Aug 22, 2017
Chester Race Week wrapped up on Saturday, August 19th after four days of racing which saw everything from sunshine and gentle winds, to near gales, waves and rain. Michael Dunn covered the event and here is his day by day review:
Day 1, Wednesday, August 16th – Sailors and sailing enthusiasts from as far away as New Zealand, London (UK), Vancouver, Palm Beach (FL) and Rhode Island mixed with salts from across the Eastern Seaboard today in the village of Chester, Nova Scotia, Canada, to kick off Chester Race Week 2017.
One hundred and nineteen boats skippered and crewed by Olympians, international regatta champions and sailing enthusiasts of all levels – including first-timers – enjoyed a sunny day with light wind and flat seas.
“We travel to Chester Race Week every year because of the world-class competitors, the amazing sailing conditions, and the fun – we think we got a top-5 finish today,” said Vancouver-based Drew Mitchell, skipper of the Bluenose Class Feather, on loan for Race Week from Carlisle Norwood.
Drew grew up sailing in Lunenburg, has sailed in Russia and across the Pacific, and now lives in Vancouver, where he leads operations for North Sails. He is racing with his brother Karl Mitchell and Brian Trubovich, a friend who flew to Chester from Auckland, New Zealand, specifically for Chester Race Week.
“Sailing Chester Race Week is a fun tradition. As a sailmaker, most of my sailing is with customers, so it’s a real treat to be able to sail with my brother and friends in my home waters.”
Drew’s brother Karl met Brian sailing at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.
“I also met Chester’s Victoria Dimmick and some friends in Auckland where they crewed on my Ross 35,” the seasoned Kiwi sailor said on the deck of the Chester Yacht Club. “When Victoria heard I was heading to a regatta in Spain this fall, she invited me to make a detour to Chester Race Week. I like race weeks – lots of short, tactical, competitive races with lots of land-based fun. It’s been fabulous – great conditions, beautiful islands – my photos are making my mates at home very jealous.”
Day 2, Thursday August 17th – Two-to-three metre waves and strong winds gusting to 25+ knots (46+ km per hour) changed racing plans for several fleets on Day 2 of Chester Race Week, forcing skippers of some classic boats to retire from the race to avoid damage. Some didn’t escape unscathed with steel winches ripping out of fibreglass decks for some, and sails shredding for others. The Chester Yacht Club commodore’s tender sunk at the dock.
“It’s in high winds like these when you discover your gear’s weak points and preventative maintenance saves you time and money,” said 30-year Chester Race Week veteran Colin Mann, whose J/92 Poohsticks sails out of the Lunenburg Yacht Club. “We clocked a top hull speed of 14.9 knots out there today – it was a great ride that left us grinning ear to ear.”
Day 3, Friday August 18th – After high winds gusted 25+ knots on Thursday, Chester Race Week sailors gathered at the Chester Yacht Club (CYC) Friday morning to share stories, lick wounds and compare notes on the previous day.
The Bluenose fleet started early and were able to add three extra races for a total of six, completely recovering after all three races were cancelled Thursday. The 22-boat fleet could be seen from the CYC, packed with visitors, as the 24-foot sloops tacked across Chester’s picturesque front harbour.
“After yesterday’s mayhem, today’s conditions were perfect for keel boat racing with flat seas with winds building from five to nine knots for Alpha fleet’s first race of four miles, then 10 to 12 knots that stretched the race 2 to six miles – Mahone Bay is beautiful and reliable,” said Alpha Course Race Officer Ken Legler of Medford, Massachusetts, who coaches the Tufts University Sailing Team during the school year. “As a result, we had really good starts, close racing and close finish times, which, for me as a fan, means great racing,” the five-year veteran Chester Race Week race officer added.
Musicians, pop-up shops, art lessons, winery samplings and food trucks were arrayed on the CYC grounds Friday afternoon for the Party on the Deck, a series of attractions designed for non-sailing Chester villagers and visitors.
“Chester Race week is a major national event and we want it to be accessible and fun for everyone, even for those not sailing,” said Cynthia Spraggs, chair of Chester Race Week 2017 land operations. “The Party on the Deck draws people looking to watch the races from shore, enjoy great food, music, shopping, and be part of the festive Chester Race Week summer buzz in this beautiful Mahone Bay setting.”
Day 4, Saturday, August 19th – Rain, cold and expected gusts of 30-plus knots per hour (56 km/hr) held back some Chester Race Week fleets, but others headed out on the water to finish their races on the final day of the regatta.
After making up for Thursday’s wind-cancelled races on Friday, 14 of the 22 Bluenose-fleet boats powered through three more races to wrap up the regatta by 1:30 p.m. Crews returned to land wet but pleased with the four-days of racing action and land-based fun.
Chester Yacht Club’s Dennis Dyer, helming the Bluenose-class Wanderer (CAN B69), said skippers in the tight-knit Bluenose-class community met and agreed to start racing early on Friday and Saturday to take advantage of weather conditions and ensure they could finish all 12 scheduled races.
“We all got pretty wet today, but the courses were good and the wind was consistent. The fleet was definitely competitive and we’re seeing more young sailors joining the class and taking the lead, which bodes well for the fleet’s future. All-in-all a great experience and a really successful regatta. Now we’re going to go warm up!”
Chester-based 2016 Olympian Jacob Saunders helmed Dark ‘n’ Stormy (Chester Yacht Club) to a first-place finish overall in the Bluenose-class, with Erin Creaser (Lunenburg) on jib, and owner David Mosher (Chester) on main. This was Mosher’s second Chester Race Week and first time cracking the top 3.
For complete results visit www.chesterraceweek.com
Running an event as large as Chester Race Week 2017 is a major undertaking. Co-Chairs Cynthia Spraggs and Pat Nelder sent us this wrap-up of the event from the regatta management point of view.
We are happy to say that Chester Race Week 2017 was a very successful event. With 120 boats participating, 20 official course boats, over 1000 participants on the water, many spectator boats and spectators, with a variety of conditions from flat calm to 30 knots of breeze, CRW was amazing!
As Co-Chairs of the event for the first time we discovered that the Chester Yacht Club has long-term volunteers that take care of very important aspects of Race Week including:
• management of awards and trophies
• volunteer staffing of sales
• dedicated race registrar
• equipment manager
• sponsorship chair
• media relations
The Manager of the club, Kim Johnson handles the on-shore activities no matter what the weather with great attention to detail and care for her staff, while on the mooring field and on the very busy club dock, Warren Barkhouse keeps mark, tender, signal and course boats available.
Racing in Chester has changed over the years. Our professional race management team headed by Brian Todd and Daniel Conrod looked after five race courses with twelve classes racing and four sub divisions within those classes. Fifty-four of the entries were in exclusively windward leeward one-design courses; Bluenose, Sonar. IOD. Farr 30, J 24 and J70. Other one-design classes were J29, J35 and J120.
There were a great variety of fast boats, cruising boats and classic boats in the different fleets which made spectator boats enjoy the racing, our official photographer Tim Wilkes did a fantastic job of capturing the weather conditions, and the on-shore team stepped up the shore-side activities with four food trucks servicing hungry sailors, a great party on the deck on Friday afternoon and as always late night at Chester Race Week has fabulous live music all four nights.
Now that Race Week is over for the year, we think of all the great people we worked with and that we met and we tell people that CRW 2018 will take place August 15-18!
all photos Credited to: Tim Wilkes photography