Buzzards Bay Regatta in full sail

Aug 3, 2019

The 47th annual Buzzards Bay Regatta is well underway at the New Bedford Yacht Club in Padanaram, bringing a bit of the unexpected with it: A minor multihull pileup, a world champion kiteboarder, and an influx of visitors from all over the world.

Friday’s Dick Fontaine Memorial Distance race started after a three-hour delay due to light wind.

The lack of wind led to race organizers postponing the kiteboarding event until Saturday, August 3 ⁠— but it didn’t stop the big boats. 

Jonathan Bier of NBYC came in second place in the Performance Handicap Racing Fleet with his boat Jabberwocky, finishing in just over two hours.

Meanwhile Regatta Chair and former NBYC Commodore Donald Watson ran into bad luck in the multihull race with his trimaran Swamp Fox after a three-vessel accident left a hole in its port hull.

“There was a lot of current going out, and there was a whole group of boats at the starting line,” Watson said. “The boat next to me hit the boat next to them, and spun them across and into me. It was kind of like dominoes.”

Nobody was hurt in the incident, but two boats ⁠— including Watson’s ⁠— sustained damage.

Watson did not race on Saturday.

The winners of Friday’s multihull race ⁠— New England Multihull Association Commodore Andrew Houlding and his crew ⁠— came from all over the globe, with crew members from France, Russia, the UK, and South Carolina.

They competed in their 28-foot trimaran Skedaddle on Friday and Saturday and saw Friday’s accident first-hand.

“I guess three boats tried to occupy the same space at the same time,” Houlding said of the incident. “Physics was against them.”

The wind picked up on Saturday early enough to start the day’s races on time. 

Saturday’s races included kitefoil racing ⁠— kite boards with foils underneath for extra speed ⁠— off Round Hill beach.

One of the kiteboarders was 2017 world champion kitefoiler Nico Parlier from France, who won handily.

NBYC’s Mark Bear came in third place out of 21 boats and seven races in the Master Laser category with his boat Pork Chop, while Ira Perry came in second place in the PHRF on his boat Seefest.

This year’s regatta is the largest in the history of the event.

More than 200 boats are competing in 14 different classes in two locations, the New Bedford Yacht Club and the Beverly Yacht Club.

A few high-level championships are taking place during the regatta as well, including the Marshall Sandpiper Nationals, the 505 East Coast Championships, and the PHRF Regional Championships.

“We have the most classes here we’ve ever had,” said Watson. “We wish there was a little bit more wind, but today was perfect.”

“We’ve pretty much got it all, from kites to big boats,” he added.

Dartmouth resident and NBYC Vice-Commodore Pete Van Colen sailed in a boat that his brother had just bought on Friday. 

“We were not one of the winning boats, but it was fun,” he said. “This is just an awesome opportunity to get a whole bunch of people together.”

The regatta is run for the most part by volunteers, including chief judge and Dartmouth resident Amy Ferreira, who has sailed here since she was a kid. 

“My family’s been involved with this regatta for a long time,” she said.

Ferreira said that sailors come from all over because Buzzards Bay is known for its “big breeze,” although Friday was an exception.

“You never know what weather you’re going to get,” laughed Gail Rebello of Fairhaven, crewmember on Waterwolf, a 35-foot monohull J/105. “Every day is different.”

Rebello has been coming to the Buzzards Bay Regatta since 2004. 

“You get to see a lot of local people, meet up with friends,” she said. “It’s a great regatta to do.”

“Our goal here at the regatta is good, high-quality sailing, fun, and just enjoying the atmosphere,” said Ferreira. “That’s what we really want ⁠— we just want to have fun.”