Thursday, September 13, 2018

J’s Sweep Seaflower Reef Race

J/92 Thin Man - winner Vineyard/ Seaflower Reef Race (Stamford, CT)- New England's classic Labor Day weekend offshore race has to be Stamford YC’s annual Vineyard Race.  The 238 nautical-mile adventure starts off Stamford Harbor, and takes racers down the length of Long Island Sound to Buzzard's Bay Light Tower (passing it to starboard), then back to Block Island (also passing it to starboard) before again sailing the length of Long Island Sound, back to the finish just inside the harbor. The Stamford YC race committee also starts the 143 nautical mile Seaflower Reef Course that includes two PHRF Divisions.  Both races are popular with J/Crews from all over the northeastern seaboard.

However, this year’s race may go down in history as one of the longest ever. Winning PHRF Class 11 and Overall PHRF was Bill & Jackie Baxter’s J/111 FIREBALL; their victory took just under 48 hours to complete the course- an average 4.95 kts over 238nm!  Ouch!  Second in their class was another J/111, Abhijeet Lele’s VARUNA.

Taking 2nd PHRF Overall and winning PHRF Class 9 was Dan Nash’s J/109 MISTRAL.  They led a sweep of their class by other J/teams; 2nd was Don Dwyer’s J/109 GUARDIAN J, 3rd Mike Greene’s J/35 LOBLOLLY, and 4th was Cao Deambrosio & Chris Nicholls’ J/109 RHIANNON III.

Winning PHRF Class 10 was Bill Ingraham’s J/124 TENEBRAE, with John Greifzu’s J/109 GROWTH SPURT in 3rd place.  Then, showing their class, commitment, and perseverance was the J/105 YOUNG AMERICAN (sailed by the Young American Youth Sailing Academy Team from Rye, NY), taking a 4th in PHRF Class 8.

In the IRC Class 12, the J/44s have done it again, with Len Sitar’s VAMP winning class with Chris Lewis’ Texas crew on KENAI taking fourth place.

J/109 sailing Vineyard RaceSimilar to the dominant performances of J/crews in the Vineyard Race PHRF divisions, the same scenario played out in the 143nm Seaflower Reef course that takes place all inside Long Island Sound.  Sailing their 10th anniversary race was Todd Aven’s J/92 THIN MAN, celebrating appropriately by winning both PHRF Class 5 and also PHRF Overall- being awarded the Cotton Blossom Performance Trophy.

Here was Todd’s commentary on their race:

“That was definitely one for the history books! We had a great start in very lumpy conditions... Easterly wind at about 15 knots. The wind increased, the wind decreased, it shifted left, and it shifted right. We started with a full main and the #2 jib. When it got windier, we put in a reef. When it got lighter, we shook out the reef. When it got lighter still, we changed (bare-headed) to the #1 jib. Then, the wind started building again. Time to put the reef back in, but only temporarily since the wind is going to drop soon (right?).  At 22kts, we decided enough abuse for the #1 and switched to the #3 (bare-headed). That was good for a while, but then, the wind did drop and we switched back to the #1.

With the Easterly wind, the waves were pretty big and we were getting plenty of water over the deck. Then, the instruments shut off completely! It's really hard to drive in waves without a boat speed reading. I found a couple of bad connections right away, one of which was for the automatic bilge pump. That helped, since it now pumped some of the water out of the cabin, but still no instruments. Since it wasn't an easy fix, I went back to driving (without instruments) for an hour or two. Then, I went back to working on the instruments and got the wiring problem fixed.

The race was tough, a windward beat directly into the waves for most of the day, followed by some close tacking near the Connecticut shore in the night approaching Seaflower Reef. Once around the mark, we set the spinnaker and it was a gorgeous sleigh-ride all the way home.

When I got my "new" J/92 THIN MAN in 2007, I immediately set my sights on the Vineyard Race.  I didn't know the boat well enough the first year to be comfortable jumping in right away, so we devoted ourselves to sprucing her up for 2008.  Incredibly, we started off with a fleet and class win that year.  Here is how we’ve done ever since:

  • 2008 - Cornfield Point - 1st in class, 1st in fleet
  • 2010 - Cornfield Point - 1st in class, 1st in fleet (and boat speed record of 21 knots)
  • 2011 - Seaflower Reef - 1st in class, 1st in fleet
  • 2012 - Seaflower Reef - 2nd in class
  • 2013 - Vineyard Double-Handed - 4th in class
  • 2014 - Seaflower Reef - 1st in class
  • 2015 - Seaflower Reef - 1st in class
  • 2016 - Seaflower Reef - 1st in class, 1st in fleet
  • 2017 - Seaflower Reef - 5th in class
  • 2018 - Seaflower Reef - 1st in class, 1st in fleet
Every time is different, and every time is GREAT!  Thank you to everyone  on our crew, you are the ones that makes it so much fun and so memorable!”

Besides, the J/92 THIN MAN winning PHRF Class 5, Frank Conway’s J/105 RAPTOR took the bronze, Ken & Drew Hall’s J/88 NEVERMORE took 4th, and Justin Scagnelli’s J/88 ALBONDIGAS place 6th.

In addition, winning the PHRF Class 4 Doublehanded was Greg Imbruce’s J/109 JOYRIDE.

A great showing overall for the J/Tribe in the various Vineyard Race events!  Follow the SYC Vineyard Race on Facebook here   For more Vineyard Race sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.