Mainers have a saying for tourists who ask for directions: “You can’t get there from here.” Last weekend when Sailing Anarchy’s editor tried to journey to Brooklin, Maine, from San Diego, had flight delay issues that wouldn’t allow him to make the event.
The plan was to race AURORA (a Bill Tripp-designed 55-foot cold-molded racing boat built by Brooklin Boat Yard) in the famed Eggemoggin Reach Regatta and its two feeders, August 4-6, 2016. The ERR attracts more than 100 wooden boats from around the world annually, including some yachts more than a century old. The only entry requirement is that the boat is built substantially of wood. AURORA, built in 1992, is a racing machine that has done Transats, Fastnets, and Bermuda Races and taken home trophies for more than two decades. Her hull is cold molded, her decks are S-glass with foam core and her spar is carbon. For ERR racing purposes, she’s classified as a “Spirit of Tradition” boat (though some purists have a hard time spotting the tradition in her).
Last Thursday AURORA and her crew took to Penobscot Bay for the first feeder race spanning 19.6 miles of Maine waters from Castine to Camden. The SSW breeze was on, averaging 17 mph at the start and reaching over 20 steady by the finish. AURORA and her fiercest competitor, the 69-foot ISOBEL (also built by Brooklin Boat Yard), both sailed to the front of the fleet early on. This was an upwind race for almost the entire sail, finishing with a reaching leg from the last mark to the finish. ISOBEL rounded that mark a half-mile ahead of AURORA, launched her chute and made for the finish line in dramatic fashion. While the Stephens & Waring-designed sloop owed every boat in the fleet considerable time, she still came out on top at the end of the day.
By Friday AURORA was intent on pushing past ISOBEL at least on corrected, if not on elapsed time. At the start of the 26-mile course from Camden to Brooklin, Maine, the SSW breeze was beginning to build again. At the first gun, the wind was 14 mph and built up to 20 again by the finish. When the starting gun fired, AURORA and several other aggressive boats found themselves on the wrong side of the line, but given the conditions and the number of irreplaceable classic yachts in the fleet, the RC asked all OCS boats to take a penalty instead of restarting. Undaunted, AURORA raced ISOBEL once again to front of the fleet, beating to the first marks and then launching spinnakers through a narrow passage in the fishing town of Stonington. While the lobstermen shook their fists at the 53 boats sailing past their mooring field, AURORA tried to close the distance between them and ISOBEL, who was a dozen boat-lengths ahead. Behind them the schooner AMERICA, a 1995-built replica of the first AMERICA’s Cup winner, was a remarkable site as she bore down under full sail through the thoroughfare. Nearing the end ISOBEL broached in dramatic form, acting as a warning to the AURORA crew of an upcoming wind-shift. ISOBEL crossed the finish line 11 minutes ahead of AUORA, but both AURORA and VORTEX (a cold-molded, customized Swede 55 also built by Brooklin Boat Yard and owned by Steve White, president of BBY) both corrected over her in first and second places, respectively.
Saturday was the official Eggemoggin Reach Regatta with a 105-boat fleet and a 15-mile course that has been unchanged for the race’s 32-year history. While early forecasts had the wind over 20 mph all day, racers sailed to the start in a dying, squirrelly breeze. The wind entirely dissipated as the first gun blew for the Spirit of Tradition Class, about a half-hour after the first class had started. Boats were spotting the start line pointing in the same direction with their sails on different tacks. Just up the course ripples on the water indicated a breeze slowly making its way down to the racers. It reached the boats on the left side of the line first, including ISOBEL, launching them up the course while frustrated racers on the right watched the ripples continue to creep across the line toward them. With the early lack of breeze, much of the fleet seemed to start from the same place, forcing the bigger, faster boats to dive and dodge the classic and vintage boats clustered just past the start line. The wind filled in nicely as racers made their way toward the first mark. Several boats from earlier starting classes had put a lot of distance between themselves and the rest of the fleet that had been stuck in the hole at the start line. After rounding the first mark, the breeze began to back off and shift directions, creating a large hole between the first and second marks. Once again boats found themselves drifting on different tacks, pointing away from the second mark. The boats at the front of the fleet were struggling to round the second mark, while the second wave of boats was trying to find the zephyrs that would get them moving. The breeze filled in for the second wave first, narrowing the gap in the fleet. AURORA rounded the mark and launched the spinnaker, sending them down a long leg on a beam reach toward the finish. ISOBEL was once again at the front of the fleet, just ahead of famous vintage and classic yachts like DORADE, the recently refitted MARILEE, SONNY and TICONDEROGA. As the breeze built, AURORA steamed down the course passing everyone but ISOBEL, and reaching speeds over 15 mph by the finish line.
Final results put ISOBEL, AURORA and DREADNOUGHT (a Brooklin Boat Yard-built 49-foot custom boat) in the top three spots in Spirit of Tradition B for the ERR. ISOBEL took home fasted elapsed and corrected times in the entire 105-boat fleet. Brooklin Boat Yard, one of the hosts of the regatta, was proud to have built 14 of the 21 competitors in the Spirit of Tradition class, as well as having serviced or restored many of the other yachts on the course.
With some of the best racing and cruising in the world, Maine’s 3,000+ miles of coastline and thousands of islands make it a tough place to get to from anywhere. But well worth the trip.