Once the fog lifted, it was tight quarters along the 33rd Eggemoggin Reach Regatta starting line Saturday morning. PHOTO BY STEPHEN RAPPAPORT

Fog lifts for start of 33rd Eggemoggin Reach Regatta

BROOKLIN — For a while Saturday morning, it looked like the 33rd annual Eggemoggin Reach Regatta might not go exactly as planned. In fact, for a little while, it looked like it might not go at all.

Ninety-four boats signed up to race in what is undoubtedly the biggest race of the year for classic wooden sailboats. Divided among eight classes, the fleet ranged in size from pretty darn small — the 24-foot International 110 sloop Wild Thing — to the pretty darn big — the 82-foot schooner Ladona.

In terms of age, the senior member of the fleet, the Herreshoff-designed Bar Harbor 30 Desperate Lark was sailing in her 114th year while the newest boat, the Taylor-designed Dreadnaught, was launched just three years ago.

Long or short, new or venerable, they were all pretty much blind as they crept out of the harbor off the WoodenBoat School in pudding-thick fog as their skippers and crews searched the Reach hoping to find the starting line before the first gun, signaling the 11 a.m. start for the first three classes, sounded.

There was no rush.

No one on board Honey Badger, the classic 40-foot Matthews cruiser serving as the committee boat, could find the starting line either.

Nearly 100 classic wooden yachts were on hand for the 33rd Eggemoggin Reach Regatta Saturday morning, groping through dense fog that delayed the start of the event for 30 minutes.

Of course, the race committee knew where one end of the line was. They were standing on it and peering across the Reach toward the dinghy, completely invisible through the murk, marking the pin end of the line.

As 11 a.m. grew near, the faint breeze seemed to grow even lighter and fog seemed to thicken. Boats emerged quietly from the fog, most under power and moving slowly.

From time to time, the race committee broadcast the committee boat’s GPS position to the fleet and refused radioed requests from some of the boats — fierce to race despite the zero visibility — to divulge the GPS position of the still invisible pin.

“If we can’t see the other end of the line, we’re not going to race,” committee Chairman Richard Stetson said as he and the rest of the race committee, Bridget Qualey and Saphrona Stetson, considered whether to postpone the first start for 30 minutes or even to cancel the race altogether.

With 10 minutes to go before the warning for the first start — some 34 boats divided among three classes would come to the line — the committee opted for a 30-minute delay. With the shore of Deer Isle, let alone the pin, still invisible from the committee boat even that seemed optimistic.

And then the fog began to thin. Visibility lifted from perhaps 100 yards to a few hundred, then a quarter-mile and suddenly, about 600 yards to the southwest, the pin appeared as the breeze began to strengthen.

That did it. The first start went off without a hitch at 11:30 and by 12:20 the larger modern Spirit of Tradition boats flashed across the line, though not without some close maneuvering between Joe Weber’s Taylor 49 Dreadnaught and Richard Schotte’s Isobel as they flipped onto port tack at the committee boat and headed down the reach toward Jericho Bay.

A little more than two and a half hours later, at about 2:36, Marilee crossed the finish line off Little Babson Island.

Although the Herreshoff-designed NY 40 launched in 1926 was the first boat to finish, and won Gaff and Schooner Class honors, she was not the fastest boat in the fleet.

Marilee sailed the 16-mile course down the Reach and through Jericho Bay in just under 2 hours 46 minutes but was out of the money for the best elapsed time. That honor went to Isobel, which covered the course in just under 2 hours 22 minutes.

That wasn’t good enough for a Spirit of Tradition Class B win, though. Class honors, based on corrected time, went to the Taylor International 8-meter Pleione, skippered by her builder, Bruce Dyson. Isobel finished fourth in class — a remarkable feat considering the boat carried a 25 percent handicap penalty because of its previous wins in the ERR.

Among the other top award winners, Saphaedra (Classic C) was the first Aage Nielsen-designed boat to finish; Allure was the first Concordia yawl; Siren was the fastest Sparkman & Stephens-designed boat on corrected time, and winner of the Joel White Award for the fastest “plank-on-frame” boat on corrected time; Black Watch was the fastest S&S boat, uncorrected time; and Shanti (Classic A) was the first Alden-designed boat.

Bob Vaughan’s Bar Harbor 30 Desperate Lark, launched in 1903, was the oldest boat in the fleet.

Mashnee, Jan Rosendahl’s restored Herreshoff-designed Buzzards Bay 30, won the “most photogenic” award.

More race photos: https://ellsworthamerican.smugmug.com/The-Ellsworth-American/Events/33rd-Eggemoggin-Reach-Regatta/

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]
Stephen Rappaport

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