Windsurf BABABaltimore Area Boardsailing Association

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2001 Martha's Vineyard Windsurf Challenge
by Mark Weinman

In August I received a flyer in the mail regarding the Martha’s Vineyard Challenge. I recall Marc Rosen’s adventures from last year but I just put the flyer in my “read later pile”. Several weeks passed and one day I mentioned the “Challenge” to my windsurfing buddy, Steve Cohen. He did not seem very interested so I figured it was an adventure for another time. The next week my wife Sherri asked, “ are you going to that race in Martha’s Vineyard?” I responded “ I doubt it, Steve never responded and it is a long haul up the coast”.

Two days went by and Steve calls me at work, “Are you going to that race on the Vineyard? Its only 3 weeks away do you think we can get it together?” Well, challenge it was and we decided to GO FOR IT. The next several weeks were spent coordinating ferry reservations, lodging and finding a big rig for Steve.

As luck would have it there was a local, long distance race around Hart Miller Island on Saturday, September 8th, the week prior to the Challenge. We decided to use this as a trial run for our big race in New England. The Hart Miller race is traditionally a race for the Baltimore Sailing Club members out of Rocky Point. This year they invited windsurfers to join the race and numerous BABA members turned out. Steve and I used short boards while the others were sensible enough to use long boards. We had a heck of a time on the upwind leg and spent 2.5 hours rounding the 12-mile course. Meanwhile BABA Member Tom Sargent whipped through the coarse on his One Design. He was the second sailing vessel across the line only to be defeated by a 22-foot sailboat with a spinnaker. This was a good training run but also humbling. The MV Challenge is a 55-mile course as the crow flies.
We made last minute adjustments over the next week and managed to secure an 8.5 rig for Steve to use for the race. Of course as we all know the events of September 11th put a real spin on our lives. The event coordinators in Martha’s Vineyard were determined to proceed so we decided to stick with our plan. Our families were not too thrilled about our departure but as all intrepid windsurfers know, the pursuit of a passion always comes at a high price.

As expected the turnout for the event was light. Friday, September 14th was gray and raining. The next day was clear and the race started with great conditions, NE winds at 18-20 knots. Twenty-three sailors started the race. Nevin Sayre, the founder of the event attempted the race on a tandem board with his wife. Two hours after the start, the winds dropped back to 10-12 knots. Steve and I were using 8.5’s and short boards. We gave it a valiant effort but our gear was too small and the race coordinators forced us to stop sailing after more than four hours on the course. Even though we only made it to the half way mark we were pleased with our accomplishment. Steve had spent 4.5 hours sailing in ocean waters on equipment he had never used before. Only 4 sailors completed the race, all of them were on 9 to 10 meter sails and either Mistral Equipes or Formula race boards. The winner completed the course in 6.5 hours and the fourth place finisher took a little over 8 hours.

The Martha’s Vineyard Challenge is a very fun event. It is a fund -raiser with the proceeds going to a local social services organization. The island is beautiful and the people are extremely friendly and hospitable. If you are interested, plan ahead. Unless you are a proficient Formula race board sailor, a long board is a must. I recommend arriving at least one day early. Lodging is hard to come by due to the abundant weddings held on the island in September. The local folks were great. We were treated to drinks and hors d’ oeuvres when we arrived and there is a huge party at Nevin’s house after the race. They were very appreciative that we came up from Baltimore and asked us to bring a big group next year.