Harken Derm

Kids Conquer Keelboat Classic

Published on September 2nd, 2013

The 2013 running of the 238-mile Vineyard Race (Aug 30-Sept 1), the 79th such event which extends the length of Long Island Sound, was won this year by eight junior sailors from American Yacht Club, capturing the prestigious Vineyard Lighthouse trophy given annually to the boat with the best corrected IRC time.

The junior crew, sailing the J/122 Patriot, also won the Corinthian Challenge trophy created last year by host Stamford Yacht Club to encourage young sailors to participate. The eight junior crew members ranged in age from 12 to 17.

“I’ve never won a Vineyard Race, so this is a pretty magical moment,” said Peter Becker, head of the junior big boat program at American Y.C. who was one of two adults on the boat. “And to do it with our young sailors makes it even better.” Doug McKeige, father of one of the junior sailors aboard, was the other adult.

Patriot beat out Rambler, George David’s sleek 90-footer, on corrected time, a feat they didn’t think possible when returning to Stamford late Saturday when they spotted her heading East off New Haven. “So she was 100 miles ahead of us,” Becker said. “How do we beat that?”

“You always wonder if there’s some smaller boat that is going to finish way behind you and beat you on corrected time,” Becker added. “This weekend, we were that little boat.”

The crew of Patriot comes from the junior big boat program Becker heads up at American. The eight juniors – Will McKeige, Colin Alexander, Sean Walsh, Key Becker, Carina Becker, Madeline Ploch, Haley Rodriguez and Sam Papert – have spent the summer with others in the program, not only racing but also cruising and learning all about big boats. “Big boat sailing delivers all kinds of experience and offshore racing is one such experience,” Becker said.

The 2013 racing schedule started with the American Spring Series and will conclude with the Fall Series. It included the Block Island Race, Larchmont Race Week, several Stratford Shoal races, the Dorade Race and the Vineyard Race.

It was during the Block Island Race Memorial Day weekend the group thought about doing the Vineyard Race for the first time. The junior program, which includes about 35 young sailors, has a J/105 named Young American. But for the Block Island Race the group hitched a ride on Lir, a Swan 45 owned by John McNamara.

This year’s Block Island Race produced some wild conditions. “It was initiation by fire,” Becker said. “But all the kids came home with smiles on their faces. They were so cold, beat up, and still they wanted to do more. That’s when they started thinking about the Vineyard Race, but not many of them wanted to do it on a J/105. So the Vineyard Race was a bright star on their horizon and they wanted to figure out how to do this race.”

Eventually they were able to secure the use of Patriot, co-owned by former American YC Commodore Steve Furnary and Vice Commodore Peter Duncan. – Full report

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