Great Schooner Race 2008

Good morning everyone. A look at the schedule will tell you that this is Race Week in the Windjammer fleet. The Great Schooner Race is unlike most races in the yachting world. No set course… the course is made up the day of the race depending on the weather. The classes are divided up by age and relative speed and size. The handicap system tries to even things out but goodness knows it is all just guess work. In the end it boils down to skill, luck, and just plain fun with guests jumping in where they see an opportunity.

Mary Day starts at the back of the pack along with the American Eagle… the only other schooner regularly in our class. The schooner Roseway was up for a visit and sailed in our class as well. The J & E Riggin, Nathaniel Bowditch, Heritage and Angelique sail in what we call the Leeward Class sailing a slightly shorter course and getting a 15 minute head start on us. The pre World War One coasting schooners, Victory Chimes, Grace Bailey, Lewis R French, Mercantile, Stephen Taber, Isaac H. Evans and Timberwind start 15 minutes ahead of them and sail and even shorter course. In the end it usually works out about even depending on how the winds hold. In the case of yesterday’s race the early bird got the worm but the second mouse got the cheese.

On the up wind leg the Leeward class really showed their stuff and were in a cluster by the time they rounded the windward mark. American Eagle luffed us up from our weather advantage shortly after the start forcing us to tack away. Not to worry. I had personally given up any hope of catching the fleet so sailed my merry way to the far side of the bay. It was there that the wind and tide gave us a boost. In most places the breeze seemed to be easing up with the last of the ebb tide but held where we were and gave us enough lift so that we had a clear weather advantage on American Eagle when we crossed tacks. The Leeward class all of a sudden started to loom a little larger but distant none the less. All we needed now was a little luck (OK… a lot of luck!).

I lost track of the Coasters whose course was several miles down wind of ours but evidently they sailed into a hole, a place with no wind whatsoever. The Leeward class rounded the weather mark and promptly sailed in to a hole as well. I was frustrated to have to sail around yet another island just to weather of their turning mark until I realized that the we might hold the wind. And sure enough we did. The extra mileage began to look like an opportunity. We sailed a very fine line of wind while their sails hung limp in the hot afternoon sun. We had just lowered one of the small boats to tow us through a brief calm (yes, under oar power as allowed by the rules) when the onshore breeze came with the turn of the tide. Away we ran on the downwind leg to the finish line. Could we catch the Coasters? No way, no how. But as they say, it ain’t over ‘tyil the big lady with horns on her hat sings the final note.

The Coasters were stuck only a ¬Ω mile from the finish in their own private calm as we whisked our way toward the finish. We managed to close the 3 mile gap in short order before hauling the wind with us. There was a very fine edge of wind close up under the Little Deer Isle shore that carried us past most of the Coasters. The Grace Bailey had clearly crossed the line under sail a good 5 minutes before us but the French and Taber lay close ahead. The perennial winner of the three master class, the Victory Chimes, had also cleared the line and won for an unprecedented 19th year in a row! The French sliced the ribbon just a minute ahead of us and the finish between the Taber and Mary Day was neck and neck. With the weather guage in hand we crossed just moments ahead of the Taber covering her in our lee. So it was not our day to be the fastest in the fleet but first in class and third two-master over the line was a fair prize in my book all things considered. The Leeward class finish was taken by Angelique who narrowly beat out the Heritage. The racing was all in all quite exciting and we loved the final lap down the Eggemmoggin Reach in company with the rest of the fleet to our evening anchorage at Wooden Boat.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

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One comment

  1. Sounds like great fun and great sailing strategy by our esteemed captain obviously much helped by the crew of able sailors (I first typed seamen and then thought no, seawomen then seagirls or seapersons, alas I could find no better PC word) and sail loving passengers.

    Well done.

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