Vineyard memories — Steve Moore

Steve Moore, left, with Vice Commodore Tom Campfield.

The Buzzards Society was formed to honor those who have sailed in 10 or more Vineyards. Here Steve Moore talks about his memories of the race.

My first Vineyard was 1964 on a Bermuda 40 yawl “Dixie”, Peter Rugg, who was my crew on my Blue Jay and my Lightning got me the berth. “Dixie” was owned by Mac Sykes, who was Jimmy Sykes’s father, the owner of Bombardino.

Mac was a product of the Bayside Yacht Club, which also produced Arthur Knapp and his sister Allegra Knapp Mertz. Also, my father, Jim Moore, grew up in Bayside. Dad won more one-design fleet championships at the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club than anyone else. For this reason he would often get offers to sail on big boats. He was a regular on “Running Tide” and “Good News” with Jacob Isbrantsen. Dad told me once that he asked Jacob, “Why do you want an old fart like me on your boat?”

Jacob’s reply was, “You can still steer, Can’t you?” Dad would navigate when they were on soundings

Tom Young with “Shearwater” was our great rival on “Dixie” I remember the long reach down the Sound that night after the start with the big spinnaker and the mizzen staysail pushing ”Dixie” with the southwester. It was our weather.

I remember coming back from the tower and going through Point Judith Harbor of Refuge. This race was before the course was changed to leave Block Island to starboard on the way home.

The Vineyard is my favorite distance Race. Many of them were with Richard duMoulin my friend, shipmate, and fellow competitor going back to Blue Jays, Lightnings , InterClubs and Etchells days.

Ed duMoulin, Richard’s father was a partner in a Carter 39 named BLAZE. We did pretty well with her. We won the Everett B. Morris Trophy for the best performance at Block Island Race Week.
But, my favorite memory of a Vineyard Race on Blaze was when we were flying down the Sound one evening heading for the Race with a brisk Southerly on our starboard quarter. The spinnaker was up and we were trucking east fast with a strong ebb.  Richard was on the helm, when he decided to go right over the top of Valiant Rock. He said it was worth three boat lengths.

However, Richard forgot to mention his plan to the watch below, snug in their bunks.
When we went up and over the standing wave above the rock, she came crashing into the trough of the standing wave beyond the rock. We hit the trough so hard that the deck was under water.

It sure got the crew’s attention .They were wondering what we hit or what hit us. John Browing came firing up the ladder with his life jacket on. The off watch woke up very fast. But, we did get our 3 boat lengths on another boat near us.

The year we won the race on Lora Ann.

I don’t remember which year, “You could look it up” as Casey Stengel used to say. We had quite a seasoned brain trust onboard, mostly Storm Trysail Club members, Richard, me, Richard’s college roommate, Lee Reichart , Chris Reyling, a great bowman, and a very talented naval architect. Horacio Marquez our resident gaucho and an excellent sailor from Argentina with lots of offshore experience, Brenda Lewis who does a great job in the pit and she can trim the spinnaker, too . Also aboard was Richard’s daughter Lora for the race.

There was a brisk easterly wind that year (not the stormy year).

When we finally got to the Race after a long upwind beat, dawn had broken. I had been listening to the weather radio in the cockpit. NOAA suggested that the wind would shift to the right. We tacked to port at the Race to dig into the shift, and we headed to Southwest Point. For some strange reason the majority of the fleet chose to keep closer to the rhumb line which passes by 1BI at the northern end of North Reef.

There were several boats that were with us. Many of them decided to bail out to the north. For a while, it got very lonely in Block Island Sound. I kept asking John Browning, my great friend and excellent shipmate and a good friend since Jr. sailing days, “Why are all these boats going north?”

We actually brought out the sailing instructions, which we all read, just to double check if we had missed something before we went around Southwest Point.

After we tacked on to starboard to clear the south end of Block Island and Southeast Point the tower, I held our course all the way to the tower.

When we finally tacked to go around the tower we were maybe 400 or 500yds from it. However, the crew of Lora Ann is bunch of merciless, demanding bastards. They all chided me for missing the layline all the way from Southeast Point by those few yards. We were in a great position. The boats to the north were dog meat. They had gotten close to the Rhode Island Shore and were miles behind us and in another galaxy far, far away to the north. We rounded the tower in great shape and set the kite to go back to Southeast Point.

We had the chute up for a long time going back up the Sound. It was so much fun to surf down the big rolling waves that were being kicked up by the strong easterly on our stern. It’s not a condition we get in the Sound too often, but it sure was a blast. When dawn broke in Long Island Sound, we could see Bombardino’s big spinnaker up ahead.

To be up with a Santa Cruz 50 aboard an Express 37 was wonderful. We had it made.

Soon Richard came on deck and uttered the four most feared words from Bill Koch on America Cubed, “I’ll take her now!” Richard took the helm. I had kept track of my fastest surf which was about 12kts. or 13kts. Of course, Richard topped my best surf. Then I asked him if he would let me try to beat his best speed

Richard said, “NO!”

At the time, we were past Middle Ground and closing on the Cows buoy. However, “Pride goeth before the fall”

Richard started sculling down the waves to break the stern loose. He gave a particularly hard yank on the tiller and spun us into a jibe broach that put the leeward spreaders in the water.

When the rig came up it kept going to the other side, putting the other spreaders in the water, too. It’s a good thing that the rigs are strong on the Express37s. Adam Loory had told me after a very windy day of racing at the American Spring Series in40+kts, where we had a rookie in the pit and was way too slow on the spinnaker halyard.

