Around Long Island regatta 2017

S/V INtrepid - Tartan 28

This year’s 41st annual Around Long Island Regatta began in New York Harbor for the first time in the history of the race, which made for a very scenic starting line just northeast of Ellis Island.  Despite being the most inexperienced crew aboard the smallest boat to participate among the 67 other boats, we were confident and ready for whatever Mother Nature had in store for us.

We knew that the winds in July are notoriously light and variable, but we didn’t realize how light and variable they could possibly get.  The start was set for 14:05 on Thursday, July 27, and being that we were non-spinnaker and had a higher handicap, we were the first division to start.  The wind was south at 8-10 knots and forecasted to shift southwest and build to 15-18 knots. We crossed the start a little late, but regained some ground as we tacked south towards the Verrazano Bridge.  It was exhilarating to be sailing in the Upper Bay for the first time and doing it with dozens of other finely tuned sailboats, all racing to the ocean as fast as they could.

Once we rounded Rockaway to sail east, the wind had increased to a steady SSW at 15 knots, which provided us with a fun and fast broad reach all the way to Fire Island.  We were hanging in with the fleet and had some good speed to make it to Montauk by 05:00 the next morning to catch the flood tide through The Race. Unfortunately, once we passed Fire Island at 22:00, the wind had started to drop and by midnight, it was completely gone.  We were moving with just the waves while the sails- painfully whipping back and forth with the motion of the boat- were anxiously awaiting the slightest zephyr to ease their pain.  The wretched noise of the sails flogging about would haunt us for the next 16 hours as we drifted from Moriches to Shinnecock.   We were officially stuck in ‘The Doldrums of Long Island.’

The 16-hour period spent drifting around the ocean and waiting for the wind was a testament to a team’s patience and perseverance.  It was during this time that over a quarter of the fleet retired and motored home, but that may have been due to other reasons.  There was a looming threat of heavy NE winds forecasted on the radio for the following day, so we really studied all available forecasts to determine if we would be safe to continue or if we would need to motor eight hours back to Fire Island.  We wanted to finish the race, so we took a gamble and continued drifting.

After a beautiful sunset on Friday, Poseidon rewarded our patience with 10-15 knots of east wind, which forced us to tack a few times during the night to get around Montauk Point.  We officially rounded Montauk around 05:00 on Saturday morning and continued on a beam reach towards Plum Gut, hoping that the grey skies wouldn’t darken and burst with rain.  Nearly three hours later, the winds had increased to 20-30 knots out of the northeast as we rounded Orient Point, but we were pushing against the current so we weren’t making much headway.  At one point, the water was flowing under the hull at 8.5 knots, but we were only doing 4 knots over the ground!  Once we distanced ourselves from The Race and sailed more into The Sound, the currents reduced to only 1-1.5 knots against us, but we were already way behind the rest of the fleet- some of which had already finished as we rounded Montauk.

The current against the wind swell created some exciting waves that Intrepid had never experienced before, but handled marvelously.  We were having a blast surfing down 4 to 5-foot swells on a broad reach for six hours until the tide switched and the sea state calmed down a bit- then it was smooth, fast sailing.  We had made some great progress- even with the current against us- averaging just over 7 knots the whole way from Orient to the finish in Hemstead Harbor.  After an unforgettable day of sailing, we officially finished the race at 18:17.  The cloudy sky broke and rewarded us with another beautiful sunset as we left Intrepid on a free guest mooring at Sea Cliff Yacht Club.

After over 52 hours of racing, we placed fourth in our division- narrowly missing third place by 14 minutes on corrected time. Out of the 67 boats to start the race in NYC, only 49 crossed the finish line in Sea Cliff.