by David Lott
Photos by Susan Waldrop
The schooner Phra Luang and captain Jeff Robinson won the 37th running of the George R. Moffet Race on Saturday Sept. 6 and with the win enjoyed the cheers and hoots of an appreciative crowd that had assembled post-race at the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club. It was Phra Luang’s second win in seven years.
Following the tradition that the final results are read aloud, beginning with the last-place finisher and working one by one up to the winner, bone-tired skippers and their crew grew almost as anxious as they had been nearly six hours earlier when the signal flags counted down to the 11:20 am start time.
39 Boats Hit the Line
Thirty-nine boats set out in two divisions in blustery conditions featuring cloudy skies and winds blowing 20 mph out of the southwest. Thirty-four finished. The traditional season-ending race is held each year in honor of Holmes Hole Sailing Association co-founder George Moffett, a veteran sailor who campaigned his yacht Guinevere for many years.
The race is named for one of the founders of the Holmes Hole Sailing Association, George Moffett, a veteran sailor who campaigned his yacht Guinevere for many years, including victories in the Bermuda and SORC Races. He donated Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary to the Island.
Brock Callen of Sail Martha’s Vineyard led the committee boat and selected a 20-mile course that featured two loops around a triangle that took the fleet down the Sound on the back of an ebbing tide toward Falmouth, then over to Middle Ground and then back up to West Chop against the current.
Wind & Challenge Builds
The wind continued to build during the day throwing out ever deeper waves and higher gusts that challenged crews to stay on task on rock-and-roll windward beats while dodging water that gushed over bows and into cockpits. Boats then rode the crests of following seas that pushed speeds to well over 12 knots on the final leg that took them up the North Shore and past West Chop to the finish.
Isabella, a G&B Bella class boat, finishes in the money in fifth place with skipper John Stout.
Grabbing line honors was Steve Besse (winner in 2009) aboard his J/120 Apres which completed the course in just two hours and thirty-eight minutes. He was followed by four other streakers who also came in under three hours: Scott DiBiaso on Juno, Brian Roberts on the Sparkman & Stephens beauty Aileen, Phil Hale on the J/100 Tango and Damian McLaughlin (2005) on the 42-foot Walter Greene.
The boats continued the finishing parade off Eastville Beach for another hour and 16 minutes when Jim Pringle’s 22-foot Sailmaster Myfanwy brought the scoring to a close.
But the magic of PHRF ratings, which allowed such a wide diversity of boats ranging from 16 to 75 feet to compete together in the same race, is what determines the final standings. The ratings are also what creates such drama post-race because the names of the ultimate winners are almost always a mystery.
Following Phra Luang in a money finish on corrected time was previous Moffett winner and Holmes Hole Commodore Jerry Goodale (2008) aboard Stormalong just 58 seconds behind. Jim Lobdell (1989) captained the schooner Malabar II to third.
Woody Bowman, whose summer appeared lost when his catboat was dismasted in July, came in fourth aboard Wonder, a G&B Tern that he quickly learned how to sail and more than salvaged the year with. And in fifth place came John and Lisa Stout in the G&B Bella-class Isabella.
A special certificate was awarded to the last-place competitor Aurora, a 48-foot Derreckor yawl skippered by Bradley Abbott, which stated he would not have to pay an entrance fee for the 2015 Moffett Race.
Mr. Abbott smiled his assurance in the spirit of the sportsmanship that pervades the competition, saying that he would indeed use the certificate and return next year. “That’s the secret to success,” several tired, but happy sailors concurred as the after-party stretched on into the evening: “Keep showing up.”