Creating Interest by Breaking Tradition

Published on July 31st, 2017

When it comes to creating awareness of the sport, it is particularly brilliant for offshore races to start within easy view of land. The adventure element of these distance competitions easily captures the imagination of the non-sailor, and tends to gain mainstream media attention as a result. Starting them in front of this audience is simply smart business.

The 628 nm Sydney Hobart Race is a prominent example, as no regular annual yachting event in the world attracts such huge media coverage than does the start on Sydney Harbour. Closer to home, the 635 nm Newport Bermuda Race starts in the mouth of Narragansett Bay, drawing crowds to Castle Hill.

And now we have a new convert as for the first time, the 41st Annual Around Long Island Regatta started on July 27 in the shadows of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor with the Manhattan skyline as the backdrop.

A year ago, Regatta Chairmen, Jim Aikman and Doug Wefer, proposed the start move from 2 miles off of Rockaway Point, NY in the Atlantic Ocean to this new “viewable” location in New York Harbor. The wheels started in motion and the plan came together when 65 boats started just northeast of Ellis Island in a modest southerly headed for the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

It was spectacular – complete with a FDNY fireboat showering the fleet with a water cannons sendoff and the Manhattan Yacht Club’s Honorable William Wall platform providing the opportunity for spectators to view the start – close up.

It was a perfect addition to the 205 nm race that always features many different elements – ocean sailing, summer Long Island Sound conditions and the full gamet of wind strengths. Now navigating the challenging New York Harbor was added.

After New York Harbor, the fleet proceeded down the Long Island south shore until the seabreeze died on that first night. It was tough going all the way into Long Island Sound when a northeasterly from a low pressure system got the entire fleet home in less than 18 hours – a record minimum for the first to last finisher.

At the awards event, the organizing committee got so much positive feedback to the start move that the plan is to continue to start in New York Harbor in future years.

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