MOUNT DESERT — For sailors not engaged in the pursuit of victory or the pleasure of doing some real good while having a good time last weekend, Mount Desert Island’s Great Harbor must have seemed as busy as Interstate 295 during Portland’s rush hour.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, three different fleets — Luders 16s, International One-Designs (IODs) and cruising boats, respectively — raced in separate legs of this year’s 23rd annual Hospice Regatta of Maine.
Adding to the excitement, the Southwest Harbor chapter of the Friendship Sloop Society hosted its annual get-together and race on Saturday afternoon before the fleet of gaff-riggers headed off to Rockland for the society’s 59th annual Homecoming Rendezvous and Races, scheduled to begin Thursday, July 18.
From the perspective of the Hospice Volunteers, the weekend was a huge success.
Preliminary numbers show that, as of Monday, the event raised more than $41,500 for the organization, slightly less than last year, according to Hospice Executive Director Jody Wolford Tucker. With a final accounting to be done, that number could rise, she said.
“We are thrilled with the events this year,” Tucker said in a Monday email. “The Sunday races and post-race get-together at the fleet house were great. And, the post-race event at the MDI Community Sailing Center on Friday with the Juniors racers was very nice — again, will hope to do that again next year.”
One highlight of the regatta was a post-race get-together at the former Morris Yacht boatyard in Northeast Harbor on Saturday.
“The Rendezvous was fantastic,” Tucker said, featuring a new format that “brought in a whole new group of community guests, so we definitely will be looking to build on that format for next year.”
The weekend gave the racing sailors everything they could have asked for in terms of weather, and sometimes more.
According to reports from Northeast Harbor Fleet sailing master Fran Charles, Friday began with torrential rain and 15-20-knot breezes in the morning and when the front finally passed through at noon it took the wind away with it.
The first whiff of breeze came from the east and brought fog with it, but the race committee started a race running to Bear Island, back to Greening Island and upwind to a finish off Gilpatrick Ledge. Crews on the 11 Luders 16s could barely see the other boats when the horn signaled the start.
Despite considerable jockeying in the fog, Domino nosed out VooDoo for the win and held off the wondrously named Freight Train to your Love, Baby in third.
The second race had a bit more breeze, but the fog was even denser. The murk led Domino off on the wrong course, but in the end it didn’t matter as Domino edged Freight Train to cross the finish line first for a decisive, if foggy win in the race and the regatta.
The weather for Saturday’s IOD races could hardly have been more different — bright and sunny with a sparkling sea breeze.
With the flooding tide, it was, Charles said, “woefully obvious” that one side of the race course was favored and the boats that missed the cue fell behind at the start of the first race and could never recover.
Gambler, always at the top of the fleet, won the race and sailed well enough to finish second overall after two races, but the real story was Moewe, sailed by the instructors from MDI Community Sailing Center with Alec Fisichella on the tiller.
Though the boat had spinnaker problems in the first race, and had to send a crew member up the mast to retrieve a halyard, the boat finished a close second, right on Gambler’s transom in the first race and crunched the opposition in the day’s second race for an overall victory in the second Hospice Regatta event.
On Sunday, it was the big boats’ turn.
A “spectacular breeze” filled the harbor in late morning and, by the 1:05 p.m. start, dark clouds roiled the sky over the mountains of MDI and thunderstorms were racing across Maine toward the coast.
A very tight start had most of the eight-boat fleet on the line for a one-mile upwind leg toward Manset. Joe Weber’s Dreadnought took the lead and led the pack back to Islesford and a turn at the outer can buoy.
The boats were closely packed reaching over toward Seal Harbor and the crews were working hard to keep their big asymmetric headsails pulling in the gusty breeze.
For the final leg, most boats headed upwind on the north side of Sutton Island. Tom Rolfes in Sidewinder chose the south side of the island and popped back into view with the lead and took the eventual victory.
Sidewinder covered the 9.13-mile course in just over 1 hour 42 minutes, a full minute slower than second-place finisher Ranger, but about a minute and a half faster on corrected time.
Dreadnought had the fastest elapsed time — 1 hour 38 minutes — but couldn’t save her time after her handicap correction.
At 2 p.m., about an hour after the cruising division began its race past Sutton Island, 15 Friendship sloops lined up between Clark Point and Greening Island for a race that would carry the fleet out into Great Harbor, to Spurling Rock off the corner of Great Cranberry Island, then to Bear Island off Northeast Harbor, the can buoy at the entrance to Somes Sound and back to a finish where the race began.
A light sea breeze picked up as the race progressed then died with the fleet packed together off Bear Island, race committee chairman Scott Martin said Monday morning.
As the tide turned, the breeze picked up giving the fleet a good race to the finish.
About two hours after the start, first across the finish line was a local boat, Albert Neilson’s Hieronymous, built by Ralph Stanley in 1962 and still homeported in Southwest Harbor. Close behind was another local boat, Alice E, believed to have been launched in 1899 and sailed daily by Downeast Friendship Sloop Charters in Southwest Harbor. The Woods Hole, Mass.-based Hegira, launched in 1980, finished third.
According to Martin, who raced on his own Eden, Mount Desert Island is home to the largest fleet of Friendship sloops — about a half-dozen — anywhere.
“We’re blessed,” he said Monday.
Martin hopes to start a regular series of Wednesday afternoon races for Friendship sloops after the upcoming Rockland rendezvous.
“It will be very informal,” he said. “No handicaps.”