For all that the pandemic turned the world upside down, the summer of 2020 proved to be a surprisingly good one for sailing. Sales of boats—both new and used—went through the roof, and sailors everywhere found ways of getting out on the water, either alone or with friends and family as part of their personal “bubble.” One kind of sailing, though, that didn’t fare so well was racing. Granted, local sailors did their best to find alternatives. But with the exception of the America’s Cup and Vendée Globe, major regattas everywhere had to be put on hold—which only served to make it that much more fun being able to compete again in 2021.
Hosted by the Cleveland Yacht Club and held on the unpredictable, occasionally tempestuous waters of Lake Erie, this year’s Thistle National Championship regatta also served as the class’s 75th-anniversary celebration. Designed by Sandy Douglass, more than 4,000 boats have gone down the ways since the first Thistle set sail in 1945. In addition to providing great racing aboard a great little boat, the Thistle class is renowned for attracting some of the friendliest, most welcoming sailors around. No great surprise, it looks like they had a pretty good time at this year’s nationals. For more on the regatta, visit thistlenationals2020.com.
An Epic Fastnet
There’s something about the Fastnet Race that inevitably seems bigger than life, and this year’s race was arguably one of the biggest ever, with 337 boats from 24 nations showing up to take part. Then, of course, there were the conditions at the start: a brutally lumpy Solent and winds of 30 knots or more on the nose, sufficient to knock out such veteran campaigns as Giovanni Soldini’s MOD70 Maserati. Multihull line honors for this year’s race (which finished in Cherbourg, France, as opposed to Plymouth, England, as in years past) went to the Ultime Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. Monohull honors went to the ClubSwan 125 Skorpios. Overall winner was the JPK 11.80 Sunrise. For more on the race, go to rolexfastnetrace.com
Given the restrictions on international travel, offshore races crossing national boundaries have been especially problematic. Organizers of the biennial Marblehead-to-Halifax race, however, were not to be denied. With the regular route off the table, the Boston Yacht Club set up an all-new event, the Michael A. Mentuck Memorial Race, which follows an out-and-back course between Marblehead and Maine. (A companion race in Canada had to be cancelled.) According the Boston YC, the new race will continue to be run on the off years between Marblehead-Halifax races. Here’s to a great new East Coast tradition! For details, visit marbleheadtohalifax.com.
St. Thomas Invitational Regatta
Regattas in the United States were not the only ones affected by the pandemic. Things shut down in the Caribbean as well, making it all the more refreshing to see things getting back on track with the running of the second annual St. Thomas Yacht Club Invitational Regatta this past May. Eight teams took part in no less than 16 races aboard the club’s distinctive IC-24 one-designs. Although crew size was limited to just three members, which in turn meant only being able to race jib-and-main, it’s safe to say the sailing conditions were as spectacular as ever in this warm and windy part of the world. For more on the event, visit stthomassailingcenter.com.
Friendship Sloop 60th Annual Regatta
Of course, there’s more to sailboat racing than just locking horns out on the water. There’s also the fun of the boats themselves. Case in point: the Friendship Sloop Society and its annual Homecoming Regatta, which marked its 60th anniversary this summer on the waters off Rockland, Maine. This year’s event included three days of racing and a parade of sail. Equally important was the chance to renew the many friendships that exist within this historic class, in which it’s not unusual for the drop-dead gorgeous boats to be passed down through multiple generations. For the latest on the Friendship Sloop Society, visit fss.org.
The Return of Beer-can Racing!
Of course, for every epic offshore event or bleeding-edge professional regatta, there are hundreds of “beer can” races taking place mid-week on pretty much any body of water you can imagine providing thousands of amateur sailors with perhaps the best fun of all. To their credit, the yacht clubs, regional fleets and other sailing organizations of the world did their best to keep their members busy. But isn’t it nice being able to enjoy something approaching “normal” again? Here we see the Wayzata Yacht Club fleet doing its thing out on the crystal-clear waters of Minnesota’s Lake Minnetonka. Kudos to all the skippers, crews and race committees out there that never gave up hope!
