Christopher Dragon sailing upwind with a suit of black UK Sailmakers Titanium sails.

The Long Island Sound’s traditional end-of-the-year distance race is Stamford Yacht Club’s Vineyard Race sailed over the Labor Day weekend. For the second consecutive year, light wind forecasts convinced the organizers to opt for the shorter Seaflower Reef course (143 nm staying within the Sound) vs. the longer full Vineyard course. Despite the light air forecast materializing, it didn’t deter 90 boats from participating.

When the dust settled Saturday night, two boats belonging to long-time UK Sailmakers customers had won their Vineyard Race division as well as major ocean racing trophies.

Racing within and winning Class 9 PHRF was Kurt Locher’s J/42 ATALANTA, while Andrew and Linda Weiss’ Italia 11.98 CHRISTOPHER DRAGON closed out its distance racing season winning Class 10 ORC. The significance of these two wins is that both boats won their respective ocean racing series.

For years, Stamford has sponsored the Northern Ocean Racing Trophy (NORT) for ORC yachts and the New England Lighthouse Series (NELS) for boats that race under PHRF. Both series require that you sail in the Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race and the Vineyard Race. In addition, you must sail an additional ocean race from a selected list. This being a non-Bermuda Race year, both boats opted to sail the Marblehead-to-Halifax race. The combined scores in the three races determine the overall winners. DRAGON won its Division in the Halifax Race and ATALANTA finished second in hers while DRAGON won the Block Island Race overall. That was all it took for DRAGON and ATALANTA to receive the NORT and NELS, respectively.

The bow of CHRISTOPHER DRAGON (green boot stripe) pokes out to leeward of ATALANTA in some exciting startline action.
The bow of CHRISTOPHER DRAGON (green boot stripe) pokes out to leeward of ATALANTA in some exciting startline action.

Sailing the Sunflower Reef course, it’s hard to get too far away from the Connecticut shoreline. DRAGON rounded the half-way mark at midnight Friday with a foul current. They hugged the northern shore to get out of the current, allowing DRAGON to get past the rest of the boats in their class.

Weiss’ Italia has a full suit of Titanium® upwind sails and Matrix® spinnakers. Interestingly, DRAGON carries a UK A3 rather than a Code 0 finding that the performance is comparable, while avoiding the hit to their rating.

Weiss further noted that this is his third NORT win (2011 and 2022) but more important to him was winning the Olin Stephens Trophy signifying the best combined performance in the 2022 Bermuda Race and the 2023 Halifax Race. “That was our objective going into the season. After winning our division in last year’s Bermuda Race finishing second overall, we sailed this year with the objective of earning the Olin Stephens Trophy. Thanks to a great crew, that objective was realized.

ATALANTA sailing upwind with a suit of UK Sailmakers X-Drive Carbon sails.
ATALANTA sailing upwind with a suit of UK Sailmakers X-Drive Carbon sails.

Locher’s ATALANTA is a vintage J/42 that he “turboed” by adding a spinnaker prod, upgrading from cruising to racing electronics, and updating the interior. Sailing now with asymmetrical spinnakers and code zeros, ATALANTA won her division in the local Thursday night Can One series, too. Kurt credits much of his success to advice he received from both UK Sailmakers’ Butch Ulmer on reconfiguring his vintage cruising boat. “Under Butch’s tutelage, we upgraded our sail inventory and converted a cruising boat into a racing boat,” said Locher. “We converted to racing and started competing about three years ago. We’ve built our program and have enjoyed our recent success.”

See here Vineyard Results and here Marblehead-to-Halifax Results for the results.

Buttons Padin
Buttons Padin

Edward “Buttons” Padin is a lifelong sailor and a member of the Larchmont Yacht Club and the Storm Trysail Club in New York. He has over 40 years of marketing communications experience, with a focus on the sailing community.

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