Sailing already is getting under way this summer.
The Vineyard Haven Yacht Club is observing its 80th summer. The Edgartown Yacht Club is hosting more summer sailing events than it did a year ago. Sail Martha’s Vineyard is gearing up for its big sailing classic Vineyard Cup in mid-July. The Holmes Hole Sailing Association has launched its Sunday and Thursday races.
Across the Island’s harbors, the boats are here. Plenty more are coming. The talk at yacht clubs is about events, wind, markers, crew and gear.
From now through Labor Day, sailors will compete for trophies, bragging rights and stories. Whatever their tale, the central theme that will be shared is how they spent a spirited day on the water.
Sail Martha’s Vineyard, a nonprofit organization committed to teaching young sailors safe boat handling, expects to break records at its Vineyard Cup 2008, a sailing weekend full of racing.
Sailors from all the Island’s sailing clubs will get together to participate in four days of sailing that begins Thursday, July 17, with a windsurfing championship, and ends on Sunday, July 20, with three races at two different locations.
“I would expect that with sailboats racing in Menemsha and sailors come from Edgartown Yacht Club, there will be close to 100 sailboats participating that weekend,” said Brock Callen, program director for Sail Martha’s Vineyard.
When it first began three years ago, the Vineyard Cup came across like a midsummer sailboat race that had the fellowship and the inclusiveness of the George Moffett Memorial Race held in the fall.
The Vineyard Cup has grown, with more starting and finishing lines than the year before and than any other sailing event on the Island. Sailors with sailboats ranging in size from 22 feet to 75 feet in length will come together.
Plenty of room is available for sailboats that were built to cruise.
Mr. Callen said this year they are putting together a unique race on Sunday that is unlike any George Moffett race that has been held in the past.
“We have a pursuit format for the cruising class. The slowest boats will go first and the fastest boats will start last, with the intent that if all is handicapped correctly, everybody will be approaching the finish line at about the same time.”
Usually when sailboats of varying sizes race, they are handicapped and cross the finish line at odd times. Mr. Callen said, the sailors in those kind of races really don’t often know how they place until the handicap is applied after the sailing is done. In this Sunday race, he said: “When it comes to getting close to the finish line, they’ll know how well they are doing.”
The weekend of sailing includes windsurfing at the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club, day boat racing in Menemsha Pond, and rowing off Eastville Beach with competitors coming from afar. The Vineyard Cup will host the New England Gig Rowing Championship on Saturday, July 19. Fourteen teams and at least six rowing gigs will compete.
The Menemsha Pond racing will run through the summer on Wednesdays and Saturday but there will be a special race in connection with the Vineyard Cup. This will be the second summer that Sail Martha’s Vineyard is hosting the Menemsha races.
“Last year we set a record with 31 boats racing. They ranged in size from Sunfish to Herreshoff 12 1/2 to other small boats. It was great,” Mr. Callen said.
At the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club, this will be a summer to honor the founders of the club 80 years ago and to give room for the very youngest sailors.
Christopher (Topher) Kerr, director of junior sailing, is in his second year at the club.
“We’ve got a huge junior regatta happening from Monday, July 21 through Wednesday, July 23,” he said. “Last year we had over 80 boats of the 420 class and over 75 of the Optimists. We had upwards of 250 kids sailing. They came from all over Southeastern Massachusetts. It is our biggest event of summer.”
The Vineyard Haven Yacht Club will host the East Coast Windsurfing Junior Olympic Festival on Thursday, July 17, and Friday, July 18.
“Last year we had roughly 10 racers and there should be upwards of 30 kids coming from as far away as Florida and California,” Mr. Kerr said.
A key ingredient to holding a windsurfing event isn’t just the wind and the water; it includes the leadership within the event. The club has some talented sailors. Nevin Sayre is chairman of the event and he is a local hero when it comes to windsurfing and pushing the sport to its limits. Steve Besse also is a big player in the sport. Tom McDonald, head windsurfing instructor, and his assistant Solvig Sayre are working at the event. All are highly talented windsurfers.
Mr. Kerr said that the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club sailing program is mostly about young sailors. He said there are more than 100 club sailors out in the water and at least 20 of them also engaged in windsurfing.
There will be a big push at the club for its hosting of the Sonar New England Championship on the weekend of August 15, 16, and 17. “We could expect as many as 15 to 20 boats on the line,” Mr. Kerr said.
A Sonar is a sloop that measures 23 feet in length and has a keel. It is a friendly boat and rising in popularity. “There are now nine Sonars in the Vineyard fleet and it has been growing over the last few years,” Mr. Kerr said. “They have weekly races on Saturday afternoons in the outer harbor.”
