Young sailors take on Buzzards Bay in New Bedford Junior Regatta

Jul 7, 2018

At ten years old, Dartmouth’s Phoebe Murray was one of the youngest competitors in the New Bedford Junior Regatta.

Open to young sailors up to the age of 18, the event drew competitors from local towns to even more distant environs, including Canada, Colorado, and a rumoured Norwegian. But Murray was competing in home waters, as she is a member of the New Bedford Yacht Club, which ran the event.

The young sailor was competing in the Optimist class, made up of one-person sailboats suitable for youngsters just learning the sport. She acknowledged competing in Padanaram Harbor did give her “a little bit” of a leg up.

Slightly younger than her was 9-year-old Maggie Fearons, although she already has four or five years of experience under her belt. Drawn to the sport by her older brother, the Mattapoisett resident competed in an O’pen Bic, a boat that is notable for its open back, which makes it prone to filling with water. It was the first year the boat was included in the regatta.

This year’s regatta attracted more sailors than in recent memory, according to Jennifer Vescio, co-chair of the event. The event also included 420, Optimist, and Laser Radial boats.

During the first day of competition on July 7, water and wind conditions led at least one sailor to capsize before quickly clambering aboard his O’pen Bic. Overall, the sailors managed the course just fine, navigating around buoys and competing fiercely with the elements and each other.

“It’s a tough competition, especially early in the season,” said Marion resident Nick Memoli.

After competing in the regatta for years, he now coaches sailors at the Beverly Yacht Club. He was confident that the day would go well for his sailors.

The regatta had four courses marked by inflatable buoys, one for each class of boat, although the youngest Optimist sailors shared a course with the O’pen Bics. Races began around 10 a.m. and continued through the afternoon.

The annual event attracts a lot of repeat competitors, like 13-year-old Max Westhaven. It was his second or third time in the race. Although he’s always sailed Optimists, including this year, he might switch it up in a more advanced 420 next year.

“It’s quite competitive, which I like,” he said of the regatta.

Ava Stephens of Greenwich and Ellie Dyroff of Colorado also noted the stiff competition. Some of their rivals were members of the United States Optimist Dinghy Association, a competitive league. They were confident about the conditions, however.

“The wind should be pretty decent, once you get out into the open area,” Ellie Dyroff said.

The regatta will continue on Sunday, July 8.