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Racing around Martha’s Vineyard

Published on July 7th, 2014

The Edgartown Yacht Club’s ‘Round-the-Island Race, coming up July 26 on Martha’s Vineyard, has a storied past that begins in 1938 when the club’s Commodore E. Jared Bliss dedicated the Venona Trophy as a top prize.

The trophy was named after his ocean racing yacht that won the Bermuda Race in 1908, and since then, many similarly famous boats and decorated sailors have gone on to win the Venona Trophy, presented each year to the yacht in the spinnaker divisions that turns in the best overall corrected time.

Last year, a total of 62 teams (in IRC, Double-Handed, PHRF Spinnaker and Non-Spinnaker Divisions) met breezes of 25 knots plus during the 54.7 nautical mile circumnavigation of Martha’s Vineyard, and no one enjoyed it more than Doug Curtiss’s (S. Dartmouth, Mass.) team aboard the J/111 Wicked 2.0, which has been a regular at the race since 2008.

“Not only did we secure a first place in PHRF A Class by three minutes (corrected time) in this six-hour race but also we went toe-to-toe with a One Design 35 for most of the day,” said Curtiss in his recap of last year’s race. “And did I mention some great sailing with gusts to 30 knots and a top speed of 18.6 knots for Wicked 2.0?”

This year’s ‘Round-the-Island Race is tracking to top last year’s fleet size. “There’s a long tradition in this race,” said Curtiss, after signing up again for this year, “and a high caliber of competitors, so it’s just an honor to compete. You get every kind of condition—usually a heavy tide going out past Chappaquiddick on the east side of the island and a long beat to windward on the south side of the island to Gay Head. Then you get a nice long spinnaker run down Vineyard Sound on a southwesterly prevailing wind. There are a lot of tactics and calculations about tides and winds; you deal with a lot of variables, so it’s just a very exciting race.”

The largest division last year (22 entries) was for PHRF Non-Spinnaker, and for that there is a prestigious trophy as well: the Upbeat Cup, for best overall finish. In 2011, Commodore Owen C. Smith (Weston, Conn.) donated this cup, named after his yacht that had done this race more often than any other boat, always in non-spinnaker division. (Smith switched to Spinnaker Division in 2013 and has registered to race in that class again for 2014 with his J/28 Resurgo.)

Other trophies awarded for the race are the Concord Cup (first yacht to finish), named after the first recorded sailboat to sail around Martha’s Vineyard; the Ocean Race Trophy (best finish in each division by a yacht entered by an Edgartown Yacht Club member); the Cook Award (best finish among Service Academy yachts); and the Team Award (best corrected time of a three-yacht team from a given yacht club or Service Academies with entries in more than one division).

Saturday’s ‘Round-the-Island Race is scored separately from two preceding days of Big Boat Buoy Races over Thursday and Friday, July 24 and 25, and together, the two segments comprise the 2014 Edgartown Yacht Club’s Edgartown Race Weekend.

Edgartown’s Race Weekend promotes fun, competitive racing for boats 28 feet and longer in IRC, Double-Handed, and PHRF Spinnaker and Non-Spinnaker Divisions. The Big Boat Buoy Races are sanctioned as part of the prestigious U.S. IRC Gulf Stream Series, and the ‘Round-the-Island Race is part of the New England Lighthouse Series for PHRF yachts.

Registration deadline for the Big Boat Buoy Races is July 23; no fee required. For more information, go to


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