Inaugural year comes to an end for race around Jamestown
According to organizer Hugh Piggin of Manuka Sports Event Management, the Around Jamestown Record challenge is off to a good start, even if the first season of the event didn’t draw many challengers. The contest invites competitors to sail their boats around Conanicut Island at the time of their own choosing – and for the most part, sailing their own course.
The window for competitors opened May 28 and closed Oct. 31. Only three boats accepted the challenge, which rewarded the winner with a trophy and the skipper’s weight in Mount Gay Rum. Nonetheless, Piggin was satisfied with the event’s first year.
“It went well,” Piggin said. “It was a bit slow. We would have liked to have more entries than we had, but there was a lot of interest around it. Now that we’ve established a record and got a trophy and plaque, there’s a lot more talk about it. People are pretty keen to give it a go next year.”
Piggin said that the biggest challenge this year was getting the word out to people because it was a new race and didn’t have a single established date or time.
“When you think of going yacht racing around here,” he said, “it’s an organized regatta on a set date at a set time.”
Among the positives to emerge from this year’s race was the positive feedback that Piggin got for the idea. Many of them expressed their intention to try it next year. Piggin said that was particularly true among the younger sailing fraternity in the area.
Piggin fully expects to run the record chase next year. He said that because the race is not a scheduled single day or multiday regatta, it does not require a lot of administration. He said there is no reason not to do it again. He doesn’t foresee making any changes to the way the challenge is organized.
“We intend to run it every year,” Piggin said.
While the window was open, challengers only had to let the organizers know that they were ready to make an attempt in order to ensure that their time would be noted. The decision on which direction to sail around the island and their course was completely left to the competitors, the only rule being that they had to go around the buoy off Beavertail.
The organizers anticipated that factors including wind, weather and tidal conditions were expected to weigh heavily in the decision on when to sail. Another consideration was that bigger boats with a deep draft would have to sail a longer course than smaller boats that drew less water.
The inaugural Around Jamestown Record was set by Dan Flanigan of Tiverton in an 18-foot Hobie Tiger, an F-18 class catamaran. Flanigan’s crew member for the effort was Max Kramers, also from Tiverton. Flanigan held his attempt until late in the allowed time period, sailing on Oct. 9. His time around the roughly 18-mile course was 1 hour, 47 minutes and 24 seconds.
According to Flanigan, he was sailing on a Swan 42 when someone who knew he was a catamaran sailor told him about the Around Jamestown Record. He found the prospect of winning his weight in rum appealing. It was already late in the sailing season when he found out about the challenge, and from that point on he kept a careful eye on the wind, waiting for the perfect day to make the run.
“We watched the breeze,” Flanigan said. “We wanted it either directly east or directly west so that we could scream along on a reach the whole way. Most of the summer, a sea breeze fills in from the ocean so it’s not as ideal because one side of the island is downwind, and one side is upwind.”
Flanigan said he kept an eye on the tide, but the main consideration was the weather window and the wind. He only had a short amount of time to make the run because he had to get back to school at Bucknell University. He is a senior and was fortunate enough to find the perfect day in early October.
“Next summer we hope to beat the record and we’ll watch the tide more closely, along with wind,” he said.
Flanigan and Kramers sailed clockwise around the island based on the wind direction that day. They were looking for the better wind angle that the clockwise direction offered on the way to Beavertail. Flanigan said they didn’t sail as short a course as they had hoped as a result of the wind direction.
“It wasn’t directly east that day, there was a little more angle to it,” Flanigan said. “We wound up sailing a very similar course to what a big boat would have sailed. We were also confident that we could beat the other boats’ times and we knew within 10 minutes that if nothing went seriously wrong, we would have a good shot at it. So we decided to play it safe.”
Flanigan added that there was 15 to 20 knots of breeze on the day of his sail, and the catamaran achieved boat speeds in the range of 18 to 23 knots.
Before Hobie Tiger captured the Around Jamestown Record, the mark was held by Icarus, a Class 40 skippered by Amanda Mochrie. Icarus finished the course on June 14 in 2 hours, 49 minutes and 37 seconds. The team – consisting of Mochrie, Tom Knight, David Narchella, Henry Tucker and Somers Kempe of Bermuda, and Ben Poucher of Newport – chose to sail in a clockwise direction. Icarus used the Around Jamestown Record as training for the Newport Bermuda Race, which began the following day.
As for Flanigan, he expects to be back to defend his record next year.
“We’ll defend it and hopefully beat it,” he said. “It’s really cool to have something like this in Rhode Island. I’m hoping that we get 30 boats that are pushing the record next year. It’s just a blast.”
And what about the 196 pounds of rum that Flanigan won?
“We’ll drink as much as we can, but I think it’s safe to say that we’ll have Christmas gifts this year.”