Nearly 80 boats competed Saturday in the annual Whitebread regatta, a race that tests the skipper’s knowledge of local winds, tides, currents and bay bottom contours. The 28 nautical mile race, on a course that took the fleet clockwise around Shelter Island, came in shifting winds.
Trophies were handed out to winners in 12 divisions. The Suter trophy for the overall Cruising Division winner was awarded to Bellatirx from Sag Harbor Yacht Club, skippered by Joseph Gates. The trophy for the overall winner of the Spinnaker Class went to Firefly from Old Cove Yacht Club, skippered by Meredith Carroll of New Suffolk.
The celebrated Whitebread Trophy, awarded to the vessel which finished the race with the best corrected time for the entire fleet, went to Ms. Carroll and the crew of Firefly, which crushed the competition with a winning corrected time over 10 minutes ahead of all competitors. Firefly averaged a corrected speed of 4.5 knots.
Last year’s regatta, which would have been the 22nd, had to be canceled because of potentially dangerous sea conditions. It was the first time the race was canceled altogether.
On Saturday, as the leading boats tacked their way to the MOA buoy out in Gardner’s Bay, they made the turn to the south heading toward Cedar Beach with colorful spinnakers flying and enjoying an incoming tide. Rain started to approach from the south as the leaders were on a reach toward the South Ferry. As the rain filled in, the wind speed dropped. Skippers with local knowledge sought out eddies and currents which would increase their hull speed under light wind conditions. As wind velocity dissipated from west to east, those who had substantial leads became frustrated as they watched their fellow competitors start to gain on them.
The spinnaker division boats attempted to keep their spinnakers filled with air while those boats in the cruising division worked their sails to gain maximum speed. As the fleet made their way toward Jessup’s Neck, more rain arrived. The Race Committee had set a finish line in Cutchogue Harbor, but was now seeing little to no wind in the vicinity of the finishing area. The decision was made to shorten the course with the Spinnaker Division finishing at the end of Nassau Point and the Cruising Division finishing at R18 in Peconic Bay. Many competitors found themselves drifting with the current across the finish line, soaking wet and frustrated with the conditions that Mother Nature subjected them to.
The skippers and crew had spent seven hours or more strategizing the optimum course to sail under challenging and frustrating conditions.
Top photo caption: Boats faced worsening conditions as the race went on Saturday. (Credit: Celia Withers, courtesy)