The Megansett knockabout fleet sailed for the Powers Cup in the annual long distance race on August 24th. This race was conceived in 1966 by its founder, Dr. William Powers, as an attempt to level the playing field from the normal, relatively short, round-the-buoys races. The idea was to introduce a course that would provide numerous variables that might allow any boat to come out on top and win the Cup.
There are two rounding marks of the course, Cleveland Ledge Lighthouse and Bassetts Island. The course can be sailing in any order and the “marks” can be rounded in any direction. Over the years this formula has proven to be true and it is rare that there isn’t some form of mystique as boats sail in opposite direction and lose sight of their competitors.
NOAA weather was forecasting 6-8 knots of wind out of the northeast, which would make for a slow ride around the course. However, typical of Buzzards Bay, as race time approached conditions were not as forecast. The wind was building out of the east-northeast 10-12 knots with higher gusts as the four boat fleet made its way out of the harbor. Wind speed rose to 15-plus knots as the race progressed.
Jim Powers was the lone Race Committee official for the day and had Pure Bluff on station and on time.
The skippers in this race spend time analyzing wind and tide in order to come up with a strategy to sail the course. As the four boats were on final approach to the starting line it was apparent as to who was going where. Late Show & Mae Win headed for Cleveland Light as their first mark, making short order of setting spinnakers in the following wind. Late Show started at the pin end of the line and had a jump of several boat lengths over Mae Win. Finally! and Cob Web made haste towards the end of Scraggy Neck choosing Bassetts Island as their first mark. Finally! was able to stay ahead of the fast pursuing Cob Web as they broad reached to the turning mark at Seal Rocks and headed upwind towards Bassetts. Making a final look astern, Late Show could be seen holding the lead over Mae Win as they charged towards the lighthouse under spinnakers. It would be the last sighting between the two fleets until they would cross paths somewhere out in Buzzards Bay.
Finally! and Cob Web stayed in formation as they skirted the sandbars of Bassetts’ south end and rounded for the long upwind leg to the north channel. Rounding the north end both boats quickly set spinnakers for the long run through the Mill Pond and into the Bay towards Cleveland Light. Finally’s skipper, in order to tend to spinnaker duties, relinquished the helm to first-time racer (but lacrosse coach extraordinaire) Rick Bagby. The course to the lighthouse was “by the lee” and the wind was gusting and shifting making for some tricky downwind sailing. The boats were constantly on the edge of jibing, which if not planned could be devastating. Captain Rick was the perfect student taking directions from “Coach” Powers and keeping Finally! on course and under control (for the most part) as they surfed towards the lighthouse. Cob Web’s pursuit was relentless as the Eldridge team elected to sail a lower course with multiple spinnaker jibes for their approach to Cleveland Light. With a new and inexperienced crewmember onboard Powers held off for just one jibe to fetch the mark. Both boats arrived at the lighthouse and rounded for the finish with only a few boat lengths between them.
Late Show and Mae Win had been seen earlier on this leg as they were beating to windward in the vicinity of Seal Rocks off of Scraggy Neck. Finally!’s skipper was counting on the forecasted Northeast wind to carry them to the finish close reaching on a single tack. However, the forecast again proved to be incorrect as the East wind prevailed and never clocked into the Northeast. This was not good for Finally! and Cob Web as they had to sail for the finish dead into the wind requiring multiple tacks on the way.
As Nyes Neck and outer Megansett harbor was approached sails of the other “fleet” could be seen heading for Can No. 7 at Seal Rocks. Finally!’s crew had renewed optimism as they took some great gusts of wind that lifted them towards the layline to the finish. Quick calculations and angulating on the lead boat, still unidentified, showed that the lead for the race could still be up for grabs. The “great gusts” did not continue however and the wind got lighter as Finally! and Cob Web made their way down the Nyes shore. On a final tack across the course to line up with the finish the lead boat was recognized as Web Collins’ Mae Win. Doing more calculating and angulating Finally’s crew saw no way to catch the leader.
There was no boat behind Mae Win on that far side of the course and it appeared Finally! might secure the No. 2 spot at the finish to take home the Collins Cup. Shep Halloran’s Late Show had the lead over Mae Win at last sighting earlier in the race but now was absolutely nowhere in sight. It was inconceivable that Late Show would have fallen so far behind Mae Win. Where was Late Show?
The Race Committee did confirm a 2nd-place finish as Finally! crossed the line. It was also reported that Late Show had swamped off of Scraggy Neck the result of an inadvertent jibe while running under spinnaker. The Race Committee was preparing to get underway with Pure Bluff to offer assistance and Finally!’s crew also blasted back onto the course to check on the situation. Finally! caught up with Late Show just before the Seal Rocks mark running under just a jib and very low in the water. The situation was under control with all crew accounted for and uninjured. Shep Halloran was using his trusty sizeable white bucket to dewater Late Show and they were making steady progress towards the finish. Pure Bluff arrived on station to escort Late Show as needed.
Soon after rounding Can No. 7 and heading for the finish Late Show got the mainsail back up and put the “pedal to the medal” finishing the race only 25 minutes behind Mae Win. The capsize was not the only challenge that Late Show faced as her skipper reported that one crew member (who shall remain anonymous) went for an “inadvertent swim” somewhere in the vicinity of Old Sigh Rock (Southwest Ledge just before Seal Rocks).
1. Mae Win III, Web Collins & Jay Gallagher 00:00
2. Finally!, John Powers & Coach Rick Bagby 05:00
3. Cob Web II, Bruce & Craig Eldridge 07:30
4. Late Show II, Shep & Lydia Halloran and Diane Desmond 25:00