The Falmouth Yacht Club sonar fleet competed for the fourth annual Ryan Richards Trophy on Saturday, June 29. The trophy is named after the long-time friend and competitor of the fleet who passed away from cancer in 2015. Each year, the Ryan Richards Trophy is hotly contested, and this year proved to be no different.
Fleet members arrived at FYC to find lake-like flat water conditions, but knew the conditions would change with a forecasted sea breeze of 15 knots. True to form on the Vineyard Sound, the breeze arrived just after lunch as the fleet of seven boats left the harbor for the afternoon of racing.
The Falmouth Race Committee, led by Bid Hagan with the assistance of Josh Shapiro and Nate Borovick, began the day of racing with a D2 course. Out of respect for Ryan, the fleet clearly stepped up its game for this event with aggressive jockeying for position on the starting line in the first race. With a west flowing current, the fleet raced out to the left side of the course in building seas and puffy conditions. Crew work throughout the first leg would prove critical as the entire fleet found themselves overpowered by the sea breeze. Challenger, sailed by Mike and Robbie Richards, along with Ryan’s longtime friends Matt Fairbanks and Diana Clark (Brennan), led the fleet around the first mark, trailed closely by Maelstrom (Rocky Geyer) and Last Call (Joe Voci). The entire fleet handled the difficult conditions on a long run to the leeward mark just off the Falmouth Harbor jetty, which required aggressive spinnaker work and sleigh riding through the rolling sea. The second upwind leg, saw much of the fleet zigzagging their way towards the top mark and trading positions throughout. Challenger kept a watchful eye on Maelstrom, covering their every move as they held onto the lead as they led the fleet back downwind for a second time. With a short upwind to the finish line, Challenger was able to defend off Maelstrom, with Nimble (Jack Valle) rounding out the top three finishers.
In race two, the fleet was even more aggressive at the start, requiring the race committee to signal a general recall. In the re-start of race two, with 5 boats fighting for the favored boat end of the line, Challenger was pushed over the line early and required to return to the line after the start to clear themselves. Forced to find a clean lane to tack out into the stronger current, Challenger dug into the right side of the course and was welcomed by both stronger wind and a significant wind shift that allowed them to tack back to starboard and take a commanding position on the fleet. With the course shortened to a D1, leading at the top mark was Challenger followed closely again by Maelstrom. Last Call and Molly T (Chris Land) followed closely behind and kept close to the leaders with their skilled crew work on the spinnaker. With only a quick upwind to the finish, Challenger was once again able to hold off Maelstrom to win the race. Following Challenger in race two: Maelstrom, Last Call, Molly T, Nimble, Ripple (Eric Sundquist) and Easy (Wiley Osborn).
With the wind building to around 17-18 knots, finishing the third race with the entire fleet intact proved to be elusive. With a great aggressive start by Molly T, and fighting it out at the head of the fleet, she got hit with a sudden, large wake wave which came over her bow. Chris Land, skipper of the Molly T, had to grab on to keep from falling over. The impact and rise and fall of the boom from the wave tore the screws out of the main halyard turning block and they were done for the day. Fortunately, the wind and current were favorable for them to limp into the harbor on jib alone. Elsewhere in the course, Maelstrom and Challenger once again battled for the top spot around the first mark. Maelstrom led around the first mark, by less than a boat length, and were able to safely navigate downwind with her lead. The second time around the course, Maelstrom was able to extend the lead to a few boat lengths, and other than a few harrowing moments riding the waves to the finish, Maelstrom was able to safely hold her lead for the victory. With the three races completed for the day, Challenger was awarded the Ryan Richards Trophy, by beating out Maelstrom by one point. Last Call and Nimble finished the day tied for third, proving how tight the racing was throughout the afternoon.