October 17, 2023

Ending season with the Bitter Ender

By Buttons Padin

Reflecting the increasing popularity of shorthanded sailboat racing, Larchmont Yacht Club and the Storm Trysail Club created The Bitter Ender, a Long Island Sound season-closing doublehanded regatta to be sailed mid-October.

The inaugural event was raced on October 13, starting and finishing off Larchmont Harbor in Long Island Sound.

Unique to the Bitter Ender is its starting window from 1500 to 1800, whereby each boat could determine its optimal start time considering current and the forecast winds. With an ebbing tide that afternoon, seven of the eight boats competing chose to start within the first five minutes of the window opening, with the final starter taking advantage of the available time for final boat prep.

Expecting the winds to lighten after sunset and two-course length options, the Race Committee signaled the shorter 62.2 nm route from Larchmont to Norwalk to Port Jefferson and back.

It was anticipated that boats would be finishing around sunrise, but when the northerly wind held, it offered a close reach in 8-15 knots for leg one, a run across the Sound with puffs into the 20s, and a jib reach home. The first boat crossed the line at 2310 with the final one at 0045.

Finishing first on elapsed and corrected time was the Sunfast 3300 BYTE owned by Storm Trysail Club and American Yacht Club members Rob and Libby Alexander, a purpose-built doublehander. Not knowing what the mid-October weather would be, Collin Alexander filled in for his mother much to her regret after the race’s spectacular conditions.

BYTE / Photo: Doug Reynolds

“I loved the format as the starting window relieved some of the stress of a doublehanded start,” said Rob Alexander. “This race was a current play and we had favorable current all the way to Norwalk. I’m coming back next year and will try to get other doublehanders to come, too.”

Taking second aboard the J/99 THIN MAN, another doublehanding-friendly design, were Todd Aven and Girard Gristl from Storm Trysail Club and City Island Yacht Club. The third-place boat, however, Will Ingraham’s J/124 TENEBRAE is definitely not a typical doublehander.

“Doublehanding is a lot of work,” Ingraham’s noted. “I was lucky enough to sail with Rich du Moulin, a very experienced doublehander. One of the key things Rich taught me is to prepare well ahead for any sail changes as they take a long longer than when you have a full crew.”

PRO Mark Dailey noted how with any new regatta comes with its share of unknowns. “We were thrilled that the mid-October weather cooperated so well and that everyone arrived back at the finish safely…and happy. We hope the success of this year’s Bitter Ender will attract more future entries in what we hope will be an ongoing season-ending race.”

Photos from Doug Reynolds

Race Results: https://yachtscoring.com/emenu.cfm?eID=15815