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September 12, 2018

West Coast Classics Back East

Two beauties with West Coast owners, Eros and Dorade, have been competing in the summer series classic yacht regattas that dot the coast from Maine to the Chesapeake Bay.

It takes a line-up and all hands to raise sails on Eros.

© 2018 Martha Blanchfield

Eros, a 115-ft William McKeek design, has been in the region since mid-June following a season in the Caribbean. She’s participated in Nantucket Race Week (chartered by a group of racers who sailed her last year), the Opera House Cup, the Herreshoff Regatta (crewed by staff from local Planet Fitness clubs) and the Newport Classic. Co-owner Camera Riddell cites the competition to be addictive and thoroughly enjoys the camaraderie. “It is thrilling to race aside so many incredible and beautiful classic yachts. Each sailor has incredible stories to share about their boat and experiences. Being in New England, which is so full of history, is wonderful.”

Crewmembers Aimee Hayes O’Neil and Erik Thomas Samuels ready the fisherman sail, with Columbia in the background.

© Martha Blanchfield

This is the second New England summer season for Eros, whose crew recently completed three days of racing at Panerai Bristol and Newport venues on August 24-26. Riddell smiles when talking about beating the competition, the 141-ft Gloucester fishing schooner replica Columbia, over the start line. But he admits that difficulties soon befell Eros when the fisherman tangled in the antennas aloft and an ensuing course adjustment was required. Sunday saw challenges for both vessels. Roughly 10 minutes pre-race, Columbia radioed in with propulsion and steering setbacks, but her crew worked through things and hit the start line on time. “Eros had her own surprises,” notes Riddell. “With less than three minutes to the gun, a splice in a new halyard parted and our main staysail fell to the deck. We quickly put a man up the rig to re-run the halyard, which resulted in a start delay of roughly two minutes. Nonetheless, we sailed a great race. It’s always an adventure getting 190 tons of 1939 wood and iron moving at 10-12 knots. Because of her size we can comfortably race with 25 people onboard, which makes for an exciting, challenging team-building experience.”

Mate Erik Thomas Samuels winches in the headsail as guests stand at the ready to take over if need be.

© Martha Blanchfield

Eros competed in the Vintage Grand Classic/non-spinnaker division, earning a second-place finish for the weekend’s set of events. In October, Eros will head to a Massachusetts boatyard for a few weeks of routine maintenance before setting sail for another season in the Caribbean.

On a far less beamy boat, San Francisco residents Pam Rorke Levy and Matt Brooks continue to add wins to the regatta legacy of Dorade, perpetuating a tradition started shortly after Olin and Rod Stephens launched the boat in 1930. In New England waters this summer, Rorke Levy skippered Dorade in the Onion Patch Series (Newport-Bermuda Race, NYYC Annual Regatta and Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Anniversary Regatta), handily winning the St. David’s Lighthouse division.

Dorade (front) at the start of the Newport-Bermuda Race. She placed fourth in the St. David’s Lighthouse Division.

© 2018 Billy Black

The crew has just wrapped an intense month, with back-to-back regattas of two days each, the first being the Herreshoff Marine Museum’s Panerai Herreshoff Classic Yacht Regatta in Bristol, Rhode Island, on August 23-24, which began with a feeder race from Newport to Bristol. “This is a very collegial group — more of a rally than a race — as anyone involved with classic boats feels a special kind of kinship,” said Brooks. "We compete to win, each of us, but we’re also happy to see our competitors out on the water. There’s a tremendous amount of mutual respect for the effort that goes into keeping each boat in racing form." Competing in the Vintage Corinthian Classics/spinnaker division, Dorade placed third.

Heading to the ocean on Dorade in the Newport-Bermuda Race. Yawl-rigged with a narrow beam and sharp ends, she is 52 feet long.

© 2018 Billy Black

The second regatta was hosted by the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport on August 25-26. Dorade sailed beside boats from both sides of the Atlantic, including Black Watch, Siren and Sonny. “The competition at this event is much more heated, with lots of excitement at the start and at the mark roundings,” Brooks says.

