Sailors compete at 49th Buzzards Bay Regatta

Aug 8, 2022

The New Bedford Yacht Club hosted the Buzzards Bay Regatta last weekend, bringing sailors from around the world to Padanaram Harbor for a series of races in multiple categories.

The competition marked the 49th iteration of the event after it missed a year in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“Regattas have been very strange since Covid,” said event chair Andy DeFrias, explaining that attendance has been reduced in recent years.

In the mid-2010s, he said, the regatta regularly saw 200 boats enter the races. This year, there were only about 50.

“Most regattas don’t make it to 50 years old, so we’re really hoping we make it,” DeFrias said.

The annual event has also faced challenges with organization since Marion’s Beverly Yacht Club — which used to shoulder half the burden of hosting and recruiting sponsors — bowed out of the event.

“We used to have shared responsibility,” DeFrias said. “We’re on the hook for everything now.”

This year, organizers brought back the C420 category, a class of boat favored by younger sailors that had not been present at the regatta in recent years.

DeFrias said the decision was made specifically to attract a younger group of competitors.

“The goal is to reinvigorate this regatta,” he said. “This is some of the best sailing in the world.”

He added that because the event is entirely volunteer-run, they are able to keep costs down, making it more accessible for a wider audience.

“There are events that cost a lot more money because they have paid staff,” he said. “[Our volunteers] are all out here out of the kindness of their hearts.”

The event kicked off on Friday night with a Dick Fontaine Distance Race which was open to Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF) racers, a class of non-standard ships which are each given a handicap rating based on their relative speed.

On Saturday, the main events were held, featuring races in several classes ranging from small single-seaters to large multi-hull racers.

In the laser boats, which share an identical design featuring a single sail and only one sailor, the winner was Peter Shope of Sail Newport, who finished first in five of the heats. The runner up was Peter Vessella of St. Francis, followed by New Bedford Yacht Club’s Mark Bear.

In the C420 category, the boats were also designed identically, however they featured two sails and a spinnaker — a large parachute-like sail that is deployed only when sailing downwind — and were piloted by a pair of sailors.

The race was won by Lil Yachty 2.0 of New Bedford Yacht Club which was skippered by Peter Herlihy. The runner up was skippered by Georgia Shuster of the Brenton Cove Racing Program, while third place was taken by Lucca Antonietti of the Nantucket All-Island Race Team.

Among the four multihull racers, the winner was Blue Moon, skippered by Jay Spalding of Wadawanuck Yacht Club in Stonington, Conn.

The PHRF class was separated into two groups, each with four racers.

In the top group, the winner was ISURUS, skippered by Mark Verville of Beverly Yacht Club.

In the second group, the winner was Seefest, skippered by Ira Perry of New Bedford Yacht Club.