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Sailors Back on the Water

Thu, 06/18/2020 - 12:36

Add sailing to the short list of competitive outdoor sports, including golf and tennis, that have made comebacks in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown.

A month later than usual, the Breakwater Yacht Club's Wednesday evening Summer Series of large boat races got underway in Shelter Island Sound on June 3, windward-leeward practice runs that attracted four entrants - three J/70s and Caminos, Don Filippelli's 36-foot J/109 out of the Devon Yacht Club in Amagansett, a boat that has a North American championship to its credit.

Gordon Ryan, the Sag Harbor club's principal race officer, who, with his wife, Dianne, sets up the courses, said of the June 3 races in an emailed report that "there were six starts, two general recalls [requiring restarts], and one collision," resulting from maneuvering as boats approached the starting line in the night's second race.
"Oh my God, it's very competitive," Ryan said when asked if the sailors weren't all that more keen having been cooped up for so long. "Two collided this past week."

A boat that fouls another boat or one that hits a buoy, Ryan added, can atone if it makes "360-degree penalty spins."

The June 10 fleet of 11 yachts "was nearly triple the size of the first week's. . . . Three races were held, two were up and back, the third was straight to the breakwater."

There was "tight action to the finish" in the finale, Gossip crossing the line first, with Big Boat and Caminos following "three seconds apart."

Ryan said that this week's races "will probably feature some separate division starts, a reference presumably to the growing number of J70s, "a popular one-design sportboat," according to the J/Boats website, easily transportable, "exciting yet forgiving."

The Sag Harbor Village Board had recently given the club its imprimatur, "provided," said Marty Knab, a club race officer, "that C.D.C. guidelines were followed and that there were to be no after-parties."

Crews were limited, said Knab, to three to five, faces were protected, and gloves were worn.

"Everybody's ecstatic to be out on the water again, and to see the other boats," he said. There were also spectator boats at the June 10 races, including Daybreak, May, and Jeff Briggs's Formula 23.

Chris DiSunno, an architect and past commodore who has been racing a Beneteau 41 since 1996, said that, regretfully, the club had to cancel its Sag Harbor Cup regatta, which is usually held around now, the season's "first regatta for all the clubs."

As for the Wednesday evening races, "the crews are smaller than normal - I raced the other night with my wife, Afton, and our son, Dylan."

"So far, so good," he said, when it came to following Centers for Disease Control guidelines. "We wear gaiters and gloves, the clubhouse is closed, there are no parties. . . ."

But there will be a sailing school for youngsters at the end of the month, run by the club's sailing director, Sean Elliott.

"That's what you should be writing about," DiSunno said. "There are scholarships for kids. The Wednesday races are fun, but what's really great is to be able to introduce people to sailing - it's a great confidence booster for kids."

Elliott recently sent out an email in which he welcomed “the state’s decision to permit low-risk outdoor camps this summer.” A limit would be put on the overall size of the program, he said, and on the number of sailing students per instructor.

He added that an increasing focus would be put on one-person boats, though there would be multiperson boats for siblings, and “for siblings or others whose parents agree that they may sail together as a 'quaranteam.' " Moreover, masks or gaiters would be required while on the dock, a touchless thermometer would be used at entry, and junior sailors would be encouraged to provide their own life jackets.

"We have also begun offering private sailing lessons for adults and children on our fleet of dinghies and keelboats," Elliott said.

Breakwater's smaller boats, Sunfish and JY15s, have begun racing too. A fleet of about a half-dozen were seen near the breakwater Sunday afternoon. 

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