Focus on the format to promote fun

Published on July 23rd, 2020

The 2020 sailing season has brought together two realities: simple race formats encourage participation, and simple race formats can be executed during the COVID-19 crisis.

This year the Huguenot Yacht Club (New Rochelle, NY) regatta committee worked with Larchmont Yacht Club (Larchmont, NY) to combine their Expressly for Fun Race with Larchmont Race Week so that Huguenot’s signature regatta could grow stronger.

Adam Loory shares the DNA of this purposely casual race/cruise event:

Expressly for Fun was started in 2001, and it was designed for a handful of reasons by Mort Weintraub and myself (two Express 37 owners).

We wanted to provide a venue that was more laid back than windward-leeward racing. The idea was to resemble the port-to-port races that both Mort and I sailed on Lake Michigan. Those races had no turning marks, which meant boats don’t need full crews for fast-paced sail changes.

Also, those races ended in towns far from home, which meant that people stayed for the party and then slept on their boats. The next day everyone woke up and raced back across the lake. Those races also got 100-percent participation for the post-race party.

We added the pursuit start to attract less experienced racers and cruisers who never race. Most inexperienced racers are afraid of close-quarter maneuvering, and the starting line is a funnel that pushes boats together. With the pursuit start, each boat has the starting line to themselves as long as there is no other boat with the same rating.

Plus, with the ratings applied at the start, knowing how you are doing is simple; if you are ahead of a boat you are beating them. The order of finish is the final result.

Huguenot ran this regatta for nearly 20 years and it was always open to boats from other clubs, but as time went on, participation fell. So, we decided to try something new. Instead of racing to Northport or Stamford, we joined forces with Larchmont Race Week which had been declining in cruising boat participation. The new regatta’s name became Expressly for Fun at Larchmont Race Week.

Our part of the regatta was sailed on the first of their two weekends. A spinnaker and a non-spinnaker division were offered and numbers increased. While only four HYC boats participated, there were 10 boats in the spinnaker class and eight boats in the non-spinnaker class. This was a big increase for Larchmont and Expressly for Fun. If it were not for the COVID-19 crisis, more boats would have participated.

Instead of a port-to-port race this year, one race a day was sailed with our signature pursuit start format, sailing around 2-3 government marks on courses that took 2-3 hours to complete. We look forward to working with Larchmont YC to improve participation, especially by HYC members, and to develop the social side of the race in years to come.

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