Cheat sheet for northeast distance races

Published on April 12th, 2021

by Charles “Butch” Ulmer, UK Sailmakers
Unlike a year ago when everything was being cancelled, things are on the upswing and 2021 is going to give those of us who sail a chance to make up for what we lost last year. With that in mind, I’ve written a short synopsis of four great races that will help kick off this season.

Three of the races, the Edlu, Block Island and Annapolis Newport, I have sailed in for years. The fourth, the Sam Wetherell Race, is an old race but with a new, challenging course. Here are the highlights of each race:

The Edlu Race
Day race that’s a distance race
Saturday, May 8
Larchmont Yacht Club
32 NM
PHRF, ORC, Non-spinnaker, Double-handed, Plus One

The rhumb line course of the Edlu Race runs almost straight down the middle of Long Island Sound to its single turning mark off Eatons Neck. While a new sailor would probably be inclined to pick the shortest distance and sail right down the rhumb line, sailors familiar with Western Long Island Sound know that the wind usually resides on or near the shores. Which shore is always the question and picking the favored side isn’t all that obvious?

So, how can it be classified as a distance race when it’s only 32 miles long? Well, you don’t dare assume that the conditions you see at the start will prevail all the way to the mark, you don’t dare leave any sails at home, you don’t dare forget about the times of the tide changes and checking the wind conditions at the surrounding airports on an hourly basis. – Full report

Sam Wetherill Race
An old race with a new, longer course
Friday, May 21
Essex Yacht Club
ORC, PHRF, Non-Spinnaker, Double-handed, NEMA
140 NM

The 69th Annual Sam Wetherill Race with its new course will be Long Island Sound’s first distance race of the 2021 season. Playing the tides right will make the difference as you have to deal with the Race and the mouths of both Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound on the way back and then the Race again after rounding Block Island on the way home. – Full report

75th Annual Block Island Race
Friday, May 28
The Storm Trysail Club
186 NM
ORC, PHRF, Double-handed

Inaugurated in 1946, this is one of Long Island Sound’s oldest distance races. From Stamford, where the race starts, Long Island Sound gets wider and wider (North to South) to a point where off New Haven, it is 17 miles wide. The message here is that if you pick the wrong side of the Sound, you’re in a lot of trouble. Fortunately, the prevailing winds are either southerly or northerly and that will give you a pretty good idea of which side of the Sound will be best. Once out of the Sound, watch out for “Block Island Sunshine,” aka fog. – Full report

Annapolis-to-Newport Race
June 4 and 5
Annapolis Yacht Club
473 NM
ORC, PHRF, Double-handed

The prevailing wind at that time of year is south to southwest making the leg down Chesapeake Bay a beat. After the short reach out to the Chesapeake Tower, you are generally looking at a long spinnaker leg which starts as a reach and ends up as a run into Newport. Besides being a great event in its own right, the Annapolis to Newport Race is also a great training event for skippers and crews aspiring to do more offshore racing. – Full report

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