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Whaleboat regatta concludes with Azorean wins

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NEW BEDFORD — The Azorean boats proved their supremacy Sunday on the final day of the whaleboat racing regatta with teams from the Azorean Islands of Pico and Faial winning the rowing and sailing contests, respectively. Six boats, three Azorean-made and three Yankee-made, competed in the Dabney Cup race with single heats in rowing and sailing.

In rowing, all the Azorean boats finished before their Yankee counterparts. In the sailing competition, a Yankee boat representing the New Bedford Whaling Museum was able to sneak between two Azorean boats to come in second.

The results of the races can partially be attributed to the crucial differences between the two whaleboats, according to their crews. Azorean whaleboats are 39 feet long, and are rowed by six people. Yankee boats are 10 feet shorter, but one less person rows them. So while the boats are a little lighter, they have less power, said Sara da Silva Quintal, who is the skipper of the United States women’s rowing team.

That gives the Azorean boats the advantage during a rowing contest, as was apparent Sunday when the Azorean boats triumphed.

In sailing, the advantage flips. The Azorean boats have larger sails, but have no keel or center board, making them less agile.

“In an Azorean boat, you are sailing just with the sails, you have little control with the rudder,” da Silva Quintal said.

Perhaps that’s why over the course of the three-day competition Azorean whaleboats capsized twice when sailing in Clark’s Cove.

Donald Rei, who sails Azorean boats on the New Bedford team, said the Yankee boats are much easier to sail in stronger winds.

In order to gain speed when sailing, boats must turn as close into the wind as possible. That becomes much more difficult without a center board. Rei, who sailed J boats for years before recently switching to whaleboats, said that while many boats can get as close to 10 to 15 degrees off-wind, the Azorean boats are lucky if they can get 35 to 40 degrees off-wind.

“This is a completely different animal,” he said. “It’s not as forgiving.”

As it turns out, this crucial difference is routed in the history of whaling itself, and the differences between the hunt in each culture.

Yankee whalers would launch their whaleboats off great ships in the middle of the ocean, where the centerboard was needed for stability. In the Azores, though, most whaling was done from the shore, da Silva Quintal said.

“If you had a center board, it would complicate dragging the boat onshore,” she said. “The Yankees designed the boats for how they whaled and the Azoreans modified it for what they needed.”

Chuck Resevick, who was sailing a Yankee boat for the Whaling Museum team, called the Yankee boats’ center board “the great equalizer.”

“Hopefully, even if the Azorean boats catch more wind, we will be able to go upwind of them and win,” he said before the race. Resevick’s crew was able to do just that to finish one of the races in second.

But, overall, Resevick said, the ultimate goal was to navigate the course safely because “capsizing is easy to do.”

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Longmont sailing club attracts recreational, competitive sailors

If you go

What: Butterfly Colorado Championship

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Union Reservoir, Longmont

Visit: for more info

LONGMONT — Boulder resident Mark Flett tugs on the rope to his left moving the main sail of his single passenger, Sunfish sailboat just enough to block out the sun.

Flett, 59, a recreational sailor and member of the Union Sailing Club, seeks solace from work while he kicks back on the still water at Union Reservoir nearly every weekend through the summer.

“I like to sail in the shade,” Flett hollers to a fellow sailor as he floats by lounging across the 13-foot boat, peeling an orange. “I’ve got my lunch, shade and a light breeze. What more do you need?”

About 160 families from Fort Collins to Denver are part of the Union Sailing Club in Longmont, but not all of them are in it for relaxation.

The Longmont club attracts competitive and recreational sailors of varying skill levels, said Gib Charles, a club board member and education chairman.

The club is one of four sailing clubs across the Front Range. The others are Carter Lake Sailing Club in Loveland, the Colorado Sail and Yacht Club at Chatfield Reservoir in Littleton and the Denver Sailing Association at Cherry Creek Reservoir in Aurora.

Union members pay an annual fee of $50, which gets them access to the club’s picnic area, parking lot, launch ramp, and docks. Membership fees pay for the club’s maintenance and cost of social events and weekly races, Charles said.

Friendly competition

Every Wednesday evening and Sunday afternoon from April through October, the club hosts races at Union Reservoir.

Anywhere from six to 30 sailboats can be seen navigating the six buoys spread out across the lake but

competitors can’t count on winning just because they’re the first to cross the finish line.

In order to encourage more competition, the club holds open races allowing all types of sailboats to compete in most races. The club adjusts each boat’s time using a handicap system to level the playing field between small and large boats.

“There are so many different boats, and everyone is looking for something different,” Charles said. “The handicap system allows everyone to participate without giving an advantage to certain racers.”

Other events seek to bring sailors with similar boats together, diminishing the need for a handicap system.

The club is hosting the Colorado Butterfly Championship on Sunday, which will attract owners of one of the smallest and lightest sailboats, the Butterfly.

The 12-foot, 150-pound Butterflies are one of the more comfortable and manageable small sailboats, which will likely attract several of the state’s female sailors to the Longmont competition, Charles said.

Club members race locally to hone their skills and add a challenge to leisurely lake sailing, Charles said, but some members compete on a national scale, as well.

Four members of the Union Sailing Club won the Gold and Silver Fleet races at the Mutineer 15 National Championship regatta in July.

Gib Charles with club member Mike Ruwitch as crew won the national championship, and members Peter Way with Greg Larson as crew won the Silver Fleet.

Where there’s a will, there’s a Way

Way, 58, a Fort Collins resident, has always been competitive despite his physical challenges.

When he was a toddler, Way contracted polio, leaving him reliant on canes to get around.

“There’s a narrower range of sports I can do, so I need something that will take me places and work with my limitations,” Way said. “It’s neat in how competitive I can be at sailing relative to everyone else.”

Since 1982, Way has been racing on Colorado lakes but in the last few years he traded in his Catamaran for a slower-speed, but more manageable Mutineer to relieve some of the strain on his shoulders.

“That’s what’s great about sailing for me,” Way said. “I can

make the equipment work to my advantage and still be athletic and competitive.”

Way learned to sail at a summer camp in junior high and has been dabbling in the sport ever since.

He has sailed on the coast and inland, and while the concepts are similar, the conditions are very different, he said.

“Lake sailing tends to be a little trickier because of the lack of steady ocean breezes,” Way said. “Ocean sailing may be a little more dangerous than the lakes but the conditions and breezes are more consistent.”

Rough waters created by wakes can make sailing off the coast or on a lake more challenging, Way said.

Smooth sailing

Union Reservoir’s no-wake rules make Longmont a perfect place for smooth sailing, Way said.

There are lakes much closer to Way’s home, he said, but smooth waters at Union make it worth the drive for optimal conditions.

The wake created by motor boats can rock sailboats, especially small ones, increasing the possibility of capsizing — something, Way said, he’s only done a few times during races.

But Way said it’s not just the smooth water that keeps him coming back to Longmont.

“The club is a great community of people who challenge each other and help each other,” Way said. “Everyone pitches in during races and it really is a great community to be a part of.”

Whitney Bryen can be reached at 303-684-5274 or

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