Where the Figawi?
Where the Figawi?
The big, white-haired dude behind the wheel looked remarkably familiar, of that there was little doubt. And in the clarity of hindsight, it couldn't possibly have been anyone else. But at that very instant, perhaps due to the heat of the moment, or the unfamiliar context in which the encounter took place, it took a long second to register that the man at the helm of the classic, beautiful blue schooner whose bow we were now crossing by a not-at-all considerable distance-and in a chartered bareboat no less, a vessel for which we harbored no true sense of attachment or sentiment-was in fact the senior senator for the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Yup. Ted Kennedy.
We were closing in on the finish line of the 36th annual Figawi Race from Hyannis-site of the long-time Kennedy family encampment on Cape Cod-to the outlying isle of Nantucket, on a glorious Saturday over Memorial Day weekend. The 22-mile contest across Nantucket Sound, to be honest, had been more of a cruise-in-company with a few thousand other kindred spirits in the 240-boat fleet: After a short beat upwind, we'd rounded the sole weather mark and cracked off to a tight reach for the finish just off the entrance to Great Harbor, where all sorts of nonsense and festivities awaited.
There was a definite Sailing World bias to our crew: I was trimming main and playing connect-the-dots with the chartplotter, editor Dave Reed was on the jib and calling tactics, and senior editor and Figawi skipper Stu Streuli was on the helm. Stu's wife, Leslie, and our buddies Bryan Cooney and Paul Faerber rounded out the team. We were sailing an immaculate, brand-spanking-new Beneteau 423 called Summer Breeze that we'd chartered back home in Newport from Brian Blank's Bareboat Sailing Charters.
We weren't alone. There were four other identical Beneteaus in our 14-boat, non-spinnaker class, which provided a nice little one-design element to the day's exercise. At the outset, Stu had made one thing perfectly clear. On handicap, he didn't particularly care if we trailed the other boats in our division, which included an Ericson 38, a Baltic 37, a C&C 38, a Sabre 38, and an Alerion 33, all relatively quick steeds. But if we weren't the first Beneteau home, boat-for-boat, returning to Newport might not be an option.