PROVINCETOWN — It’s been a while, but the Provincetown Yacht Club’s summer racing season is back on course.
The hiccups started July 11, when excess wind postponed the third leg of the club’s first mini-series, then canceled it altogether. By the next week’s race, on July 18, that inconvenience seemed a luxury. PYC Vice Commodore Jack Peak, a Saturday race-series regular, set out from his mooring in his boat, Snark III, at 12:15 p.m. He didn’t make it to the race’s starting line, barely a half-mile away, until a full 48 minutes later.
If he’d hoped for an uptick in excitement at the race’s start, Peak was out of luck. Waiting for him was not a cohort of PYC regulars, but just one boat: Joel Shaw’s Selma Rose. Shaw had spent the beginning of the summer season sidelined with an injury, but this week he was back, and had company. By his side in Selma Rose were not one but two crews: Frank Matteotti and Leo Gracie.
In typical low-wind situations, the slightest extra weight in a sailboat amounts to a liability. A whole extra person in a sailboat amounts to a recipe for last place. But, said Shaw, “This was just my first race back. I didn’t care if I was gonna win or not.”
And if he had cared? He would have been in luck, trio notwithstanding. He opted to start from far behind the line, and cruise into the start of the race with momentum. Peak had a different idea, paralleling Snark III to the line so a simple rotation would nudge her over when the time came. It didn’t quite pan out the way he’d hoped. Selma Rose cruised ahead; Snark III flailed behind, in irons.
The race was on. It did not inspire. Take it from Shaw: it was “torturous,” “hot,” “humid,” “kind of a drag.”
“But still,” he added, “a bad day of sailing is still a better day than just sitting on the beach.”
The three-mile course took two hours to complete; an 87-degree sun bore down; wakes from Race Point water traffic rocked Selma Rose and Snark III in every possible direction. Still, reaping the fruits of his triumphant start, Shaw crossed the finish line first. Four minutes later, Peak followed. And then, for the first time all day, the wind picked up.
The next week, July 25, was scheduled to be the grand finale of the first mini-series, but it was another windless day. Rather than suffer again, the PYC pushed the race back to Sunday. It was a cooler, shorter, windier, and more exciting race than the one of the previous weekend — three of the fleet’s boats almost collided on the start, and this time, Selma Rose and Snark III were far from the stars.
Race Committee Chair Donna Turley’s Welcome crossed the finish line first, in a nimble one hour and seven minutes. But the PYC processes its results to equalize the differences between boats (the idea: it doesn’t matter what boat you have, anyone can race), and those equations handed her a second-place finish. A.G. Breitenstein’s Coot earned the top prize.
“Given everything we’ve all been through for the past several months, there’s nothing like the feeling of freedom on the water,” said Breitenstein. “I’m so grateful to be a part of PYC and the Saturday race series. It’s a complete joy!”
At the Aug. 1 race — first of the second mini-series and the first in a month to happen according to schedule — Turley’s and Breitenstein’s boats filled the top two spots once more, albeit in reverse order.
“New boats are welcome,” wrote Peak in an email to the PYC’s members after the race, “especially any that can beat Welcome and Coot!”
Turley’s raw first-place finish was ahead enough of the pack to secure her a win even after the boat weight was taken into account. Breitenstein trailed her by a significant amount in the silver position, and less than a second separated him from George Lynde’s Sparkle Marie II in the bronze.
Three more boats populated the bottom half of the scoresheet. Selma Rose earned fourth place, Steven Stahl’s Summer Om earned fifth, and Peak’s Snark III brought up the very rear.
“I’m not doing too good,” said Peak. “At the first mark, George’s Sparkle Marie had the right of way, and we were gonna collide… I waited too long to get out of the way, and got stuck in irons. I have to call him up. I was swearing at him quite a lot out there.”
“Sound like fun?” asked Lynde. “Come join us. Every week the fleet grows larger.”
Race registration is online (go to provincetownyachtclub.org and click on “Racing”) and open to the general public.