Some Good Races for Beginners

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A pair of cruisers duel at the start of the Queen’s Cup on Lake Michigan. Photo by Tom Lynn

A pair of cruisers duel at the start of the Queen’s Cup on Lake Michigan. Photo by Tom Lynn

Although it’s the Key West Race Weeks and Volvo Ocean Races that get the lion’s share of the yachting press’s attention, low-key races abound, pretty much anywhere there’s a decent number of sailboats.

To find them, try visiting the websites of your local yacht club or PHRF committee. Another great way to get involved is by visiting your local community sailing center. They will inevitably have racing programs in addition to their basic learn-to-sail courses. Here are a few regattas to try out if you’re looking to get into racing.

Boston Harbor Islands Regatta

Now in its 10th year, this pursuit races takes place in September and sends dozens of boat of all types and sizes on a serpentine course around some of the many islands in Boston’s outer harbor.

Queens Cup

Every June more than 200 boats line up for this 76-mile overnight classic from Milwaukee to the other side of Lake Michigan. There’s even a jib-and-main (no spinnakers) cruising division, which starts a little bit early to ensure they get tothe finish in plenty of time for the party.

Figawi Race

Another pursuit race, this 44-year-old Memorial Day classic starts off Cape Cod’s Hyannis Port Jetty and finishes in Nantucket. More than 200 boats typically take part, ranging from red-hot racing machines to wooden classics and family cruisers. Be prepared to dress warmly. Nantucket Sound can get downright chilly this time of year.

Mardi Gras Race Week

Sailed on New Orleans’s Lake Ponchartrain, Mardi Gras Race Week is held just after the city’s iconic Mardi Gras celebrations, making it a great time to go enjoy the city and then enjoy some racing. Sailed out of the New Orleans Yacht Club, the event involves sailors of all stripes and is a fun regatta with a laid-back New Orleans vibe.

Around Catalina Race

The Around Catalina Race is one of the longest continuously running regattas in Southern California. Held over the Memorial Day weekend and co-sponsored by the partnership of Cabrillo Beach and Dana Point Yacht Club, the race has PHRF, double-handed and cruiser classes.

Bone Island Regatta

Run every May, the Bone Island Regatta is a three-part race that takes sailors from Sarasota, Naples or Tampa to Key West, Florida. The race is open to any single hulled, self-righting, enclosed-cabin sailing boat that holds a current valid PHRF rating and to all offshore multihulls with a current valid PHRF rating.

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