40th Opera House Cup Regatta Aboard Heroina

In mid-August, the island of Nantucket becomes the beehive around which competitors and spectators of Nantucket Race Week and its finale, The Opera House Cup Regatta, buzz.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

In mid-August, the island of Nantucket becomes the beehive around which competitors and spectators of Nantucket Race Week and its finale, The Opera House Cup Regatta, buzz. Boats of all sizes, from the Alerion fleet to larger classic yachts find their regular spots in the mooring field or the docks and a certain reunion ensues. Most crews come in for the full Race Week, some actually racing, all drinking, until the Cup rolls around. When I ferried in on Thursday, the 12 Meters flanked our ship, sails down, headed in for the day.

Since the island was as packed as one might imagine, I took refuge in an invitation for an evening aboard Bolero. In the cabin of the gorgeous German Frers 105 foot maxi racer, fresh caprese salad from Bartlett’s Farm was served to a few of us sailors in the most civilized of fashions. Wine and key lime pie followed in the cockpit while tourists strolled by licking ice cream cones—not a bad start to the weekend. If they knew we were telling bad humor holding tank stories, they might not have been so impressed. “Is there a race this weekend?” one passerby asked.

A race indeed.

Sponsored by Officine Panerai, the Opera House Cup, in its 40th year, is the second stop on the North American Circuit of the Panerai Classic Yachts Challenge. The Cup was the first all-wooden, single-hulled classic boat regatta on the East Coast, and while specifications have eased to allow non-wooden boats in the “Spirit of Tradition” class, the regatta carries on the appreciation of timeless vessels.

For the main event, I was lucky enough to be invited aboard Heroina, a 74-foot wooden sloop that is another German Frers design. Most sailors know Frers for his work with Nautor’s Swan and Hallberg-Rassy. But he has also designed such classic boats as Rebecca, a 138-foot yacht, and the 203-foot ketch Loa. But Heroina was not built for a company or a customer—it was built for Frers’s own use, though after 15 years of under-use, she was sold in 2009. A year ago, she was sold again to an owner who brushed off the cobwebs and finally plans to take her out as much as she deserves. Starting now, with possibly her first-ever regatta.

For the full experience and to see our downwind finish, check out Tucker Thompson’s video with commentary. Heroina can be seen at 10:23.

The first thing I noticed as I was shuttling out to Heroina, was that the mooring field was something like a pinball machine, with the mooring balls too close to accommodate the waterline of their hangers-on. As the wind shifted, boats swung dangerously close, their crews on watch.

Despite the fanfare (Brant Point looked on the verge of sinking due to the number of spectators waving us off), the 2012 Opera House Cup Regatta was without a great deal of excitement. The wind was not exactly howling and many of the smaller boats, the Alerions in particular, did not finish the 20-mile course. As I was on a larger yacht, rewarded with the distinction of “First to Finish” in fact, I can’t complain about the length of the race. But as my entire experience in yacht racing up until now has taken place in a small one-design class, I found it, dare I say a tad boring to be so far ahead of the rest of the fleet that our view switched from a direct view of horizon to island on each tack.

The excitement, for me anyway, came from being on such a gorgeous piece of woodwork. On board, the yacht looks larger than its 74 feet, and it moves as though powered from within. Heroina’s new owner was of the “present” variety, though preferred to stay anonymous. He was hiked out with the rest of us, jogging from rail to rail. The captain, Marius Swart did the talking…he and Captain America, that is. That’s right—our mascot was a toy Captain America that peeked out of the owner’s pocket and pronounced motivating speeches to lighten the mood.

Finding a spot among the international crew as Heroina plowed ahead despite the lack of wind, I enjoyed a nap on the teak deck during the last downwind leg. With no one ahead of us, and John Kerry’s W boat, Wild Horses, sneaking up from behind, the crew poled out the main in a last attempt to increase speed, but there was still enough distance left to give our competition time to catch up. In the end, with handicaps tallied, we were 15th out of 31 boats. Wild Horses indeed overtook us and took 12.

Of course, what everyone on Nantucket was really interested in were the parties over Nantucket Race Week, especially the Opera House Cup awards party on Jetties beach. The evening began with a spectacular sunset and a good time was had by all, regardless of whether or not they walked away with a new Panerai watch. Though, for the record, that honor went to the 8 meter sloop Quest.

Top photo by Cory Silken courtesy of Panerai; all other photos by Lindsey Silken

Related

01-LEAD-Vento-Solare-action-(1mb)_Stephen-Cloutier

Ida Lewis Distance Race 2021

This year’s annual Ida Lewis Distance Race on Narragansett Bay will offer something for everyone. In addition to ORC and PHRF, there will be sections for doublehanded, youth and collegiate racing. Racers will also have a choice between the event’s traditional offshore distance ...read more

01-LEAD-Lag01-oon-620---Raiatea---French-Polynesia-(12)

Internships: Run Away to Sea

Not the office type? College isn’t an option, or your degree in philosophy isn’t panning out? If a job in the marine trades sounds like your dream career but you don’t know where to start, here are three places to both get some good training and a foot in the door. Dream Yacht ...read more

Screen Shot 2021-05-12 at 9.58.55 AM

Summer Sailstice Turns 21

Summer Sailstice’s will celebrate its 21st birthday this year. This annual worldwide celebration of sailing occurs on the weekend closest to the solstice, landing on June 19th this year. Over the past two decades, the event has grown to include nearly 5,000 boats and 19,000 ...read more

e60aa842-1c3c-41da-b0ba-dfd7678479e4

The New York Yacht Club Submits a Protocol Alteration with its America’s Cup Challenge

The New York Yacht Club (NYYC) has submitted a challenge for the 37th America’s Cup to the current Defender, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) in Auckland, New Zealand. The challenge was accompanied by a draft protocol for the regatta, which would see the Cup take ...read more

01-LEAD-CCA-Antarctica2-01

Cruising: Honoring Remarkable Ocean Voyages and Seamanship

The Cruising Club of America, an organization of about 1,300 offshore sailors, has been honoring remarkable ocean voyages and seamanship with an array of prestigious awards for nearly 100 years. The club’s highest honor, the Blue Water Medal, has recognized renowned and ...read more

2.4mR's racing at the 2018 Clagett Regatta-US Para Sailing Championships credit Clagett Regatta-Andes Visual

Host for 2021 U.S. Para Sailing Championships Announced

The 2021 U.S. Para Sailing Championships will be hosted by The Clagett Regatta at Sail Newport, in Newport, R.I. on August, 24-29, 2021, according to a joint announcement from the host and US Sailing. "We have had a very long working relationship with US Sailing and look forward ...read more

Reflections-photo-CMerwarth

Cruising: Reflections of an Old Salt

I am 90 years old, dwindling in mind and body and fear living too long. Twenty years have passed since I last weighed anchor. Still, when a Carolina blue sky is polka-dotted with billowing cumulus clouds and the wind blows fair, I sorely miss raising sail and setting forth. I ...read more

DSC_0145

Waterlines: Solo Sailing

In spite of the fact I came to the sport of sailing alone and untutored, in a boat I acquired on my own, I never really aspired to become a solo sailor. It just sort of happened. All these years later, I still never explicitly plan to sail anywhere alone. I’m always happy to ...read more