Nantucket Race Week Recap

When I headed to Nantucket to with a PT student to photograph sailing, I had every intention of blogging each day with the events of the day but, once there I found that there was so much to know about sailing to have even a hint of understanding so, I spent the time watching, learning, shooting and simply absorbing everything that was going on around us. I learned so much…like a jib is a sail and to jibe is a sailing maneuver, tacking was changing the direction of the wind coming through the sails, a sheet was actually a rope and on and on. But, most importantly I learned that I have so much to learn if I want to understand sailing.

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So, rather than talking like I know what was happening, I will simply share the days we spent in Nantucket sailing and photographing the 12 meter race.

I left Portland at 10:30PM in order to have an early arrival into Boston where Carol was waiting. We headed to Hyannis to catch the Ferry over to Nantucket. Once we landed we headed straight to the Yacht Club arriving just in time to stow our gear and head out on the water to sail in the first annual womens race sponsored by Bacardi. With four of us on board and three of us having to steer the boat at some time, I put my camera aside and jumped right in to the event. It was a great kickoff to a sailing week.

The next morning we had the privilege of actually sailing with the American Eagle ( a 75′ professional racing sailboat) as the crew practiced for the next days races. I boarded the boat fulling intending to stay out of the way being a spectator watching, photographing and learning more about sailing so I could better understand the next two days races but, instead, they put me right to work. Talk about baptism by fire. It was awesome being part of the crew if only for a short time. I managed a few shots here and there but overall enjoyed participating in the mechanics of sailing, feeling the wind on my face, tasting the salt on my lips and the sheer joy of being out on the water.

The team consisted of the captain and three hired crew members along with 12 women. Each of the boats had 16 people, the American Eagle was an all woman crew. Herb, the owner of the boat was captain, Linda (our host) took control of the helm.

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Sailing is definitely a team sport where each member has a specific job to do and in a specific order. The team had to work smoothly together and after a few hours of sailing I could see them beginning to get the flow. It’s crucial that each member does their job at precisely the right moment in a small area on a rocking boat in order to maintain speed and to make things run smoothly.

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If something goes awry things can get tangled such as this time when Dan had to climb the mast to release something that caught the sail preventing it from catching the full wind slowing us down.

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The practice day was excellent for sailing and working out the bugs with a 10-12 knot wind, we were able to keep the boat around 7-9 knots. The first day of the race was another story…we awoke to rain and wind (20-25 knots). It was going to be a rough, wet day out on the water and the wind would certainly make things exciting. Carol and I were on a motor boat where we could photograph the race from a safe distance. While our boat rocked and rolled with the waves, we had a great time capturing dramatic action. We followed the American Eagle as we felt a close alliance to the crew after sailing with them the previous day.

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I found myself constantly having to wipe the water from my lens to get a clear shot. The image below is an example of shooting through a water logged lens. I think it’s actually a happy accident.

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The second day of the race was a complete turnaround with beautiful weather and very little wind.

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All in all it was an incredible few days. I had a chance of a lifetime going out on the American Eagle and then having the opportunity to photograph the race from another boat out of the water up close and personal. We had dramatic stormy weather and a beautiful blue sky day giving us a variety of photo opportunities. Carol did a great job and I was proud of her and the images she captured. As I packed my bags and headed out to catch the Ferry back to the mainland and reality I can feel the pull of the sea, the thrill of sailing and I know I’ve got the bug. Thanks to our gracious hosts, Linda and Burgess and to Carol for making this great experience happen.

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Images captured with Nikon D3X (practice day and day two of the race), D3 (day one of the race), AF-S 70-300mm VR on Lexar digital media