Conanicut Yacht Club's annual Around the Island Race circumnavigates Conanicut Island every Labor Day weekend. This is an end of season event for many sailors, and allows for a last friendly hoorah with mostly PHRF and a few One Design fleets. This year's event was slightly unusual compared to most years, as a stiff northeasterly breeze hung around most of the week through the weekend. Rain and even stronger winds were forecasted, but come race day it was a 20-25 knot breeze with no rain in sight!
The boats started just off the Yacht Club by the Newport Bridge and raced north this year instead of the usual southerly start. Photographically, I had the wonderful opportunity to photograph boats against the Newport Bridge compared to the usual Clingstone in the background. Not to mention, I love shooting into the sun so the water was sparkling and the backlit sails glowed as spray from the competitors was thrown every which way!
To avoid a terribly uncomfortable motorboat ride, my driver and I opted for rounding the island to the south and meeting up with the fleet near Dutch Harbor for some more photos. This allowed us to follow the wind and the swell downwind, and stay in the lee of Jamestown once we rounded Beavertail. After a few shots with the Jamestown Bridge and Dutch Island Lighthouse in the background, we continued up the Bay to round the north end and get back to CYC.
The lee of the island was a lifesaver on our way back and kept the ride almost perfectly smooth at times. But once we rounded the north end of the island we had the longest fetch of the day, and things were awfully choppy the home stretch. Of course, going downwind in such chop is preferable to going into it, so we felt we made the best decision we could have for the day. (For this event, I always try to get back to land before the fleets finish, to allow myself time to download and make a brief slideshow before the competitors arrive for dinner.)
We always have to weigh our options between staying safe and comfortable in the motor boat against the potential photos we might be missing by going opposite the fleet on regatta days. But when it's not your boat being risked in stiff winds and potentially damaging chop, it's better safe than sorry!
See all the shots in the Regatta Gallery!