2016 Racing Review
Every year I replay the sailing season and report on changes, improvements and overall racing status for the year. It seems every year, for the past 10 years or so, it has been in a steady decline. Unfortunately this year was no different. This year we had a new Race Chairman, Kevin Padden and an enthusiastic Regatta Committee who took on the task to help stimulate our racing program. A few of the changes included combining the dwindling Bay Shore Twilight Series with the Babylon Twilight Series as a single series by alternating starting locations each week. Planning the weekend races were also shortened up due to lack of past participation and maybe boost participation by having less races. As a whole, sailing, and especially racing is declining nationwide, with only a few hardcore racers coming out to compete in our program. Worse yet, many boats seem to have teamed up on crew so our boat turnout was even more diminished. A trend that has been going on for awhile. One of the saving graces of this year was a few new members having new boats giving it a try and a few old timers coming back to give it a go. Enough to save the season.
For the first time in many years our first race of the year, the Creepstakes was cancelled due to bad weather. Heavy fog just made it impossible. The Twilight Races had started with a light turnout and no spinnaker fleet, but that was expected. As the first series went on, the Non Spin fleet grew to 8 boats and the Spin fleet had only the Melges 24 JT9D and the J-27 Silver Bullet to compete. It would never grow from there and was eventually rolled into a one start fleet. The combined starts alternating seemed to be catching on ,but as luck would have it, the Bay Shore starts seemed to always have some bad weather making for some very tough racing, discouraging a few boats that would normally race. Heavy winds or thunderstorms always popped up on those days, but those who raced were well rewarded. Eventually, the alternation of start locations were scrapped to become all Babylon races and attendance became more consistent.
Around this time, the weekend races started up with the Babylon Cup. 9 boats gave it a go with JT9D winning the spinnaker fleet and Dark Star, skippered by Rick LaTorre beating Jerry Dunnell’s Chanson in a fairly routine race having 7 boats trying to keep up. This race had a nice after race gathering at the Babylon Yacht Club where everyone involved swapped too many stories for a hour long race. Always fun.
The next few weeks of Twilight Races seemed to be blessed with good weather and the top 4 boats or so were changing places keeping it interesting. By this time the spinnaker fleet all but disappeared, but the non-spin boats built up to 9 boats with an occasional new boat or racer coming back. During this time, the Babylon Yacht Club held its 4th of July event which had dismal turnout. The entire fleet was eclipsed by a large Narrasketuck Fleet of 7 boats which dominated the event. Shortly after that, the Cruising Club’s premier race, the West Island Race started with great sailing conditions and a harder than usual task of picking the right way to sail around. The wind direction was just right for both directions, but current had a bigger play in the outcome. This year the start included a Corinthian Class, making for a 3 division start for the first time in over 25 years. Although they sailed a shorter course, they still needed to pick the right way to sail around the course. Luckily, great wind prevailed, and the J-27 Silver Bullet won the spinnaker fleet by a good margin, but was not enough to cover Kevin Padden’s Ericson 38, Rettsie who easily won the Non Spin fleet and ultimately the overall spot. Shortly after the race, a party was held at the Bay Shore Yacht Club where the racers that attended had a nice dinner and listened to live music before awards were handed out.
As the racing season was halfway over, the weekend races started to decline in participation. The long running Commodores Cup had 2 boats compete with a relative new comer, Gary Sebouhian and his crew on Pandemonium, a C&C 29, beat Rettsie by nearly a minute. While this was going on, every week during the twilight races, nothing was slowing down the top 4 boats from changing an occasion win, but the hard to catch Chanson seemed to be taking a commanding lead in the overall points championship.
At the very end of August, the Foulke Trophy Race came with some enthusiasm with a rather different set of boats showing up to race. Harry Manko on Full Circle started the race with 2 start sequences due to an aggressive fleet and bad timing. Boats that have not been spotted doing a weekend race in years came out to race in the modified race course similar to the West Island Race. Only shorter and all going the same way. 8 boats started, including Bill Cook in his C&C 30 Merry Ann, Chase Drossos in Fannie, a C&C 27, and Amblin, Mike Milligi in his Pearson Wanderer. This race turned out to be the best of the year as it took everyone by surprise having to tack up narrow channels, cross tricky shoals, all in heavy current and a dwindling breeze. Only one boat bailed out, but the challenging race gave great stories. Everything from running aground, sailing double handed, and sailing only a few feet apart for miles were talked about at the after race party at the Babylon Yacht Club. In the end, it was Rettsie who took away the overall Foulke Trophy Cup, but it wasn’t easy.
Shortly after this race came the close of the 2016 Twilight Series. A few boats on the Bay Shore side of the racing group started up an informal Pursuit race format. They had promoted it well to get quite a following that probably had more boats racing then ever during the past 4 years out there. On the Babylon side, excitement for the series came down to the last race. Although we all knew Chanson had the season championship locked up, the final series was in a virtual tie with 3 boats with a chance to snatch a win in the final series. When the results were tallied up at the SeaBreeze Bar for the end of the year party, it took some time to get the tie breakers sorted out. It was Chanson winning the series by 1 point over Silver Bullet and Dark Star. Amazingly enough, it was only a matter of seconds that kept Chanson at the top.
The last race of the year was the Last Chance Race and was started without a Committee Boat. A line was set and horns were sounded off another boat for successful race start. Better than cancelling. Harry Manko on Full Circle managed a great win in a 4 boat fleet, beating out Silver Bullet, Kickin Back, and Eddie Anderson’s Pearson 35 Polar Bear. A great way to cap off the season. Hopefully next year we can build on these better than usual events with some better turnouts and maybe even have more fun. You need to be out there racing to find out…..