2012-05-03 / News

Speed is only focus for new race

New sailing event doesn’t have starting times, starting lines or markers and buoys

The waters surrounding Conanicut Island is already home to a slew of sailing events – and this year another one will be added to the agenda. But unlike the usual summer regattas, there will be no set time, and no marks to round. The object of The Around Jamestown Record is simple: get around the island as quickly as possible.

The new race will allow four classes to compete: keel boats at least 50 feet, keel boats under 50 feet, multihulls more than 25 feet, and all other sailing crafts. The latter category is expected to include vessels like moths, beach catamarans and dinghies. There will be a winner in each class, but the overall winner will be the boat that circumnavigates the island in the fastest time regardless of class, thus claiming the record – hence the name of the race.

According to Hugh Piggin of Newport, the race director, the impetus for the event came from discussions with a group of friends about what would make for a good event. “We came up with the idea of The Around Jamestown Record and we thought it would be a lot of fun so we’ve tried to organize it.”

Piggin’s company, Manuka Sports Event Management, is experienced at organizing sailing events. The company is best known for the Atlantic Cup regatta, a double-handed Class 40 event that starts in Charleston, S.C., and finishes in Newport after a stop in New York City. This year’s Atlantic Cup race begins on Friday, May 11.

The Around Jamestown Record differs from typical sailing races in some important ways. First of all, there is no set time for the start. Any boat can make an attempt at the record during the time period that begins on May 28 and ends on Sept. 30. Skippers wishing to compete for the record need only to inform the race committee by 5 p.m. on the day before their attempt, and the committee will ensure that the attempt will be timed. The objective is to get around the island as quickly as possible, and at this point there are no marks to round, which could give an advantage to smaller crafts that may wish to sail closer to the shoreline.

Piggin said that there was discussion of using Beavertail as a mark, but organizers decided against that because they wanted the whole record to be open. He said that they didn’t want to specify where people have to sail.

“In traditional around-the-island records there are a couple of marks around at the northern end of Jamestown that you have to go around, but including those in this record attempt would negate the advantage that small boats could get by sailing closer to shore,” Piggin said. “So we decided not to do that.”

Piggin described the event as more of a record than race, and said that contenders can pick when they want to do it, allowing them to wait on a good weather window and specific tidal conditions. After the race committee is notified of an attempt, a specific start time will be arranged for the boat to be on the starting line, which will stretch from a point on the Fort Adams seawall to the No. 11 green buoy near Clingstone.

Competitors not only choose their own start time, but they have the option of circumnavigating the island in either direction. “It’s a very simple race, but it should be a lot of fun getting people out there challenging it and trying to beat each other’s time,” Piggin said.

Entrants are also allowed to make as many attempts as they like. So if the time of an individual boat is bested, that boat can return to the course for another attempt.

The Around Jamestown Record has some high profile sponsors, including Mount Gay Rum. Any boat breaking the outright record – regardless of class – will win the skipper’s weight in the sponsor’s rum. Since this is the first year of the competition, there will be an outright record holder this year, though that may not be true in subsequent years, as the record will stand until it is broken. There will also be trophies and other sponsored prizes for the class winners. The awards ceremony will take place the week after the competition window closes.

Entry fees for the event range from $250 to $500, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Sail Newport, New England’s largest public sailing center. The Boomer Esiason Foundation, which raises money for cystic fi- brosis research, will also benefit from the proceeds.

Piggin addressed concerns about offshore racing in light of recent tragedies out west. (Recently, five sailors were killed in the waters off northern California when their yacht was hit by powerful waves and ran aground on a rocky island. Just two weeks later, three more sailors were found dead and another was missing after their yacht was found in pieces near the Mexican border. Officials say the boat must have collided with a large ship in the middle of the night.)

“The Around Jamestown Record is a very different race from those races,” he said. “We are stipulating U.S. Coast Guard-prescribed regulations for this event. Basically it comes down to if you’re sailing a boat around the island, you have to realize that there are inherent dangers in it.”

Piggin added that since it is a record and not a race, there will not be a situation where a number of boats are converging on a mark at the same time, which can often lead to problems.

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