Junior Regatta returns to Padanaram Harbor following Covid cancellation

Jul 12, 2021

After a yearlong hiatus, young sailors from across the country once again filled Padanaram Harbor with Optimist, Laser Radial, and 420 boats as the New Bedford Junior Regatta kicked off summer sailing over the past weekend.

This year saw 144 racers ages 10 to 17 hit the Dartmouth waters, down from the nearly 250 the regatta typically sees, event co-chair Jennifer Vescio said.

“It’s a bit smaller, but overall we’re just happy to be back,” she said. “We hated to call it off last year.”

Setup for the regatta’s return began in January. 

Vescio noted that “it took quite a lot of planning to put this together” as state Covid guidelines were constantly changing. Thankfully for her crew of planners and volunteers, the state’s remaining restrictions were lifted and the races could proceed as normal.

“It’s so nice for the kids to be able to race without a mask,” she said. 

Racers from the Dartmouth-based yacht club included Nobre Correira, Burke Watts, Ren Hirose, Zachary Moses, Charlie Fairfax, Merle Durant, Peter and Herlihy, Noah, Sam and Maisy Sperry.

Hirose, 11, raced in the Optimist group. 

The summer resident said the race “was good” even amid the slightly inclement conditions that remained from Tropical Storm Elsa while racing on Saturday, the first day of races.

“It was pretty wavy, but overall there was enough wind,” he said. “It’s kind of funny to see how the boat moves.”

Watts, a fellow 11-year-old Opti racer, also enjoyed the return to the South Dartmouth waters. He said he found the Saturday conditions to be an “interesting challenge.”

“On an Opti it’s a flat bow,” he said. “When you have mostly waves and little wind, your bow will just smash the wave — it will push you back and then you have to sail more and smash again.”

The regatta also featured many repeat racers, such as 17-year-old twins Lauren and Paige Joyce from Plymouth. The two sailed in the 420 race in what Lauren noted was their fifth competition in Padanaram.

“We come here every year,” she said.

Paige, the skipper of the duo, said dealing with the weekend weather “definitely took practice,” noting that the two would “trap down” heading into the wind.

“I think we got better over time,” she laughed.

With the rougher waters the first day, New Bedford Yacht Club Coach Conrad Gilchrest said the best thing to do is “check the forecast beforehand” in order to properly prepare for the South Coast waters.

“You can be 5 knots with no waves at all one day,” he said. “The next, you can be 15 to 20 [knots] with massive waves.”

After a total of seven races, Jonnie Ciffolillo and Drew Mastovsky of the Beverly Yacht Club took first place in the 420 races with 16 points. 

In Lasers, after 11 races, first place went to Niall Kearney of the Eastern Yacht Club in Marblehead with nine points. 

Travis Greenberg of the Satuit Boat Club in Scituate placed first in the Opti races with nine points after six races.

Top racers from the New Bedford Yacht Club included 420 skipper Peter Herlihy, who took third place in the fleet of 65 boats. Fairfax took 10th, Durant 12th, and Mira Herlihy placed 18th.

“Things went pretty well for our guys — we were right up there with everyone else,” Gilchrest said. “More important than anything, they had a good time out there.”