SOUTHWEST HARBOR — Racing a sailboat, especially a gaff-rigged one, requires some wind. If there’s not much wind, you need some serious strategy.
Thirteen Friendship sloops were on the starting line Saturday for the annual Southwest Harbor Rendezvous and Race.
Scott Martin, who took over from Miff Lauriat this year as commodore of this little fleet, took a democratic approach to setting the course at the morning skippers’ meeting.
He brought along a newly hatched monarch butterfly to release, and announced the course should follow the butterfly’s flight path.
That was quickly voted down.
“A more sensible circumnavigation of Greenings Island was deemed more practical and safe,” Martin said.
“The boats were to head up Somes Sound and round the marker known as the Narrow’s Can. With the next marker being Spurling Point Gong, the fleet was split on which side to take Greenings Island.”
The local fleet, led by Alice E. and Salatia, left Greenings to port while the others decided from afar to leave Greenings to starboard.
“It soon became apparent the boats that headed to Greenings on starboard had made the right choice, for they had a steady breeze, whereas the other half of the fleet found light breezes that died out leaving them drifting in still waters,” Martin said.
Hegira, a sloop with a Massachusetts home port, led most of the race and crossed the finish line first. Surprise, skippered by Steve Keblinsky, eked out a lead for a small portion of the race but ultimately placed second. Both boats opted for a starboard approach to Greenings Island.
Four others that followed them, Gaivota, Banshee, Addy Claire and Endeavor, were successful in catching enough wind to cross the finish line as well. Three of the first four boats to cross the finish line came from the farthest away and had the least familiarity with the local waters.
The remainder of the fleet, which opted to leave Greenings to port, hadn’t planned to raft up, but they might as well have — they were jammed together in what looked like an on-the-water picnic.
“The boats being so close, captains, crew and one very well mannered dog, were able to talk and catch up as many of them are unable to see one another until this yearly event,” Martin said. “The conversations, the laughter, and the smiles were shared as if they were sitting around a coffee table, not the navigational gong they were trying desperately to round.”
Eventually, the skipper of the Alice E. blew a conch shell to officially end his role in the race. Upon the start of his engine, the remaining fleet also fired up their engines and returned to the dock.
Of course, Martin said, once the white flags were waved the wind began to pick up.
The skippers and their crew were all invited for a potluck gathering at the home of Betsey and Abe Holtzmann, who sailed the Endeavor, on the shore of Manset. Conversations continued for those heading west where the Friendship Sloop Society will again gather in Rockland from July 19-21.