Sonars are part of the changing history at the club. In its early years, most of the sailors competed in Vineyard 15s, a class of wooden sailboat that is pretty much gone. Later in the 1970s and 1980s, the sailors shifted their talents to compete in Solings.
Now the fleet is shifting towards the Sonar. Mr. Kerr said the club has some of the top Sonar sailors in the nation.
“Sonars are nice boats,” he said. “The family can take it out and yet it is also a high-level racing boat.”
The Edgartown Yacht Club is looking at a busy summer of fast sailing and the boats are going to be all sizes.
“There will be lots of silver handed out,” said yacht club manager Bill Roman, referring to trophies and prizes passed out to winners in a season of racing.
The club’s 85th annual regatta is next weekend. The premiere sailing event of summer starts on Thursday, July 10 and runs through Sunday, July 12. “We are anticipating a large number of Optimist, 420 and a few visiting Shields sailors,” Mr. Roman said.
The much-esteemed ‘Round the Island Race will take place on Saturday, July 12. Last year the event attracted about 35 sailboats and at least that many are expected. The clockwise race around the Island begins mid-morning and usually ends late in the afternoon or early in the evening. Mr. Roman said the race attracts a lot of sailors from the Island and Newport.
The club’s 12-metre regatta that will be held on the weekend of August 8, 9 and 10 will attract plenty of experienced sailors. As many as 14 or 15 of the world’s most beautiful, large sailboats will show up for competitive racing.
Twelve-metre sailboats are former contenders for the America’s Cup. They are big, fast and living museums of the age of competitive sail. These are beautiful boats that live far longer than their intended purpose.
Far more boats will be participating in the regatta this year than last, when much of the fleet were over in Europe as part of the America’s Cup racing and celebration.
On the weekend of Aug. 1 through 3, the club is hosting the H-12 Championship. More than 20 Herreshoff 12 1/2 sailboats will compete. Mr. Roman said the club is expecting boats from Buzzards Bay and along the Eastern seaboard to compete in the weekend event.
“Jokingly we refer to this event as the Herreshoff Worlds, ‘cause there is no other large fleet competing like this,” Mr. Roman said. “We are trying to get boats from Shelter Island to participate, along with Padanaram.
“This adult class of sailing is probably one of the largest on the Island,” he said. “The beauty of these boats is well known and they are all sailed competitively. This is a boat that goes single-handed easily,” Mr. Roman said.
For the first time, the Edgartown Yacht Club is hosting the Farr 40 East Coast Championship on the long weekend of August 13 through 17.
“These folks are the crÃ¨me decrÃ¨me of competitive sailors,” Mr. Roman said. “A lot of the sailors that sail on Farr 40s also will go on to compete in the America’s Cup.”
The Farr 40, which measures 35 feet on the water, lists at just under $350,000 without sails and electronics. Mr. Roman said they are expecting anywhere from 10 to 12 boats, and maybe more.
Mr. Roman likens the spirit of the sailors of the 12-metres to those on the Farr 40s.
“The 12-metre event we have is the largest in the United States. They love it. We look forward to hosting the 12-metre sailors every year. And we show them great activities,” Mr. Roman said.
“We’ll show the same hospitality for our guests with the Farr 40. With any luck they’ll be returning,” Mr. Roman said.
The Edgartown Yacht Club will be hosting other visiting yacht clubs. The New York Yacht Club is coming for an overnight on August 5, Larchmont Yacht Club on August 7, New Bedford Yacht Club on August 15 and the Beverly Yacht Club over the Labor Day weekend.
The Holmes Hole Sailing Association will hold its annual George Moffett Memorial Race, a highlight of the sailing season, on Sept. 6. The race, a salute to the summer of sailing, is inclusive with a low entry fee. Many Vineyard sailors pull their boats from the water following their participation in this race, traditionally held the Saturday after Labor Day.
“It’s a great wrap-up to the sailing season,” association commodore John Amabile said. “It draws a wide range of diverse boats, from day sailors up to ocean-going schooners, ranging in size from 17 feet to 65 feet. Some of the bigger boats have been built by the Gannon and Benjamin, right here on the Vineyard.”
The association’s summer races are divided up into four categories: harbor, sound, and rendezvous races which are usually run on Sundays, and Thursday evening races. The races start in and near Vineyard Haven harbor.
The association intends to field a large fleet to compete in the Edgartown Yacht Club Around the Island Race scheduled for July 12. Association sailors also intend to participate in the Vineyard Cup.
The association is a collegial group of Island skippers that has been sponsoring races since 1970 with a goal of providing fun competition, with the emphasis on fun.