2013-08-29 / News

Around the Island Race this Sunday

By Ken Shane

Summer sailing may be winding down on Narragansett Bay, but this weekend will be one of the busiest the harbor has seen this year.

On Saturday and Sunday, the Classic Yacht Regatta will feature more than 40 venerable yachts in a competition and parade on the bay, while on Sunday the Conanicut Yacht Club will run the 86th edition of the Around the Island Race.

According to John Mayers, who organizes the race for Conanicut Yacht Club, there will be about 70 boats in 10 classes vying for a variety of trophies in the annual race. In the last five years, entry totals have ranged from as low as 50 sailboats, to as many as 98. Entrants come from as far away as the Shelter Island Yacht Club in New York, but are predominantly from the surrounding area.

“This is more of a fun race, more of a family-oriented event versus more competitive races like the New York Yacht Club Regatta, the Rolex races or various one-design races,” Mayers said. “This is targeted to be a fun day on the bay. The intent is to hand out as many awards as we can without making it a summer-camp kind of thing.”

There will be awards given for first, second and third place in each class, as well as overall fleet awards. Also, two awards that were introduced last year will be presented again. They are for best time regardless of rating handicap, and best corrected time overall.

Mayers said over the years people have entered the race because it was the last race of the season, and although sailing on the bay now continues into November, the Around the Island Race is still the last of the summer.

Sometimes the race’s one-design sailors take the regatta a bit more seriously, but Mayers says even those crews for the most part are out there to enjoy themselves.

Organizers were busy this week putting together the classes. The race is open to any boat with a rating so it can be put in a class. If five or more one-design boats of a specific type are entered, those boats are offered their own class. Despite the fact there are enough of certain one-designs to create a separate class, J-24s for example, those fleets sometimes prefer not to race in their own class because they want to see how they can do against other boats with similar ratings. The race, however, almost always includes a J-22 class and J-80 class.

“This is not a race where it counts for anything in their fleet competitions,” Mayers said. “They’re really doing it to have fun and to maybe not have their Tuesday night crew with them.”

Instead, Mayers said, the skippers might use the Around the Island Race to have family and friends out there racing with them.

“There are also a couple of guys who use it as an opportunity to thank the guys who have raced their boats all year,” he added.

The course choice for Sunday’s race is dependent on the weather. Course lengths range from a long course of 21.5 miles that takes the boats around Hope and Despair islands, to a short course of just 12 miles that is used in bad weather and does not circumnavigate the island.

The course that is most commonly used is the 18.1 mile “inside” course that goes around all of the government marks closest to the island. The direction of the start will be determined by the direction of the wind on Sunday.

“The race has lasted for 86 years because of the commitment of the club to this end-of-the-season event,” Mayers said. “Its history is steeped in the days when sailors were part of the summer vacationing crowd, and in those days the summer ended on Labor Day weekend. It was never planned to be a championship race. People celebrated the summer and got out on the bay for that last sail.”

It has been a good racing season for Jamestown’s Paul Zabetakis and his boat Impetuous, a Swan 42. The boat won the New York Yacht Club Regatta, took a leg of Block Island Race Week, and finished third in the highly competitive Swan 42 nationals.

“We always look forward to this race as the season begins to wind down,” said Zabetakis. “It is a fun race around Conanicut Island to be shared with friends that have crewed together all season. While we hope to do well this weekend, we will most certainly enjoy one of our last days racing together this year and begin making plans for 2014.”

Another Jamestown boat, Entropy, has also had a good season. According to Paul Hamilton, who co-owns the Tripp 41 with his wife Patti Young, the boat had some modifications made to its keel and mast. As a result, there has been a learning curve in determining how to make the boat sail its best. Despite the changes, Hamilton describes the season as a success, and looked forward to this weekend’s races.

“It’s a fun race at the end of the summer,” Hamilton said. “The crew really enjoys it, and there’s a really good party afterwards. So it’s a good magnet for everybody.”

Leading up to the Around the Island Race, the 34th annual Classic Yacht Regatta will take place on Saturday. The Museum of Yachting at the International Yacht Restoration

School sponsors the event. The regatta is part of the North American Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge, which also includes the Nantucket Opera Cup Regatta and the Corinthian Classic Yacht Regatta. It attracts classic yachts with enviable pedigrees.

The following day, a parade will set sail at 10:30 a.m. in Newport Harbor with a collection of more than 50 classic yachts, both sail and power. Popular vantage points in Newport include the Goat Island Marina dock, Bowen’s Wharf, Bannister’s Wharf, the Newport Yachting Center dock, King’s Park Pier and Sail Newport’s waterfront center at Fort Adams.

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