The Moffett Race.
When George Moffett, a successful yachtsman who was instrumental in the early days of the Holmes Hole Sailing Association passed in 1977, his widow, Lucia Moffett asked the board if the HHSA could establish an annual award in George's name. It was decided an annual, end of the season race to celebrate the summer's success would be held late in September, when winds were apt to be strong. All sailors with boats from 15 to 70 feet long would be welcome, regardless of club membership or type of monohull boat. Many sailors leapt at the opportunity to join in now that the busy summer season was over. As luck would have it the first race in 1978 was in very light air with about 20 boats entering. Joe Low, a HHSA regular, won the race in "Mockingbird" a Santana 26.
Over the years the race has gained in popularity and has attracted boats of every description. When the entry list grew to more than 45 boats, the start was divided into two fleets for safety concerns. At about that time, prizes were established for two fleets, but the race has always been for one winner and now awards are given for overall positions of 1 through 5, with the winner's name placed on the half model of the "Lucia" a cruising boat designed by George for Lucia. Since 1998, when Harry Duane won his second Moffett race, the winners have been heavily penalized in the succeeding 5 years of races in order to allow others a chance at winning.
The race date was shifted to the weekend following Labor day weekend to allow more summertime boats to attend. A registration of 50 to 60 entries,the norm for years, has dropped off in recent years as has been the case for regatta attendance across the world. The race continues to attract boats of every description and it offers a challenging day of sailing regardless of conditions. The race has taken many different courses of about 20 miles long. Some years, because of light air, an alternate shorter course has been used. Boats large and small have won it and the race has provided extremely challenging windward/leeward courses and in other years fast reaches and runs only.
Handicapping the Moffett Race has been the most challenging task for the race committee. The Holmes Hole handicaps are derived by watching the boats perform over many races and conditions but in the Moffett race, many boats are coming out for their first race and some from far away. This together with the fact that speedy performance boats are competing with classic schooners and 18 foot full keel day sailors, make for a most interesting dilemma. But, over the years, the committee has been successful in making sure there is only one winner.
Two memorable races involved mistakes which might be expected from a fleet of irregular racers. In 1990, Approximately 25 boats, or one half of the racers did not notice the reverse flag posted on the committee boat. With so many proceeding to Falmouth rather than Edgartown first, it appeared to the racers they were on the right track. It's always nice to know half of your competitors were out of the running when it came time to hear the results. In 1992, the lead boat, which will remain unnamed here, turned at a mark 2 miles short of the mark designated for the course. All but 3 or 4 followed the short cutter and had to drop out when they realized their mistake, or were made aware of their mistake at the awards party.
The fleet of Moffett racers has evolved over the years and a progression towards bigger and faster boats has been relentless. That said, the HHSA welcomes boats of every description and regular tweaking of the rating system has consistantly evened the playing field so that even a well sailed, slower boat, with a little luck can score well. The mix of classic wooden boats with the latest production and custom boats make the end of season celebration Moffett race totally unique and fun for all.