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One race, One night, One lasting memory

Published on May 4th, 2021

The 2021 Edlu Race will start on May 8, taking nearly 60 entrants on a 32nm course in Western Long Island Sound. This will be the 66th edition, though it once was an overnight race, and Quentin Warren shares a story from the early 1980s when hall of famer Harry Anderson gave a group of boys a boat to seek glory.

“Chute up, chute up, chute up,” somebody whispered at the top of his lungs. “C’mon, hoist!” The stillness of the night was overpowering, the silence around us intense. I looked through the fog in the general direction of the mast and saw an outline that had to be Bill, his hands clenched firmly around a waiting halyard.

Like a machine he went into action, pulling six-foot clumps of line from the spar as Dave tailed behind him and broke the infernal quiet with the spinning of his winch. From a bag snapped to the rail outboard of the jib, a ghostlike form lurched skyward with that unmistakable whoosh you hear when crisp nylon drags over slippery Mylar.

Geoff threw the mainsheet off, crept from the cockpit and pushed the boom out, gooseneck creaking as the vang came on. Jim grabbed the genoa and corralled it to the deck. A couple of nudges on the spinnaker sheet and all of a sudden that trusty half-ounce kite of ours found the only zephyr of air in the tri-state area; there was the faintest little phlwaap… Yes! We had a chute.

The speedo on the NY40 Taniwha said zero zero zero. But that didn’t matter. We had a chute.

Long Island Sound in mid-May. You either love it or you hate it. We’d been hating it for most of the evening, but now things were looking up as the sail filled.

The annual Edlu Race is a cold, wet, foggy, interminably slow 121-mile triangle down the Sound and back. We’d turned the last mark at Mattituck off the Long Island shore. It was the middle of the night and we were headed home.

Concentrate, gang, concentrate. As long as we had a chute, we had drive. Eight pairs of eyes stared blankly into the sail’s big black gut, and every time the luff curled our hearts raced. Given the light air we’d stripped the heavy sheets and tied in their place the lightest things we had.

Albert played it like a fly fisher as Jamie at the helm kept whatever water he could flowing over the rudder.

Uh oh. Out of the murky blackness beyond our port hip a form appeared. Another boat. A competitor. Gaining on us! We couldn’t tell who it was, but we did know this: They were going faster than we were and it wouldn’t be long before they’d be sliding on through to leeward. Pressure, pressure, pressure. Keep the chute, it’s our only chance.

The attack was relentless. Like eight little terriers our heads swung in unison—the chute, the fellow on our hip, the chute, the boat on our hip. Yet they kept coming. Closer, closer, in total silence. As the boat neared it fully materialized out of the gloom and to our utter dismay we realized it was bareheaded—no spinnaker, no jib, just a mainsail, and an over-trimmed mainsail at that.

But still they gained. No sound, no engine. Who was this, anyway?

We pulled together in collective frustration and made one last desperate attempt to stave off the freight train now closing the gap fast. We put every ounce of good karma we had into that beautiful spinnaker set so serenely above our bow.

And as it billowed with the faintest breath of soggy Long Island Sound air, such a glorious thing, I shone a flashlight at our haughty nemesis slipping by to leeward. I couldn’t help but notice how sweetly she lay to her anchor in the swiftly flowing ebb that ushered us backward into the night.

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