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Local racers sail in global competition aboard Prospector

09/25/2016 9:00 AM |

COURTESY PHOTO Prospector, owned and operated by Shelter Island Yacht Club members, competing earlier this month in the waters off Sardinia, Italy during the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, which attracts sailors from all over the world.

Maritime history provides several examples of small places that punched above their nautical weight.

Venice, Genoa and Nantucket come to mind. Somehow, the skills and determination of those geographically small maritime powers allowed them to dominate vast oceans and control trade and industries. Their boats sailed far and wide in search of riches and glory.

Following in that tradition — without controlling world trade, yet — sailors from the Shelter Island Yacht Club (SIYC) were recently on the starting lines in places as far flung as Cowes, England, Sardinia, Italy and Newport, Rhode Island. There were no riches to be had — only expenses — but plenty of glory.

Sardinia’s Porto Cervo is one of the world’s great sailing venues. The Yacht Club Costa Smeralda hosts several of the world’s top regattas. Larry Landry, Paul McDowell, Matt Landry and Andrew Wolf of Greenport were all there for the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup earlier this month aboard their new Mills 68, Prospector, competing in the mini-maxi class.

This is a professional event and Prospector brought several aboard. The competition is that tough. The winds alternated between fluky, none at all, and plenty. The courses are challenging since the rocky outcroppings make for navigational nightmares.

This is big, big-boat sailing. Prospector sailed with a crew of 20. Some of the world’s most competitive boats and sailors are racing. The stakes are high.

Additionally, the group sailed with its own handicap — having owned Prospector for little more than a month before they set out to challenge the best of the best. In essence, the race was the shakedown. Larry summed it up by saying, “The event was a great experience. The biggest racing yachts in the world, the best sailors in the world and one of the best sailing venues in the world. Our primary objective was to learn how to sail our new yacht. The results were icing on the cake.”

Paul McDowell added, “It was some of the most challenging sailing ever.”

The Prospector team writes a great blog. Check it out at prospectorsailing.com.

We now head north to legendary Cowes, England, home to some of the most famous regattas in the world such as the Fastnet Race. Cowes is known for nasty weather and really foul tides. This month it hosted the Etchells Worlds. The most established of all yacht clubs, the Royal London Yacht Club, was the sponsor.

Three boats from Shelter Island qualified, a significant accomplishment since there were only 58 entries from the rest of the world. Jay Cross sailed his Skanky Gene. Mark Robert, Greg Hodkinson and Don Shillingburg were on board Cool Shivy, and SIYC member Scott Kaufman sailed America Jane II. Jay sailed particularly well and came in 11th place. He said, “The race was fantastic. We had a lot of rushing tides, plenty of seas inside the boat and even a pump failure.”

Greg Hodkinson agreed: “It was fabulous, but tough sailing.”

Readers may recall these boats are 30-foot one-design day sailboats. No electronics, no cabin, no seats, just pure wind in the sails of a very fast boat. For many reasons, Etchells racing  attracts some of the world’s top sailors, who often sail far larger boats but love being close to the water and the precise tactical aspects of sailing Etchells. That is why competition is so keen.

Closer to home, but in every way as competitive, is the Resolute Cup, also sailed this month sponsored by the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) and held in the waters off their Newport mansion, Harbor Court.

This invitation-only regatta is a qualifier for the Invitational Cup which is sailed on Swan 42s. The SIYC qualified with its team of four: Jay Mills, Andrew Rowson, Christian Langendal and Orient sailor, Aubrey Meyer. This regatta features sailing in its purest form. The NYYC gives you the boat and tunes the rig. So there is no advantage to having the newest boat or the freshest sails. It’s all about tactics and boat handling. Two classes are formed, Sonar (a design from 1979) and Melges 20 (a new hot boat). Competitors sail both boats on different days.

The courses were at different locations in Narragansett Bay. The commodore of the SIYC, Jamie Mills, and his wife, Maureen, went up on their boat Salute to support their son Jay, the captain of the team, and help organize the SIYC effort. Two coaches were aboard and several other Shelter Islanders, including Jeff Bresnahan, offered support and advice long distance. Once again the weather was challenging since Thursday was very windy. Friday, when I went up to watch, was less windy, and Saturday was light until late in the afternoon.

Thursday and Friday were qualifiers for the finals on Saturday and Sunday. It was a beautiful sight as our burgee flew on the NYYC yardarm signaling that our team was going on to the finals. Only the top five in each division went on or 10 out of 28.

Jay Mills summed it up for the crew when he told us, “This is much harder than last year. We are up against Olympic sailors, All-Americans and world champions. This regatta attracts the best of the best.”

Christian added, “This was the toughest sailing competition of my career.”

After four days of intense competition the SIYC team pulled it off coming in fifth place, with a fraction of a point separating them from fourth place. This really is incredible when you factor in how many clubs there are and how large some are, such as San Diego and New Orleans.

Congratulations are in order to all our sailors who are keeping our Island on the sailing map of the world.

Photo caption: Prospector, owned and operated by Shelter Island Yacht Club members, competing earlier this month in the waters off Sardinia, Italy during the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, which attracts sailors from all over the world. (Credit: courtesy photo)