August 14, 2020
Ted Burt

The Harrington Cup goes back to the 1950s. In those days everyone sailed Herreshoff 12 12s, including the juniors, who raced against each other each week in the regular Friday Junior Series. Today the juniors are mostly Optie and 420 sailors, familiar with light planning hulls and starting lines of up to 50 boats jostling for the best advantage. Nowadays they are less familiar with the H-Class and it’s heavy keel hull, but the Harrington Cup challenges those who are up to the task to match skills in a very different way. Especially on a light and sloppy day on Buzzards Bay, this can be a frustrating experience. This year the race featured just such conditions.

Three crews ghosted out of the harbor to the starting area to find the Race Committee searching for the northeast breeze that had been predicted. At 1:30 a horn was sounded and the AP flag displayed indicating a postponement of the start. Light to non-existent wind prevailed for a half hour before giving way to a gentle (very gentle) southeasterly, enough for a course to be displayed and starting signals sounded for a short course to a mark off the Knob beach and back. The crews agreed that the pin end was favored, and they all got there too soon. Jancy overran the end of the line and had to circle back to start; the others just had to luff and kill their speed to prevent the same fate. Unfortunately, while that may be a good tactic in a light and maneuverable Optie or 420, it is definitely not in a heavier keel boat. Anyhow, they all managed to get safely across the line and head upwind toward the first mark. When we say upwind, picture patches of flat calm interspersed with zephyrs seeming to drift in from random directions and a persistent chop set up by passing motor boats and the leftover northerly breeze that prevailed earlier in the day. The trick is to sit still in your boat, don’t pinch the sails, watch for new wind coming in from somewhere, and don’t be discouraged if your position looks dismal. Things can change.

And eventually the change did come in the form of a (comparatively) brisk breeze from the northeast. It worked its way in after showing itself by the darker surface of the water gradually filling down from the Cleveland Ledge direction toward the fleet which was just arriving at the turning mark. Gus held a comfortable lead over Soren, and Jancy brought up the rear as they headed towards the committee boat anchored at the finish line. Everyone could see the darker water creeping ever so slowly nearer, but would it arrive in time and from a direction that would make a difference to Wind Handle and Swizzle? Eventually, it did push through, favoring the boats in the rear who began hearing the pleasant sound of their bow wakes as they picked up speed. Tagalong got the wind a bit later but had taken advantage of the earlier zephyrs to put herself between the finish line and her competition when the new wind arrived. What had looked like a ho-hum finish turned into a race with all three boats crossing the line within 5 minutes of each other. Morale soared with the now brisker sailing, and Gus McGuire copped the cup with a great display of light and variable weather sailing skill.

Class: Herreshoff 12 1/2
Conditions: Light variable winds / choppy seas
Race Committee Crew: Ted and Alec Burt

Boat - Crew - Elapsed Time

  1. Tag Along - Gus McGuire & Virginia Land - 46:21
  2. Wind Handle - Soren Peterson & Will Burrell - 49:13
  3. Swizzle - Jancy & Hunter Grayson - 49:24