“Extreme” was the operative word for the inaugural “Salty 100 Distance Race” held last weekend in Buzzards Bay and Rhode Island Sound.
Winds ranged from a whisper to a gale over the course of 100 miles, and yachts and their crews were called upon to use every skill, every learned lesson, and every ounce of patience and focus to persevere.
Yachts ranging from 30 feet to over 50, including tested blue water designs and coastal racers, competed in three classes in the Salty 100 in Double Handed, ORR (off shore), and PHRF (performance handicap) classes.
Winners were every boat that competed, but the champions – the true test of sailboat racers – were: Double Handed – Cirrus, with new owner Jay-Pasco Anderson and Don Cody; ORR – Tom Bowler in his gorgeous Escapade II; and in PHRF, Piper Lance skippered by proud new owner Brian Sager.
At the start off Marion, the fleet had to struggle with the zephyrs forecasted for most of the afternoon hours and into the evening. After hours of light air, most boats neared Cuttyhunk on their way to Point Judith, Rhode Island, for the third turning mark. Good fortune smiled on the fleet as the sun disappeared and the wind rose to a steady 7 knots.
Rounding the treacherous Sow and Pigs reef south of Cuttyhunk, the fleet, now in the darkness of a pre-moon rise, made their way to two buoys that after successfully maneuvering around and headed due west for 20 miles across the gnarly Rhode Island Sound to the far western mark off Point Judith.
The idea behind the Salty 100 race was to offer sailors an opportunity to stretch their sailing skills in a race that was longer than typical buoy, “round the island” or “round the bay” races, yet not as much of a commitment as the bi-annual Marion-to-Bermuda race of 675 miles.
Here in Rhode Island Sound, in the dead of night, all that promise came to pass. The moon rose behind ominous, angry clouds. Yet it illuminated a path of steady winds that filled spinnakers held in expert sailors’ grips as the midnight hours passed.
By 2:00 am and halfway into the downwind leg, the forecast reared its head and the deep open waters of the North Atlantic showed their teeth. The wind rose steadily from 7 to 15 to 22 knots per hour. Spinnakers came down, sails were reefed. If modern sailboats had open hatches, they were “battened down.”
It would prove a challenging night and return to Marion.
Approaching the buoy at Point Judith, notorious for its confused seas and currents, especially with this night’s unusual easterly wind, the wave tops blew away in spindrift and spray: A gale had found the fleet.
Forecasts warned of a front expected in Long Island Sound but not Rhode Island Sound to the east. The forecast was wrong. The gale hit with the ferocity of a David Ortiz home run swing and blew steady in excess of 30 knots. Boats could not jibe (with the wind in the sails) around the Point Judith mark with safety as the wind increased exponentially.
We had to “come about” with sails flapping and waves slapping all sides of the hull. On a new course for home, the racers faced seas of 10-15 feet and winds that unbelievably kept increasing – now 30, now 40, now 42. Some boats’ instruments showed wind gust in excess of 50 knots. A hurricane is 75.
The Salty Fleet was racing in winds that exceeded the tropical storm winds of the week before. The larger, ocean-going yachts had the decided advantage against bay racers, although the Massachusetts Maritime yacht, Red Shift, ably skippered by Jo Riley, one of the smallest and lightest boats, plowed ahead against the seas and wind and ended up second in PHRF. Hats off to the cadets! Other boats retired out of either equipment failure or an inability to sail upwind against gale-force winds in waves that broke boats’ momentum and shook souls and rigs.
After many hours slogging up Buzzards Bay, the majority of boats that made it to Point Judith made it back safely to Marion and a festive clambake at the sponsoring Beverly Yacht Club of Marion.
Was it a tough race? For sure. Did we as sailors learn from it, become better sailors while gleaming an even greater appreciation of the challenges of sailing over the horizon? Without doubt. But what is a competition without extremes?
The Salty 100 presented extreme weather, some of it predicted, some not, a challenging in-shore/offshore course and the camaraderie of 15 other yachts, their owners, and crews, who together on one night pushed themselves and their boats to the utmost. Many of us, even sailors, become complacent in our daily lives; but for this one night, this one race, over 100 men, women, high school and college racers, families, and friends put it all on the line and proved to ourselves we could persevere and accomplish something difficult, rewarding, and, in the end, worth it.
Congratulations to every boat that raced, to all the skippers, the crews, the yard workers who prepared out boats, the yacht designers who built such sturdy and safe vessels, and to our families who waited patiently for the boats to stream up Buzzards Bay, capping off another great day in our lives on the water.
By Steve Dahill, RIVA, Beverly Yacht Club
Salty 100 Regatta
First Annual, August 27-28
Beverly Yacht Club, Marion
PHRF 145 or faster (11 boats)
Boat (Sail #), Skipper, Yacht club, Time
1. Piper Lance (50007), Brian Sager, BYC, 20:57:37
2. Red Shift (56), Jo Riley, Mass. Maritime, BYC, 21:14:15
3. Yaquina (USA32665), Charles Samuelsson, NBYC, 21:58:57
4. Legacy II (63164), Thomas Denney, BYC, 23:37:37
5t. Glory (52520), Barry Steinberg, BYC, 23:38:37
5t. Callidh (12108), James Coggeshall, Mattapoisett YC, 23:38:37
5t. Weather Gauge (707), Twice Tougas, MMA, BYC, 23:38:37
5t. Ardent (11), Davis, Webb, BYC, 23:38:37
5t. RIVA (50635), Steve Dahill, BYC, 23:38:37
5t. KAOS (41880), Scott Belliveau, MYC, 23:38:37
5t. Escape (007), Ben Jones, Old Sigh Race League, 23:38:37
1. Cirrus (105), Jay Pasco-Anderson/Don Cody, BYC, 22:16:57
2. Retrograde (87), Matthew Ferlotti/Marshal Bailey, 22:17:57
3. Dune Buggy (135), Nick Brachet, 22:17:57
ORR WL5050 class
1. Escapade II (8516T), J. Thomas Bowler, BYC, 15:36:28
2. Hotsour II (2175), Ronald Weiner, 19:14:44
3. Frolic (29388), Ray Cullum, no time