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Coast to coast Memorial Day Weekend racing

by David Schmidt 28 May 16:00 BST May 28, 2019
2019 Melges 24 U.S. National Championship - Day 2 © Hannah Lee Noll

While Seattle's recent cool and wet weather hasn't been a good harbinger of spring's rapidly arriving glad tidings, Memorial Day weekend, often considered the unofficial start to the North American summer sailing season, offers plenty of contrary evidence. Better still, this evidence holds true for sailors hailing from ports as geographically distant as Stamford, Connecticut, to Tampa, Florida, to Fairhope, Alabama, to Alameda, California, to beautiful Victoria, British Columbia, and-given that the calendar is about to turn from May to June - shows zero sign of abating anytime soon.

As we look toward the summer ahead, it's important to take time to remember those who fell protecting the values and freedoms that so many of us take for granted, and whose sacrifice continues to facilitate the lives and lifestyles that we live and love.

As a former East Coaster, the Storm Trysail Club's Block Island Race was always an annual marker of spring's arrival and a time to dust off the distance-racing skills before more committing events such as the various Bermuda races or the Marblehead to Halifax Race. Yet to dismiss the Block Island Race as a mere feeder event would be missing a great and approachable regatta that typically delivers multiple races in one adventure. These segments include exiting Long Island Sound, rounding Block Island and then reentering Long Island Sound and finding the right steady pressure and tidal relief to carry one home.

En route, sailors can expect plenty of tactical curveballs, especially as they contend with The Race or Plum Gut, not to mention commercial traffic and other objective considerations. But, given that this race sails on semi-protected waters (unless an Easterly arrives) for much of its racecourse, it has long served as a perfect early-season warm up for teams ranging from modest 35-footers to the Newport maxi crowd.

Meanwhile, in the Sunshine State, sailors participated in the Tampa to Fort Meyers Race, which was hosted by the Davis Island Yacht Club. With historical roots dating back to 1946, this 100-mile coastal race is open to boats as varied as J/24s to 40-footers and multihulls, and each year competitors vie for the Navigator's Trophy, not to mention the bragging rights associated with arriving at Fort Myers Beach before the herd.

Moving westward across the Gulf Coast, Fairhope, Alabama hosted the Melges 24 U.S. National Championship. Not surprisingly, many of this class' fastest guns were in town, and Sail-World.com checked in with event organizer Zan Yoder ahead of the event (www.sail-world.com/news/217126/Zane-Yoder-on-the-2019-Melges-24-US-Nationals). Given the talent level that was assembled for this high-level event, we have complete confidence that this regatta offered the highest levels of competition aboard vessels smaller than 25 feet, LOA, anywhere in North America this weekend.

(Except possibly the Star Western Hemisphere Championship, which just wrapped up racing on the waters off of San Diego, California, and which saw the Seattle-based father and son team of Carl and Jamie Buchan earn top honors.)

Speaking of California, this weekend also saw the Spinnaker Cup Race take place on the waters of San Francisco Bay. This event, which was hosted by the Encinal Yacht Club, was part of the bigger California Offshore Week, which also includes the brand-new CA 500 race and the longer-established So Cal 300. Sail-World.com checked in with event organizer Sue Service ahead of the event (www.sail-world.com/news/217526/An-interview-with-Sue-Service), and we look forward to hearing the post-racing reports from all three of these Golden State regattas.

And finally, this Memorial Day Weekend also saw the fleets from Seattle, Vancouver, and plenty of other Pacific Northwest sailing hotspots compete in the annual Swiftsure International Yacht Race. This event features courses of different lengths (for vessels of different waterlines) and some of the prettiest optics of any racecourse in North America. Mind you, these views are often paid for in rain clouds and bone-chilling cold, and this year's contest was reportedly marked by doggedly persistent rains and frustratingly light airs.

So, irrespective of whether you made it out on the water or not this weekend, the great news is that the sailing season is now fully open for business from coast to coast, and that there's ample time left on the clocks to get in some great racing before talk turns to the other three-day weekend marking summer's opposite end.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

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