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Formula To Get More Boats Racing

(October 2, 2006 - Scuttlebutt received the following story from Bob Johnstone, J/Boats co-founder and supreme marketer of the sport. Bob was the race director for the event he describes below, which he finds as a fool-proof approach to getting boats on the race course)

Imagine having a captain’s meeting and dinner the night before a charity pursuit race, then enjoying the 3 hour (12 mile) round-the-islands race, followed up by a postrace awards and cookout that evening. Note the 4 keys: (1) Two parties book-ending the race; (2) a charity race; (3) a pursuit race; and (4) a round-the-island race. Any one key can work, but when you combine all four, then success is assured.

The "figure-eight" course
Such was the case with the 2nd Annual Boston Harbor Islands Regatta (BHIR says “Be Here!”) on Saturday, September 30, 2006. With 108 boats from a Marshall Catboat to a 2006 Bermuda Race class winner, the BHIR was 27% bigger than the inaugural of 85 local boats last year. This is October 1. Off-season. Here’s the scene: After a Captain’s Meeting, sponsored pre-race dinner and live auction Friday evening at the 5-Star Boston Harbor Hotel ($30 with free beer and wine and sun setting over the Harbor), the 108 boat fleet from 22 to 45 feet in length started Saturday at 10AM on a 12 mile “figure-eight” benefit, pursuit race around Boston Harbor Islands National Park.

After the race, the fleet anchored off Ft. Warren on Georges Island to enjoy a Redbones barbecue with the upbeat sounds of a Swing Dixie Quintet. Thirty etched crystal bowls were awarded to the top youth, female, master, family crew, classic yacht and yacht club team (best placing 3 boats) as well as to class and overall winners. Other sponsors were Harpoon Brewery, Starbucks, Cape Cod Potato Chips, Silver Platters and Whole Foods. Ninety Island Alliance host volunteers welcomed the fleet. City water taxis ferried the crews back and forth to boats anchored off Georges Island. Everyone left at 5PM for a sunset cruise home, to end a perfect day. A real happening! Next year may see a fleet of Outward Bound pulling boats, a tour boat schooner, and a bevy of mini-transat 6.50s. Keep pushing the envelope of inclusiveness!

'Superstition' wins 2005 race (by Andrew Sims)
Pursuit races get the boats out. Witness FIGAWI or the Maine Retired Skippers Race. Even Hull YC’s traditional “Great Chase Race” two weeks earlier drew 90+ boats. Novices don’t have to deal with intimidating starts, slow boats are leading for most of the race, the drama lasts until the finish and the first boat to finish wins. Even spectators can figure that out! Only 45% of the boats had PHRF certificates; 4 skippers were helming in their first race; only 12 of the boats were built after 1999; 39% sailed without spinnakers and there were no protests. The idea is to be welcoming, encourage participation and have fun.

Even the RC can relax a bit. Time-on-Time conversions of PHRF ratings indicate that if the race needs to be shortened for lack of wind, no problem. The crossover point of the handicap intervals in secs/mile (TOD) or secs/hour (TOT) in a 12-mile race is under 3 hours after the start of the slowest boat. Plan to finish the race in 3 hours to make the party, no matter the distance sailed.

Sailing now has its formula to impact the sport. If implemented several times a year in every harbor in America, the results could be stunning. Try it, they’ll like it. For more info on the Boston Harbor Islands Regatta:

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