Sailboat racing and social distancing

Published on May 15th, 2020

Over the years, racing on Long Island Sound has been very popular in western Connecticut. The competition is typically casual, particularly mid-week evening racing. And as important as the racing is, for many, the social aspect is equally critical. Following the racing, the Greenwich area clubs organize post-race gatherings so competitors can share stories of triumph and defeat.

Yet in the age of COVID-19, activities such as sailing have had to be curtailed, but With restrictions starting to loosen, it is appropriate to ask if competitive sailing can be held in a way that does not jeopardize the community. Indian Harbor Yacht Club (IHYC) has responded by creating the Captain Islands Challenge.

This event is unique in that instead of racing against other boats on the same course at the same time, competitors race against the clock around a fixed course. This makes the competition more akin to a time trial. Competitors pick when to race. All they need is a boat and a watch.

The series consists of three races starting in mid-June and ending in late-September. Racing dates are chosen by the sailor subject to certain restrictions. Competitors also choose whether to race in the double-handed class or fully crewed class subject to any social distancing rules. Both classes are main and jib only – spinnakers are prohibited.

The course has a fixed starting and finishing location and the race is around Captain Islands (twice in one direction, once in the opposite direction). Boats record how long it took them and report that time to IHYC. The club then takes those times and adjusts them for each boat’s handicap and publishes the results. At the end of the season, each boat’s times are summed and the boats with the lowest handicap-adjusted times from each class are the winners.

IHYC will monitor official health and governmental regulations and guidelines and will not hesitate to suspend or cancel the series if conditions warrant. In the meantime, the Captain Islands Challenge offers the opportunity to get on the water and sail with a purpose.

Check Indian Harbor’s website ( for updates. Contact for more information.

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