"CHINOOK holds off SAYLAVEE"
Sailboat Race Becomes Test Of Seamanship And Survival
by Alan Pollock
Based on marine forecasts issued by the National Weather Service Friday evening and early Saturday morning, organizers of the race anticipated winds building throughout the day to 15 to 20 knots, with seas reaching three to five feet in occasional rain. But at around , an hour after the boats started the course, the weather changed abruptly.
In the morning, the weather was relatively mild, Coast Guard Senior Chief Stephen Lutjen said.
“But then all of a sudden, it went from calm to 40-knot gusts of wind. In an hour it went from two-foot seas to eight-foot seas.”
Aboard the committee boat, race director Joseph McParland of Allen Harbor Yacht Club and fellow organizer Robert Moline started the race at Five of the 16 boats on the scratch sheet had opted not to race. The committee boat then came back to the harbor to get some coffee, returning to the race finish line at around
“By then, the winds had turned around from the north,” he said. At 2:06 p.m., the weather service issued a special marine warning for Nantucket Sound and adjacent waters, warning of a strong line of showers and thunderstorms moving northeast at 50 miles an hour. With the committee boat dragging its anchor and unable to hold its position, McParland made a radio announcement at around 3 or 3:15 p.m. calling off the race, but there was no response from any of the 11 boats.
Harwich Harbormaster Thomas
Leach was sailing in the race in his boat, the J/24 Spitfire, when the
squall moved in. He said he
and the other sailors knew the competition was over, and the goal was to
get to port safely. Leach and
his crew let the northeast winds push them toward
Other boats, like the
Dauntless and Warrior II, started their engines and made for
“I knew if they just bowed into the sea, they’d be able to survive eight-foot seas,” he said.
But four of the racing boats were Marshal 22 catboats, traveling a shorter course in Nantucket Sound. In a boat of this size, Leach said, looking up at eight- or 10-foot seas would be like looking up at the waves in the movie “The Perfect Storm.”
Two of the catboats, the
Lulu and the Pumpkin, made it back to port by themselves.
A third, the Cait’s Cat, skippered by Rick Farrenkopf, radioed
for help when it began taking on water.
Heinz Proft and two members of the Harwich Fire Department began
searching for the boat, which was placed in tow by a passing trawler and
McParland blamed the heavy rain for disrupting VHF radio communications, which might account for why the sailboats did not immediately communicate their positions to the committee boat, he said.
The last boat to be accounted for was the catboat Zephyr, with a crew of three men aboard. While all three are experienced sailors—and one is a former Coast Guardsman—they are all older than 70 years of age.
With that boat now five
hours overdue, and with darkness moving in, the Harwich harbormaster’s
office alerted the Coast Guard. Two
rescue boats were dispatched from Station Chatham and an HH-60 helicopter
took off from Air Station Cape Cod, starting an hour-long search for the
tiny boat. About an hour
later, the harbormaster received a call from the wife of Bob Chase, the
Zephyr’s captain, saying her husband had left a message that he and the
boat were safely in
“I suspect it would’ve torn their sails if they’d had them up,” Lutjen said. That the three men made it safely to shore testifies to their seamanship, he added.
No one was hurt in the race, McParland said.
“We’re happy everyone was safe, and sorry they couldn’t finish,” he said. “We will, of course, run [the race] again next year.”
CLUB CAR an S2 7.9, aka CAMPAIGN (former owners Tom Duggan, Will Holden), aka ZEPHYR (former owner Betty Blank) is now in the hands of Barry Bessette and is being renovated for the racing season at BB's Auto in Harwich Port. If you are a sailor, stop by and see how this boat is shaping up for the 2005 PHRF season. Beyond the Harwich Port series, races scheduled for CLUB CAR include the 2005 NOODS in April (Annapolis), Figawi and the 150th NYYC Regatta at Newport.
Neil Tomkinson reports that CHINOOK has been inside all winter and is completely rewired and almost ready for launching with a complete new bottom, she should be hot in 2005. Look out!
Peter Soule's SAYLAVEE has been repaired after the big crunch last year that took him out of the season. The boat is as good as ever and Pete is none the worse for the wear.
Tom Burrow's WARRIOR 2 came in 4th place at Key West Race Week (held January 17-21, 2005). Nice job Tom!
Tony Prizzi is still th PHRF rater for our area. Take time now to re-apply for your 2005 rating.
Webpage last updated 03/08/05