The three-day 85th annual Edgartown Yacht Club regatta got off to a sailor’s start yesterday with a fresh breeze. Under clear blue skies and perfect sailing conditions, more than 150 sailboats competed for prizes in the Edgartown outer harbor.

Today and tomorrow is a continuation of the one-design sailing off the Edgartown lighthouse with boats from as small as the Optimist, an 8-foot sailing dinghy, to as large as the 30-foot Shields sailboat.

Tomorrow is the big ’Round the Island Race. More than 40 sailboats ranging in size from 28 feet to 65 feet are registered for the 8 a.m. start in the waters off Chappaquiddick, in the Edgartown outer harbor.

Boats will sail clockwise around the Island and finish by late in the afternoon. The weather forecast is good, though there will be rolling seas south of the Vineyard.

This year’s regatta has more in common with the traditional regattas of years past. William L. Roman, club manager, said the weekend event is always tied to July. It has been a while since both the one-design sailing regatta has occurred on the same weekend that the club is holding the ’Round the Island race.

Mr. Roman said the timing is linked to tides and currents. The race committee chose this weekend for the big 55-mile race around the Island based on favorable currents run down East Beach, off Chappaquiddick, and in Muskeget Channel.

“We want to make sure everyone gets a favorable trip at the start otherwise they are beating the currents all the way around,” Mr. Roman said.

Little optimists bob along
for youngest competitors. — Mark Alan Lovewell

The Edgartown regatta is a big sailing event for sailors across southeastern Massachusetts. Boats and crew are coming from Scituate, New Bedford, Beverly, Hyannis and Falmouth.

The big number this year isn’t in big boats, it is in small boats.

This year the club has a record 92 Optimist sailboats competing. Each little boat has one sailor aboard. The sailors range in age from nine to 12 years old. The best viewing of these sailboats is at Edgartown Lighthouse Beach, where a viewer can watch the sailors less than a mile off the beach.

Sixty 420 sailboats are competing. This class of boat is for older sailors with two aboard. Their ages range from high school into college. These sailboats are an Olympic-class sailboat and are standard for testing all sailors.

Ssailboats in the 420 class cluster for start in Edgartown Yacht Club regatta. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Yesterday afternoon, as many as 15 Wianno Senior sailboats arrived from the Cape for the competition. They are a beautiful, classic 25-foot gaff-rigged sailboat. They not only race off Edgartown waters today and tomorrow; their sail to the Vineyard yesterday afternoon from the Cape was a race.

Mr. Roman said the Wianno Senior sailors are greeted warmly. It has been five years since 20 of these historic class boats were destroyed in a five-alarm fire at an Osterville boat yard.

More and more boats are being built to replace the lost ones. The number of Wianno Seniors is rising each year in the regatta.

Commodore Bill Dingwell of the New Bedford Yacht Club arrived yesterday afternoon with his wife Ellen, telling his friends in the Edgartown club he was ready to sail. Mr. Dingwell said the sailors from the New Bedford Yacht Club look forward to this annual regatta and have done well over the last three years in the race around the Island.

“We love to race the ’Round the Island Race, especially now it is 55 miles long,” Mr. Dingwell said.

Years ago, the race was a good deal more difficult to complete. The race back then was 88 miles long and included the Buzzards Bay Tower as a mark. Sailors often didn’t get home until late at night.

The best viewing stand to watch the regatta is at Memorial Wharf early in the morning when the sailboats file out of the harbor for a day of racing, or in the afternoon when they return. Edgartown Lighthouse Beach is an ideal spot to watch the drama of both big and small boats as they compete.

People at the Bend in the Road Beach at the eastern end of Joseph A. Sylvia State Beach will have a view of some of the racing as well. Those on the Oak Bluffs side of State Beach will be able to see the many boats when they come and leave the Edgartown outer harbor.

An awards ceremony for the one-design sailors will take place at the club tomorrow afternoon. The ‘Round the Island Race awards ceremony takes place on Sunday.