When the chute filled the head was way too far from the masthead, and we did a magnificent broach Adam told me he could see the underside of our keel when he went around the mark.
He called it doing a “duMoulin”. After Richard’s acrobatics in the Sound. We dubbed Richard’s Jibe broaches a “Double duMoulin”. I suggested to Richard that he might want to put some bottom paint on his spreaders. Incidentally, Lora slept through the double duMoulin.

One of my best memories of a previous race on Lora Ann was when an Atlantic hurricane had churned up some really big waves. As we were sailing back from the tower and neared the New Harbor breakwater where the ferries come in, we could watch the boats ahead of us off South East Point as they disappeared out of sight behind the crests of the waves.

That was a Kodak moment.

I was a helmsman on Randy Burwell’s Tripp37 “Breakaway” .When we won the race, the wind was Northwest for the whole race. If I remember we had a good leg to the tower. We won it on the return trip through Block Island Sound by going across to Montauk Point from South West Point with the flood sweeping us towards the Race. We tacked to port when we could lay Race Rock. When we reached the Race, We tacked to starboard in order to take all the advantage of the flood current now on our port side, pushing us to windward.

There were a couple of 50+ big boats which crossed tacks with us in Block Island Sound. They had chosen to head for the Gut. When we got out of The Race we crossed them far to windward towards Connecticut as they emerged from the Gut.

From there to the finish was a close reach. I think I remember seeing Carina in sight ahead, when she finished.

Also, I did a race on Lora Anne when we had a great race against PAX from Little Gull and north of Long Sand Shoal .Going down the Sound back to Stamford. We hugged close to Connecticut and found some new wind coming off the shore around Milford and Stratford, while Pax had chosen to chase the dying breeze that was receding out into the Sound. We won our class.

I have done several other races but they don’t come to mind.

Another memory.  We had done the Block Island Race on Lora Anne the previous spring. The Block Island Race rounds Block Island leaving it to starboard. In earlier years the skipper had the option to round in either direction. Now it’s left to starboard.

The reason for the course change occurred during a race in a year that Block Island Race was particularly foggy. The next year they decided to have some traffic control due to the fact that the Commodore of Storm Trysail was beating upwind off the east side of the island when he looked up to see Thunderhead’s spinnaker pole go over his head. Thus traffic control was imposed.

The Montauk Ploy:

The race I am describing has a very funny story.

Years ago when I was crewing on Dixie with Mac Sykes, he told me about a condition where it was faster to get to Plum Gut from South West Point by sailing over to Montauk point instead of on the rhumb line to the Gut and he told me about a race where he had watched a boat make good use of the Ploy.

When the current is ebbing from Long Island Sound one would think that it would be faster to sail the rhumb line to the Gut. Instead, depending, on the wind direction, go to Montauk. Stay inside of Shagwong Reef. Go across the entrance to Lake Montauk, stay close to Fort Pond Bay. Pass close to Culloden Point. Then aim at Gardners Island. Go close to Gardners and the ruins on the north tip of Gardeners Island (beware of the rocks at the ruins). Head for the reef out to Orient Point Lighthouse with some of the reef in the way of the ebb current. When you go to round Orient lighthouse, don’t worry you can jump on to the light from your boat without any depth issues. However, there are 2 rocks off to the northwest of the lighthouse. Many an errant sailor has discovered them with the keel, including me.


Now the funny story,

In the Block Island Race one Spring We had tried the Montauk Ploy. However, the wind died at sunset in Block Island Sound.

We got to Montauk Point and anchored for most of the night with the knot meter reading 5 knots. We spent a lot of time looking at Montauk Point that night. Richard was not happy.

Since I had suggested our course, instead of heading for the Gut.

He turned to me and asked, “What do you think our competition is doing now ?” Implying that they were sailing off to the Gut. My answer was” They are out there anchored in 200 feet of water. We are anchored here in 30 feet of water.”


In the Vineyard Race we got across the south end of Block Island, and once again I headed for Montauk Point.

Richard had gone below to heat up some chow for the crew. At some point Richard looked at the GPS track and came on deck.

He asked me, “Steve, Where are we going?”

I answered,” We‘re going to Montauk. Richard told me to head for Plum Gut. I said, “OK” just to get rid of him

Richard’s thinking about the BI Race where the wind died at sunset in Block Island Sound. He went below and I aim for Montauk.

Several minutes later, Richard came on deck again and ask once again “Steve. Where are we going?”

I answered , “Were going to Montauk”

Then he asked the famous question,”What’s going to happen when the sun goes down?”

My answer was,  ”It’s going to get dark.”

Richard Said, ”Come on down below. “

We had a short pow-wow at the chart table and Richard agreed to go to Montauk.

And, we won our class.

One of my best memories of a race on Lora Ann was when an Atlantic hurricane had churned up some really big waves. As we were sailing back from the tower to Southeast Point off ame the New Harbor breakwater where the ferries come in We could watch the bigger boats ahead of us as they disappeared out of sight behind the crests of the waves.

I was a helmsman on Randy Burwell’s Tripp37 Breakaway when we won the race. If I remember we had a good leg to the tower. The wind was North West. We won it in Block Island Sound by going across to Montauk Point with the flood sweeping us towards the Race. We tacked to port when we could lay Race Rock. When we reached the Race, we took advantage of the strong flood, and tacked to starboard in order to take all the advantage of the flood current on our port quarter, pushing us ahead and to windward. There were a couple of 50+ big boats which we crossed tacks with in Block Island Sound when they had chosen to head for the Gut. We were most of the way to the Connecticut side of the Sound when we crossed one of them when they emerged from Plum Gut

From there to the finish was a close reach. I think I remember seeing Carina in sight ahead when she finished.


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