When the Covid-19 pandemic touched down in full force, it made quick work of the Provincetown Yacht Club’s summer calendar. Spring meeting? Canceled. Season kickoff? Canceled. Sailboat racing clinic? Zoom-ified. Group trip on the Schooner Hindu? Status doubtful. Long Point raft-up? Status pending. But when it came to the club’s summer race series — the backbone of its summer season — it proved a different story.
“Come on,” said Vice Commodore Jack Peak. “What better way is there to social distance than to get out on the water?”
Last Saturday, June 27, PYC members put Peak’s question to the test, sailing their way to the first finish of the summer’s sailboat race season. Boats represented three classes: Performance Handicap Racing Fleet (PHRF) Keelboats, Rhodes 19s, and Catboats. They navigated a four-and-a-half-mile course in breezes of just over 10 miles per hour, wrapping up the contest in perfect time to avoid the afternoon’s gusts and showers.
Welcome, captained by Donna Turley and crewed by Berit Pratt, and Snark III, captained by Peak and crewed by Rich Waldo, took home first prize in their categories. Rounding out the field were Coot (captained by A.G. Breitenstein and crewed by Maura Cunningham) and Summer Om (captained by Steven Stahl and crewed by Shari Stahl). Yacht Club Commodore Ron Robillard captained the committee boat.
“It was a great start to the season,” Turley wrote to the Independent. “While racing, I forgot all about Covid-19!”
Saturday’s race marked the first of the season’s scheduled 12, divided into three month-long miniseries. In past summers and for now, those races — the cornerstone of PYC’s on-the-water summer programming — are frequented by a rotating cast of regular boats: Welcome, Snark III, Coot, Summer Om, plus Joel Shaw’s Selma Rose. End of list, usually.
And while that group is, Peak said, “just a great bunch of great people,” the club is aiming to boost attendance. Registration is online (go to provincetownyachtclub.org and click on “Racing”) and open to the general public. Peak stressed that the club is encouraging members and nonmembers alike to join in on the action.
“Anyone with a boat is welcome,” he said. “And I’m sure we can help anyone without a boat to find one to borrow. We’d really like to get more people out there.”
After months of isolation, added Peak, racing provides a welcome opportunity: the chance not only to be outside engaging with nature but also to interact in a group setting from a boat length’s away — a distance that’s safe by definition. Mask optional.
“Everyone’s felt very cooped up these last months,” Peak said before Saturday’s race. “It’s exciting to get out there, feel the wind, and have a good outlet. And when we get out there, we have a lot of fun. That’s not to say we don’t have our arguments, our disputes, our grievances —we get competitive — but that’s all part of our fun out there.”
The PYC’s next race is this Saturday, July 4, at 1 p.m. Peak and Turley will seek to defend last week’s titles; all will hope for some fresh faces in the mix. The race will bear a striking resemblance to its iteration in a pre-pandemic world, with one key difference.
“Normally, we do a debrief at a local bar afterwards,” said Peak. “I guess that might not be the best idea, now.”