Vineyard Race SPOOKIE SAILING
STAMFORD —Tranquil harbor waters Sunday betrayed what sailors called a days long “slog” in the weekend’s 84th iteration of Stamford Yacht Club’s Vineyard Race.
The 238-mile contest, with nearly 100 yachts zigzagging between Long Island and Connecticut’s coasts this weekend to curry a strong easterly wind’s favor, had accomplished sailors sweating, they said. The wind, which took one three-hulled “trimaran” — 70-foot Argo — to the Cape Cod coast and back in a course record of just more than 14 hours, spelled slow-sailing for smaller vessels in the competitive fleet.
Several boats were still on the water Sunday afternoon after the wind that carried Argo home in Saturday’s wee hours died down that noon.
But after a windy day of surprises, the big trophy, the Vineyard Lightship, awarded to sailors completing the 238-mile course in the best corrected time, went to a usual suspect — Spookie, a TP52 owned by Steve and Heidi Benjamin.
Spookie has now won four of the last five lightship trophies, a coveted award from Stamford Yacht Club.
Race chairman Jonathan Asch, who has sailed in nearly 30 Vineyard Races, said this year’s winds made for interesting sailing after previous Labor Day weekends of fair weather, a helpful breeze and record times.
“Bigger boats were aided by the steady breeze while the smaller boats suffered,” Asch said.
Seventy-foot Argo, for example, was able to gain speed by swerving between the coasts on the trip out past Block Island and around the light tower at the entrance to Buzzards Bay. Smaller boats, meanwhile, struggled to make headway.
That wind was still going upon Argo’s venture back to Stamford, propelling the yacht in what sailors call “spinnaker weather,” when the wind at your back merits using the mainsail.
The wind that drove Argo back to Shippan, died before many other boaters on the Vineyard’s long, 238-mile loop could take advantage of it.
Stephen Hutchins, one of seven crew members on 38-foot Kekoa which raced on a shorter loop, said he was also aided by the wind after early tough sailing, but his boat came nowhere near the speeds of Argo or Spookie.
“(Argo’s crew) were basically going 30 miles an hour,” he said.
Hutchins and fellow Kekoa crew members snagged the wind in time because their yacht was on a shorter circuit, the Cornfield Point Course, which is less than half the length of the race for the lighthouse trophy.
Kekoa, with a corrected time of around 12.5 hours won the Gillespie Memorial Trophy with the best corrected time on the course for its class, according to early results.
Another racer was Linda Moran, whose weekend experience was far more dramatic and difficult than she had anticipated.
This year’s race was her first long-distance venture, she said, and she quickly became acquainted with the rain and winds that make such lengthy races all the harder.
“It was daunting right away,” she said. “I clicked myself in and was wearing hazardous weather gear.”
Moran said waves broke over her head and four-foot swells made for quick adjustments during the race’s first several hours.
She recalled being on the wrong side of the yacht, locked to the vessel’s side with a carabiner and lax line as the boom headed her way.
She ducked just in time, she said.
“It gave me a lot more experience,” she said.
By Sunday evening, as sailors and friends readied for the award ceremony, some two dozen yachts were still out on the sound, struggling to make it back to the harbor.
Several sailors back at the Stamford Yacht Club wondered if the boaters would drop out and motor in for fear of missing the shindig.
Meanwhile, early winners began racking up honors.
For a sailing-season with the best average score in the year’s contests, Spookie Sunday also took home the Northern Ocean Racing Trophy, “one of the most prestigious trophies,” Asch said.
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