Dutch Shoe Marathon
There are plenty of distance races out there, but there’s only one Dutch Shoe Marathon. Although put on hold in 2020, the race, hosted by the San Diego and Coronado yacht clubs, returned with a vengeance in 2021, with nearly 200 juniors, seniors and family teams parading across San Diego Bay aboard a fleet 8ft-long Sabot dinghies painted pretty much every color you can imagine. This year’s event represented the 48th running of the regatta, which has to be one of the most fun events in all of sailing. Here’s to another 48 years of racing aboard these great little boats. For more on the event, visit sdyc.org/dutchshoe.
Governor’s Cup Youth Match-racing
The America’s Cup wasn’t the only major match-racing event that took place this past year. Picking up where it left off after a 12-month hiatus, the 54th Governor’s Cup International Youth Match Racing Championship was also back on the docket, with teams from Europe and yacht clubs across the United States mixing things up on the waters off California’s Balboa Yacht Club this past summer. A West Coast tradition since the late ‘60s, not to mention a breeding ground for tomorrow’s top talent, it was great to see the kids back in action. For details, visit govcupracing.com.
This past summer also saw the return of the annual Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac Island, better known to sailors simply as the “Chicago Mac.” Like many other races, the approximately 333-mile marathon up Lake Michigan was cancelled in 2020, and despite slow conditions, sailors were clearly thrilled to be back, saying since they didn’t get to race last year they had to make up for it this time around by spending that much more time on the water. Not only did the 2021 race draw an impressive 231 boats, but due to the tactical challenges and shifty conditions, plenty of newcomers found themselves making it to the podium this time as well. For details, visit cycracetomackinac.com.
As was the case with international ocean races like the Marblehead-Halifax and Newport-Bermuda, major one-design events also felt the pinch this past year as a result of all the travelling required. That all changed, though, in 2021 with one-design racing back track; and nothing says one-design racing like the ever-prolific J/70 class! In all, more than 60 teams from 11 different countries descended on the California Yacht Club in Marina Del Rey, California, for this year’s World Championship Regatta. From the looks of things, it’s a safe bet to say it felt good to be back. For more information, visit 2021j70worlds.com.
NYYC Annual Regatta
North America’s oldest regatta has been running nearly continuously since 1846, and even the pandemic could only push the 2020 event back from June to October. This year the 167th edition was back on schedule and included the usual mix of ORC, PHRF and one-design classes, plus classic yachts and multihulls. In all, the fleet enjoyed three busy days of racing in Newport, Rhode Island—around Conanicut Island on Friday followed by buoy racing over the weekend. Post-race events were held, as usual, at the club’s resplendent Harbour Court facility. However, the number of guests was limited, in the interest of safety, with the crews taking turns attending depending on the evening. For complete results, visit nyyc.org.
Catalina 22 National Championship
Yet another class celebrating its anniversary in 2021 was the Catalina 22 class, marking its 50th. Hosted by the Pensacola Yacht Club in Pensacola, Florida, the event saw two dozen of the boats and their crews assemble to sail and socialize in the Panhandle. Another one of those classes known for the warmth and friendliness of its members, from the looks of things they’re also darn good sailors, more than up to the challenge of handling a hat-full of wind. For details, visit catalina22.org or pensacolayachtclub.org.
Formally known as the Transpacific Yacht Race, this biennial event is a bucket list item that attracts boats from around the world with the promise of exhilarating “sleigh rides” across the Pacific. The start takes place off San Pedro, California, with the fleet finishing 2,225 miles later off Hawaii’s Diamond Head (pictured above). Though there were no in-person award ceremonies this year, there were still plenty of noteworthy performances, which the Transpac celebrates with a number of different trophies, including those for celestial/traditional navigation and all-amateur crews. For details, visit transpacyc.com.