chester the go getter

Chester Race Week is a wonderful event. Started as a local Corinthian regatta for Chester Yacht Club members over a centennial ago, it was organized, until recently, with low key race management and has always included fun shore side activities, it is now billed variously as: “North America’s 2nd largest annual keel boat race week (sometimes largest race week as it’s four days of sailing vs three or less compared to other large three day “Race Weeks”)” and “Canada’s Largest Keelboat Regatta”.
It’s well known that blockbuster sailing events like Block Island Race Week and Key West Race Week have had their ups and downs. Nowadays Key West is cancelling and Charleston Race Week has become a juggernaut with over 210 boats (Chester is at 119).
So what does Chester Race Week look like by the numbers? Of the 119 Boats registered for 2017:
22 are local Bluenose one design keel boats, a class revived by Wicky McNeely a couple dozen years ago
8 are the local IOD fleet recently spear-headed by Rick Thompson
11 are the new Sonar fleet, largely from Lunenburg YC, instigated by Andreas Josenhans of North Sails fame
7 are local classics which sailed in the Chester Classics division
The other 71 boats sailed in a variety of handicap and one design groups.
So how did the geographies represented break down this year?
Of all the boats, only two appear to have come from outside of Canada. One Sonar from Maine and Rod Johnstone’s J35. One local IOD was loaned to and sailed by a crew from England.
The Canadian boats break down as: 2 from NB, 5 from PEI, 1 from ON, and 111 from NS. Local Mahone Bay based boats were 71 of the 111 and boats mostly from nearby Halifax filled out the balance at 40.
So while the numbers are large, the vast majority of boats either are already sailing on Mahone Bay or come “out from town” to enjoy some annual competition on Mahone bay and to mix it up with other nearby fleets.
Race management has become a big, and expensive, deal with five racing circles or areas all with teams of paid race officers and supporting people, boats, and gear. Four of the five courses involve setting “drop mark” windward/leeward marks. This replaces the YC dock or nearby to YC boat based start/finish lines of yesteryear and the use of pre-designed government mark courses of the past which, while making a fun tour of the sights of Mahone Bay, are naturally not “square” windward/leewards. To ensure that everyone gets “fair treatment” in the protest room, international judges are flown in and put up to provide a world class event level Protest Committee. The infrastructure is certainly world class even if the competitors are mostly local.
While “bragging rights” vs the other large North American events is fun, Chester Race Week, at least by the numbers, looks quite different from the big “destination regattas” that it’s often compared to. With the majority of the boats already in Mahone Bay or nearby, it’s really a great local/regional event that allows many nearby boats to mix it up once a year. As such, it’ll probably have a lot more staying power than those events to which it’s often compared like Key West or Block Island RW of old.
Of course there are many other success measurements that one could consider: local economic impact, ROI for sponsors, sales of entry fees for non-sailors to the evening concerts, bar sales for the club, etc.
Whatever Chester Race Week is or isn’t as compared to other sailing events, it certainly draws a variety of people for a variety of reasons and would appear to have the staying power that many other sailing events lack. #chesterraceweek #chester #sailing #chesternovascotia #cyc #chesteryachtclub.  – Anarchist Topher.