(Greenwich, CT)- The 58th Annual Gearbuster Regatta held by Indian Harbor Yacht Club in Greenwich, CT on October 12th absolutely lived up to its name for the first time in years. With a stationary low, strong northeast winds blew for three days before the regatta, as well as for the day of the race, making conditions extreme – even for experienced Long Island Sound racers. Racers had to beat out the LI Sound to Stratford Shoal and back with 25-35 knot winds out of the northeast and 5-10 waves that made it feel like ocean racing.
40% of the registered skippers either chose not to start or didn’t finish due to the rough conditions and broken gear. Of the finishers, J/Teams won 4 of the 6 classes with EAGLE, Steve Levy’s J/120, claiming line honors on the long course, crushing PHRF A class by over one hour corrected time in a fleet that included a Melges 32 and Farr 40. Fellow J/120 MIRIELLE sailed by Hewitt Gaynor not only won the PHRF Double-handed class on the long course by over one hour corrected time, but also finished 2nd in fleet to her sistership! That's quite a feat of seamanship and a testimonial to the toughness of the J/120. Completing the sweep on the long course was the remarkable performance of the J/105 ROPEBURN sailed by Tim O'Brien, not only winning their PHRF B class, but taking 3rd overall just three minutes behind the J/120 MIRIELLE!
On the short course side of things, NEVERMORE, Ken Hall’s J/100, led the pack home, winning both elapsed time honors but handicap honors as well in PHRF Non-Spinnaker class!
From the front-lines of the battle, we got the "insider's report" on the experience from Steve & Mike Levy's J/120 EAGLE. Said Steve, "The “Gearbuster” is a 46 mile sprint from Greenwich CT east around Stratford Shoal and back in daylight (for the quick ones). Last week, we raced in 20-25 kts, gusting to 29 kts easterly, which provided for an upwind slog and a downwind sleigh ride on the way back. An easterly breeze is the only time one gets waves of consequence in Western Long Island Sound.
My son, Michael, and I shared the helm. We executed a strategy that we developed days in advance and did not modify as the key elements did not change by race day; namely, 1) there would be more pressure toward Long Island and further East, 2) the wind direction change would provide a lift from Long Island, and 3) the current would be flooding most of the afternoon, so seek pressure, the lift and shelter close to Long Island.
We rolled upwind toward Port Jefferson. It was quite bumpy, exemplified by the crew’s unanimously negative response to an offer of lunch. We hoisted the jumbo #2A spinnaker after rounding Stratford Shoals Light. This was a mistake as the .5 ounce fabric was just too light for the wind. Shortly thereafter, on starboard headed toward Oyster Bay, our #2 became confetti (I did the same thing 5 years ago!). We hosted the #3A which had the advantage of being a slightly stronger fabric and 15 square meters smaller.
We witnessed a top speed of 21.5 knots with the smaller chute, while sustaining an average of about 15-16 knots. Active positions for the run included Mainsheet trimmer, Main Vang trimmer, Spinnaker sheet trimmer, Helmsman and spotter for a second pair of eyes for waves and the dreaded “sailing by the lee”. Amazingly, the friction on the winch drum melted the cover on the spinnaker sheets!
It was an invigorating, white knuckle ride in a boat built for such moments. Smaller boats, even sport boats, were no match for the J/120. Some bigger boats decided not to fly a chute. In the end, we beat the next finisher by almost an hour in a 6 hour race, winning the fleet!! The crew was ecstatic! Since it was a bit wet, here are some photos of us in more benign weather conditions, hope you enjoy!" Thanks Steve for the great story! What a ride! For more Stratford Shoals "Gearbuster" race sailing information