A Race Week Sailor’s Tale- Notes from the 114th


LARCHMONT– I sailed in Larchmont Race Week last weekend. I have the hat to prove it.

You’ve seen them around town for years: those fire-engine-red baseball caps with the yellow Mount Gay Rum logo. Mine says “114th Race Week 2012.”

One hundred and fourteenth! That’s some tradition! That’s from the 1800s! (I did the math…) Most likely, most of what goes on in Race Week 2012 is exactly what went on two Centuries back;  elegant yachts converge in the Sound a few leagues out from Larchmont Yacht Club to vie for boasting rights.

The skippers and crews eye each other, hoping to intimidate, maybe with a crisp new sail or a “ringer” crew member. Perhaps they remember some wrong from last year, how close they came to having their name on the cup.  Everyone watches the “committee boat” – a sort of floating office for the racing committee – for flags signifying the race start.  Meanwhile, the boats dodge each other, inches away from disastrous collision, jockeying for favorable position at the starting line. When the correct flag goes up, everyone’s off, sailing for the mark, hoping they have the right combination of brains, brawn and luck to finish the course first.

Back at the Yacht Club, lovely ladies in gauzy summer gowns float across the emerald lawn waiting for their favorites to return with honor.

So what’s different in 2012, I wondered, as I sweated bullets under the sun, bruising myself from scrambling around the foredeck, blistering my hands on the lines, trying to strike an optimum balance between adequate hydration and obedient bladder.  For starters, those racers of yore had no GPS (where’s the starting line?), no Windfinder app (where the heck is the wind?), no NOAA weather report to warn them of upcoming lightning storms.

I’ll take my quick-drying synthetic shirt over their stiff cottons any old day.  Plus, I can’t imagine a sail back to the club without Wagner blasting from the iPod.

But the rum drinks on the lawn, they’re probably just the same. Mmmmm.

Tracy Williamson is a writer–and an erstwhile sailor– living in Larchmont.

2 thoughts on “A Race Week Sailor’s Tale- Notes from the 114th

  1. Nice picture for landlubbers of what yacht racing is about. My only beef is your description of the distance from the club to the starting area – “a few leagues”. Since the definition of a league is 3 nautical miles, and the Sound is only about 5 statue miles across at Larchmont, a few leagues is either off the CT shore or in the middle of the Long Island Expressway. Picky, yeah, I know. Just go easy on the rum drinks at the Club afterward…

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