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way (way) outside the box

way (way) outside the box

Our illustrious writer pal Chris Museler reports from the event he created…

These kids’ parents have multiple world and national championship titles in Maxis, 505s, International Canoe, Optimist, 420, Europe, etc. And virtually all of their folks were Collegiate All-Americans. One parent has won the America’s Cup, another a USOC Development Coach of the Year…

Maybe some of the many people bemoaning the lack of participation in our sport and those who believe the sport needs to be saved should have been sitting at the White Church bridge in Barrington, Rhode Island last Saturday. What they would have seen, in my humble estimation, is one of the silliest and most fun sailing events on the planet. There were 36 craft ranging from an AVON dinghy with plywood extension on a 2hp engine and matching leeboard, to a custom, cold molded C-Class canoe — and everything in between. More importantly, there were 33 children spread over 23 of the boats and nearly half the fleet was piloted by these awesome little groms. And when we say little, we mean the majority of them were sub-10 years old. All their parents were there; either racing or running the BBQ on the beach.

So what is this whacky event again that was held on the pristine 100-Acre Cove? It’s the Archipelago Rally, started out of our house on Common Fence Point, RI where the Sakonnet River meets Mt. Hope Bay. The S.I. are as simple as they come: Anything that floats and has a sail will get a rating and start time, and you MUST fly a personal pennant from your mast. Volunteers bring and cook food and everyone helps launch and catch boats.

In 2006, a Rhodes 19, Formula Windsurfer, Hobie 14, Dyer Dhow and a few other random beach boats ripped 2 miles out into the bay to Spar Island, had a beer on the beach in the 25 knot breeze, then hammered back to port. The original format, like a pursuit race, saw the slowest craft start first off the beach based on their Portsmouth Yardstick rating. Every year since we have used the same format and visited all the beautiful pieces of water in the state we’ve always wanted to sail upon. From Wickford Cove, to the Point Judith Salt Ponds, we have had some great rallies, and this year was as good as ever; off the hook with a huge fleet, bright sunshine, 70 degrees and a 7-10-knot southerly.

When we started this, there were three infants on the beach and some in bellies. This year all these kids were sailing and for most of the 33 who were racing, the Rally has been their first ever "race." Every kid gets some donated schwag. And prizes range from the coveted Pine Needle award for the boat with the most vegetation or dirt on it from storage, to the Lonely Loon for the rallier who, for some reason, is unable to finish. This year, 16yo Emma Radeka won the Last Place trophy, a hefty piece of bronze from a 1948 sloop. It was a slow race for boards and she actually had to manage a portage when she became stuck in a marsh (her father met the same fate following her). Despite the challenge, she held the award up high with a huge smile while the crowd cheered.

There were a ton of beginner and recreational sailors. It was great to see Bob Merrick back with his lady Eliza sailing a recently acquired Cape Dory 10. Bob just edged out windsurf champion Nancy Johnson in the first rally, sailing his Hobie 14. Here, he was 24th. He laughed about it at the awards but said, "Wait ’til next year." We tell ralliers that if they came here to win this, "Good luck!," because massaging a Portsmouth Yardstick/time-on-distance system with boats of such a wide range leaves many unknowns. However, legendary teamracing champion and coach Mike Zani was the rating guru and overlaid Yardstick with PHRF, and also gave some allowances, slowing down or speeding up boats based on weight of crew and previous rally data. It seemed to work okay and leaves a great platform to work from in the future.

In the end, the Ziegler family took their V-15 they borrowed from Brown University and sailed through the entire fleet to win by less than a minute. Karl and his wife Cecily were dominant in the class more than a decade ago and it was fantastic to see them passing on the tradition to their two sons, Logan, 8, and Eli, 6. They took home the Broken Head Perpetual, made from the 1968 Sunfish rudder that disintegrated in the very first rally. For me, I crewed for my six-year old daughter in her Optimist (thank you Advil). We were 28th and she was pumped!

As usual as events grow more popular, we should try and be more organized. We’ll make sure we don’t lose the pick-up nature of the rally but hope to spread the word to see more new faces next year and even a few new rallies around the country!  We’ll see you there.

Schwag was donated by Jamestown Distributors and Mad Athlete, and beer by Revival Brewing Co., Providence, RI.
Images from Rufus Van Gruissen are here.