The 17th Harkers Island Regatta took place on the weekend of July 22 and 23, 2018, featuring Sunfish sailboats. Saturday’s race involves sailing around the island, which includes sailing under a low bridge, managing currents and wind shadows, and navigating through marshes and shoals. Sunday’s racing consists of multiple windward/leeward buoy races.
Saturday’s weather started with ominous clouds and rain which cleared up to reveal cheery patches of sunlight. The wind dropped from its howling 40+ knots at midnight to settle down to 15 to 17 knots (gusting to 21) from the southwest, but still kicking up plenty of chop on Back Sound. A total of 26 boats registered for the regatta.
The start line and gate were set southwest of Shell Point. Organizers marked the submerged rocks southwest of day mark #4 to prevent any damage from groundings there. Given the southwesterly wind, most sailors chose a clockwise rounding of the island to allow a downwind passage through the bridge and the marshes. The wind direction required multiple tacks to work upwind through the wind-driven chop from the gate to Rush Point at the southwest corner of the island. Following his tradition of not going along with the crowd, contrarian Nicholas Zahradka chose to round the island counter-clockwise.
The Harkers Island Bridge provides 14 foot vertical clearance at high tide and 16 to 17 feet at low tide, so the race time is scheduled to start one hour before low tide. This maximizes the clearance available for a Sunfish, which needs almost 15 feet even without a spar-mounted wind indicator. This year’s water level was higher than normal due to the low being a neap tide, and also several days of strong winds which pushed water from adjacent sounds into the area. The higher water let the boats get closer to the shore than in past years and reduced groundings. However, the water level also reduced clearance at the bridge, and multiple boats touched the bridge bottom with their upper spar or wind indicator. Most boats followed the northern passage through the marshes and did not run aground.
The four leading boats stayed relatively close over the nearly two-hour race, finishing within 97 seconds of each other. Andrew Bates got off to a good port-tack start held the lead throughout the race, finishing first in 1 hour, 52 minutes, 37 seconds to get three pounds of crabmeat and the trophy. Paul Welles, last year’s winner, also had a good start. He kept moving consistently and chipped away at Andrew’s lead. In the end, he finished a mere 21 seconds after Andrew, winning two pounds of crab meat. Paul was also the top Grand Master (age 60+). Third place and a pound of crab meat went to Grand Master Ricky Evans, who beat fourth place Jamie Deale by only 20 seconds. Jack Bond finished fifth and was the top Great Grand Master (age 70+). Laser sailor Dean Karrigan and first-time Sunfish racer put in a quite respectable 8th place finish.
The top female was Gabi Neubelt, finishing 9th. The second female was Ashlyn Park, finishing 10th. The top beater-class boat was Andrew Pittman, finishing 11th. The most persistent sailor was Isaac Kuykandall, whose leisurely 2 hours, 44 minutes and 36 seconds from start to finish won him the coveted H20 GO! #SummerStylez inflatable emoji pool raft for additional lounging on the water.
Sunday, July 23 - Race Around The Buoys
Eleven skippers participated in the five windward/leeward buoy races on Sunday morning. The wind was southeasterly at 16 to 18 knots (gusting to 21). The sky was partly cloudy, with a few light sprinkles mixed in with sunshine. The race course was in the lee of Bird Island, reducing chop. A falling tide resulted in a current of up to a half-knot toward the west-north-west, slowing boats on the upwind leg and pushing them toward the right side of the course. In addition, the tide was stronger on the left side of the course due to a channel.
Andrew Bates won all five races. Jamie Deale was second with 12 points, Gabi Neubelt third with 20 points, Ricky Evans fourth with 21 points and Jack Bond fifth with 23 points.