Relaxed Racing Proves Popular

Published on May 30th, 2017

A pursuit race from Hyannis to Nantucket in Massachusetts, which annually attracts immense participation, got Norman Henry Martin thinking about what it is that attracts people.


We participated in the 2017 Figawi on May 27 along with over 200 other boats. Seems like a pretty big fleet. As we drifted along I thought about what might generate such numbers. How does a race for amateurs grow while an event for hot boats like Key West Race Week decline? That might just be the answer.

There are lots of amateurs ready to have a fun sail bracketed by an entertaining pre- and post-race schedule. Do aggressive programs drive out the casual programs? Maybe? I suppose if we had the van deliver crew gear and delivery equipment to Nantucket we’d have a lighter boat and be a little faster. I also suppose we’d have spent a lot more money for not any more fun.

After the race we talked with some of the competitors, and it seemed that no one raced to win and everyone raced for fun. A clue there? The event costs about a grand; it had better be good fun sailing at the very least.

Many “new to racing” yachts participated, as evidenced by the questions asked the race committee. The organizers were nice to provice support which helps the beginners and doesn’t seem to otherwise influence the race.

The post-race activity is chaotic as weekending millennials in tight jeans or short skirts mix with racers in foul weather gear. I think that sort of hectic mix helps boost the fun factor. (We didn’t go to the tent and I should have scalped my wrist bands.)

This was our first Figawi on the Aphrodite 101, Averisera, which carries a 141 rating – hardly a rocket these days. We finished fourth in Division D, behind the top boats which were local and better knew the course. Second and third place finishers called the big shift and we didn’t.

The winner, a Pearson 32 from our era, started ten minutes ahead of us and sailed away down the rhumb line. They never sailed into “the hole.” We sure did. Bummer, welcome to distance racing. See you around.

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