the beginning of an east setting current which would build throughout the race. After rounding the mark, the boats hardened up and headed for Falmouth Harbor, sailing a beam reach on the port tack. After jibing around red bell 16, the vessels sailed a beam reach on the starboard tack with the current pushing them along to the Red Bell at Waquoit. Rounding the bell to starboard, the fleet sailed a close reach to the Green Can and beat to windward to buoy RG. After rounding the RG, the fleet sailed a beam reach on the port tack to Green Bell 23, and hardened up for the final short leg to the finish line.
At the award ceremony at the headquarters of Sail Martha’s Vineyard, the sailors were treated to chowder and other fine food, with the party organized by Sally Culkin. The assembled mariners were happy with the fine race and challenging conditions, with the optimistic sailors agreeing that even the periodic rain showers had been pleasantly warm.
Finishing first on corrected time was Jerry Goodale in the Pearson 32, Stormalong, a longtime competitor and Holmes Hole stalwart who, with his regular crew member Barbara St. Pierre, finally made the winners’ circle. Line honors went to the Gannon and Benjamin-built schooner Juno, with Capt. Scott DiBiaso at the helm, finishing second on corrected time. In third was Irving Gates in his Sabre 38, King Kiwi. In fourth was Kathy Logue in the Tartan 34, Rocinante III. In fifth was Don Rappaport in the J 35, Juliani. Sixth was Roger Becker in Gloria, seventh was John Amabile in Solitude, eighth was Bob Jewett in Andiamo II, ninth was Don Cohan in Summertime, tenth was Robert Hale in Wicked, eleventh was Dan Culkin in Magic Time, twelfth was Phil Hale in Mischief, thirteenth was Mike Loberg in Masquerade, fourteenth was Nat Benjamin in Charlotte, fifteenth was Sandy Alexander in Falcor, sixteenth was Jim Lobdell in Malabar, seventeenth was Mal Jones in Sanderling, eighteenth was Bobbie Crosby in Celeste, nineteenth was Ian McColgin in Marmalade, twentieth was Alan Wilson in High Tide, twenty-first was Winship Fuller in Mandarel, twenty-second was Jim Pringle in Myfanwy, twenty-third was Peter Goodale in Stormalong II, twenty-fourth was Karl Frey in Valora, twenty-fifth was Fred Lucas in Bon Vie Vent, twenty-sixth was Mike Jacobs in Sakie. Flying Bugster and Restless Wind retired.
This great event is named for a true yachtsman, George Moffett, Jr., a founding father of the Holmes Hole Sailing Association, who donated Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary to the Island. He captained his yacht, Guinevere, winning both the SORC and the Bermuda Race. Upon his death, Pat West and Lucia Moffett, George’s wife and the 1981 winner, created the race in his honor. It has been sailed every year since 1978, and this year, with the tropical storm creating anxiety about cancelation, the skippers agreed that the wind, weather and fleet made this running special and quite enjoyable.