Thursday 12 noon:
Chelsea Piers marina in Manhattan:
Only 5 hours before the start of the Around Long Island Regatta. The 3 SailTime boats are in their final preparation for the race. “Golden Nugget”, the Hunter 38 from SailTime Long Island, had arrived in Manhattan the previous evening. They are ready and eager, as they watch the crews on “Nomad” (Hunter 41DS, New York) and “Taunga” (Hunter 33, New York), scrambling to get the boats ready. Loading provisions, checking the gennakers, going up the mast for final checks…all the boats finally depart the dock at 1pm to head toward the starting line, 5 miles away.
The trip to the starting line, south of Rockaway point, is done under engine power, …no wind yet, low visibility, grey skies…at around 1630, the 3 SailTime boats arrive at the starting line, where 60 other sailboats of all sizes are gathered, getting ready for the 180 miles ahead. Rambler, the largest Yacht, is a sleek 90′ custom sloop built for racing…their inflatable tender who follows them all the way to the starting is longer than our Hunter 41… a different league.
1700, warning signal for divisions 1, 2 and 3…we are in division 4, 5 and 6. The wind has just picked up. 12 to 15 kts from the southwest, …time to get the gennakers ready. We are only minutes away from our 15 minutes warning and we can already see two options for the start. A majority of the competitors are choosing the windward side of the line (including Nomad and Golden Nugget), while Taunga and a few others are choosing to be on the leeward side, which should allow them to sail a little closer to the wind and get extra speed, at least during the first few miles of the race. The Around Long Island Regatta starts outside of New York Harbor and ends in the Long Island Sound, 180 miles away, going around Long Island. Stage one of the race takes us to Montauk point, 90 miles due East. The first few hours of the race are crucial as you want to get as much ground covered as possible…this race always plays hard with the crews nerves as it is not unusual to spend hours drifting as the wind can completely die at night.
One minute to the start; it is now clear that Taunga has a different start strategy than Nomad and Golden Nugget. Starting on the leeward side on the line will allow them to sail a few degrees closer to the wind, and to get a few extra ten’s of a knot of speed from it. 30 seconds from start, Taunga is coming a little fast to the line and has to slow down, while Golden Nugget and Nomad have opted for a safer start and will pass the line 10 to 15 seconds after the start…it’s a long race…but we will see later that a few seconds lost at the start can cost you at the end… Despite having to slow down, Taunga crosses the line only seconds after the start, and she is one of the first boats in the fleet to raise the gennaker. The first few hours of the race keeps most of the boats in sight of each other. Within the SailTime team, Taunga is leading the way, with Golden Nugget slightly behind and Nomad not far behind.
But the real race will start as the night arrives… no more checking what the other boats are doing. We are on our own and we will not know until the next morning whether our strategy for the night paid off. The first few hours of the night see the wind slowing calming while still coming from SW. Then around 1am, major shift in the wind direction and speed. From South West, the wind is now coming from the North West, and blowing 15kts with gusts at 18kts. Gennakers are coming down, sails are trimmed, boats go from a few degrees of heel to having their rails in the water, it will be a hell of a night!
For hours, the wind is steady and the fleet is moving at a good pace.
Everyone knows that two strategies are in play. One of them is to keep as much speed as possible, but it’s a dangerous game, if the winds dies, boats who chose it will see themselves stuck windless 3 to 6 miles offshore. The second strategy is to stay closer to the shore. Although you make a little less speed over ground, you might take advantage of a coastal breeze if the winds dies.
Here comes the morning! What a night is has been. As you see nav lights around your boat all night long, sometimes just a few feet away from your own boat while sailing at 7kts on a close haul, you can’t wait for the first morning lights…and see whether you did what was necessary to stay in the pack.
The three SailTimes boats are on the same lay line, but in very different positions. As Taunga clearly chose to go offshore, Golden Nugget is feet away from the south shore beaches, and Nomad chose to be in between. Then the wind starts disappearing during the early hours of the day. First from the shore, …it looks like the offshore option might have been the way to go…For the next few hours, boats close to the shore are being tossed around by the waves, barely able to keep the boats in the right direction as the wind completely disappeared. Offshore, things are a little better, but the wind is slowing down, and by 11am, the wind has disappeared on the entire fleet.
In the meantime, while most boats have covered 60 to 80 miles, Rambler is crossing the line, 180 miles away…definitely a different league…
For hours, boats are floating and drifting, hoping for a little breeze to help the boat inching forward Montauk point. Salvation will come from the shore, as the earth warms up, a slight breeze picks up from the shore. What looked like a disadvantage a few hours earlier turns into a winning strategy for the boats who decided to stay ashore. While Golden Nugget and Nomad are starting to move toward Montauk point once again, Taunga on the other hand, is still drifting helpless 6 miles offshore. Although almost on a layline with Montauk point, the crew on Taunga is starting to wonder whether the wind will show up again over the weekend. Forecast announces 5 kts of wind for the next couple days, and when you have to rig a preventer on your boom to keep the waves from tossing your boom from side to side, a 5kts forecast is not very encouraging. After drifting for a few hours and listening to bleak wind forecasts, the crew of Taunga decide to withdraw from the race. at 1500 on Friday, Taunga calls the race committee and is officially off the race. Montauk point is in their sight, they can almost touch it,…but the decision was made.
What they don’t know, is that a few miles closer to the shore, Golden Nugget and Nomad have started moving again. Slowly but surely, both boats reach Montauk point around 2000. As Taunga is motoring back toward Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, the wind picks up in the Long Island Sound. Against all forecast, winds build up over night, to reach 15 to 20kts. From now on, it’s a straight line for Golden Nugget and Nomad. With the wind on their beam, both boats average of 7kts VMG overnight.
Although the winds don’t stay as strong on Saturday, both Nomad and Golden Nugget are now a few hours away to cross the finish line. Golden Nugget is in the lead, only a few hundred feet ahead of Nomad. Nomad has a little more speed, and they are getting closer by the minute.
Finally the two boats approach the finish line. A couple miles to go, who will take the lead?
After almost 2 days of racing, Golden Nugget crosses the line 11 seconds before Nomad and wins the SailTime Cup for the Around Long Island Regatta. 1 Day, 22 hours, 49 minutes and 15 seconds after the start. If Nomad had taken a better start a couple days earlier they would have won. As for Taunga, the crew swears they will never be impatient again and persevere, even if the forecast says their will be no wind for the rest of the weekend.
All the crews had a lot of fun, great overnights sailing, and it made for great memories new sailing stories to talk about back at the Yacht Club bar. Life is good when you’re a SailTime Member!