The folklore associated with this race is legendary-- far too too many stories, many that will remain buried forever, while others thrive and are retold hundreds of times. Needless to say, the race had its origins as a friendly competition with a few sailors from Hyannis and Nantucket. A long time ago, four sailors started out from Baxter's Boathouse in Hyannis to race their sailboats to Nantucket. That race would be the first of the Figawi Race Weekends, and the beginning of what has become a Cape Cod tradition. And, an enormous Memorial Day Weekend party celebration for dozens of notable charities.
Whether it was the charm of a race to Nantucket, or maybe just the personal appeal of the early founders is really not clear, but Figawi began to grow by leaps and bounds. In the early eighties, some notable skippers calling the Cape their summer home-- names like Kennedy and Koch-- began to sail with the fleet and spread the Figawi news all around New England, indeed across the world.
In 1987 the Figawi organizers decided they wanted to create a means of giving back to their home communities and what better way than to develop a charity ball. So they invited sailors, local businessmen, and friends to the first Figawi Ball. With around a seven hundred guests, money was raised with the commitment to support only local charities. Over the last twenty years the Figawi Charity Ball has become the largest single night of fund raising for local charities. Now each year, "THE BALL" attracts 1,200 passionate supporters and is considered to be the premier social event of the season. It's not only famous as a great night out (no need to elaborate here), but thanks to the generosity of sponsors and proceeds from raffles and the silent auction, Figawi Charities generates nearly $200,000 each year and has provided over $2.2 million in support to local organizations who would otherwise go without.
This year, the weekend begins with a "Kickoff Party" at Hyannis Yacht Club on Friday, May 24th, 2013. It's for competitors, friends, family, and Figawi fans. Beginning at 3 pm, there is a cash bar, coveted Figawi merchandise for sale and great entertainment.
Early Saturday morning, crews begin gathering. Skippers and boat owners prepare their boats, gather their crews, and head out to the start line. The first boat (the slowest from a PHRF rating standpoint) officially begins at 10 am off the Hyannis Port Jetty and by noon, when the fastest boats finally start, there are 13 divisions sailing majestically across Nantucket Sound.
Depending on the course conditions, the theory of the Pursuit Race format is that all competitors should reach the Nantucket Harbor buoy at around the same time. Over the years, there have been in fact rather remarkable finishes with enormous clumps of boats in all size ranges flying past the finish line (out West, the San Diego and Santa Barbara sailors have their Hot Rum Series and the San Francisco sailors have their Three Bridge Fiasco-- all the same basic idea).
After the Saturday evening Competitors Party and general R&R on Sunday, the afternoon Awards Ceremony Party is then followed by the Charity Ball. For those still capable of sailing, Monday has the "Redux" race back Hyannis. The gathering at Hyannis YC in the afternoon includes entertainment and one last time to enjoy the Figawi camaraderie until next year.
J/Teams have done quite well in the event, often winning class and on several occasions winning the entire race boat-for-boat overall! The J's range in size from J/24s up to the gorgeous J/160. Sailing this year are two J/24s- MUTINOUS DOGS (Marc Holdaway), DRAGIN-Z-BALZ (Jon Wenderoth); the J/29 SEEFEST (Ira Perry); six J/105s including PRIMA sailed by the Nantucket High School Sailing Team; two J/109s including SPITFIRE (Dan Grossman) and DEJRA VU (Jim Bello); two J/111s including PRAVDA 2 (Ed Kaye) and EAGLES DARE (Mike Piper); the J/37 DUCK SOUP (Stephen Lipman); two J/40s- JAZZ (Kirk Brown) and SMITTEN (Bill Jones); two J/120s- M-SQUARED (Bill Mack) and GLORY (Dave Follett); the J/122 URSUS MARITIMUS (Jim Masiero); the J/44- BEAGLE (Phil Gutin); and the J/160 AVATAR (Alan Fougere).
For more FIGAWI Race sailing information