Dorade was designed and built in City Island, New York. “Olin and Rod Stephens were just 20 and 21 years old at the time. They grew up in the region, racing in many of the same regattas where we compete today.” Brooks notes that the New England classics community is constantly growing, with more and more boats being restored and returned to the water. “Here, there are countless opportunities to take Dorade out on the water — from cruising the coast of Maine to day regattas in Nantucket, Marblehead and Newport.”

Hurricanes for Days

After a quiet start, the 2018 hurricane season is churning out a few nasty storms. After being drenched by Hurricane Lane a few weeks ago, the Hawaiian Islands are now bracing for Tropical Storm Olivia. The storm is ‘only’ packing winds of about 45 miles an hour, but will bring another deluge — especially to the island of Maui, where Olivia is expected to hit at any moment. We’ll give you an update of this storm, as well as news of Hurricane Florence’s landfall on the East Coast, on Friday.

Volunteering for Race Committee

Racing in the Rolex Big Boat Series begins tomorrow, and scores of volunteers will labor to make the 77-boat four-day regatta a success. Some of them have already started working behind the scenes. Although the hosting St. Francis Yacht Club has paid staff, this regatta wouldn’t happen without the efforts of the volunteers.

The W.L. Stewart crew presides over the start on one of four race courses in the 2017 Rolex Big Boat Series.


"A yacht club’s race committee is one of its most valuable assets," says Yacht Racing Assoication chairman Don Ahrens. "Because it’s difficult to build and maintain a race committee, we’d like to encourage clubs to start recruiting for volunteers now. Schedule a recruitment party or BBQ, invite current race officers and race committee members, and get the word out to club members."

We would add that volunteers can be encouraged to come from outside the club, can get hooked on the scene, and end up joining the club. Among the legion of volunteers working on the water and on shore at Rolex Big Boat Series are many members of other yacht clubs and many who do not belong to any club.

Volunteers aboard multiple RIBs, Protectors and safety boats will dot San Francisco Bay over the next four days, performing a variety of on-the-water tasks. More race committee members will work the race deck of the clubhouse or provide support in other capacities.


The YRA is planning to work with clubs to hold a set of workshops this fall and early next year for new race committee volunteers. "We will send notices about the workshops to YRA members, and the dates will also be published in Latitude 38," says Don.

San Diego Beneteau Cup

James Dilworth, owner of the local, creatively-painted Santana 22 Pip, headed to San Diego last weekend to join the Beneteau Cup. He sent us this report:

The camaraderie of the racing and sailing community makes for an affordable and fun way to see the world. Sleep aboard, chip in for sandwiches, and enjoy the beer on tap at the race deck. If you’re easy going and know which strings to pull, it shouldn’t be too hard to find rides anywhere you want to go.

Racing trim? It worked for the crew of Wild Orchid in last weekend’s Beneteau Cup in San Diego.

© James Dilworth

And now that the kids are back in school, cheap airfares abound to neighboring sailing grounds. I was able to find a return trip to San Diego, at short notice, for just $160, so that I could join some friends for a weekend of racing on San Diego Bay. In my case, an old work colleague, who was then getting into sailing, now owns a boat and sent out the invite to join her for the annual Beneteau Cup.

San Diego is home to the Navy’s Pacific Fleet, which still leaves room for the Beneteau fleet to duke it out in warm San Diego breezes.

© 2018 James Dilworth

San Francisco Bay is a world-class place to learn to sail, and knowing how to sail is a ticket to seeing the world; new places bring new experience and new sights. San Diego provided warm water, light winds, racing without PFDs, and an aircraft carrier passing right by us as we made our way to the start line.

Winning hug. Class A winners Bruce and Audrey coming to grips with their success.  

© James Dilworth

Of course, it takes a little more skill to get on a winning boat. Or in my case, luck. My ride, Wild Orchid, picked up first in class and first overall! A fine accomplishment for the owners, Bruce and Audrey, who are preparing to leave on the Baja Ha-Ha and are ultimately bound for the South Pacific. And they invited us all back for their next race, from Tahiti to Moorea.

There’s always some uncertainty in the science behind hurricane predictions, as the speed, course and strength of big, complex storms can vary from early forecasts.
On Friday, we asked our readers to send us photos and words if they happened to find themselves at the Wooden Boat Festival in Port Townsend.