The Harvest Moon Regatta® is a 153 mile Category 3 (ISAF Offshore Regulations) open regatta along the Texas Gulf Coast from Galveston Island to Port Aransas for racing, cruising, spinnaker and non-spinnaker sailing yachts at least 27 feet LOD and with a minimum of four crew.
The starting gun for the 2010 HMR was fired on Thursday, October 21 at 1400 hours CDT about a half-mile offshore of Galveston Island beaches, with 227 registered entrants and 216 officially checked in and starting the race. Four of this year’s fleet were Jeanneaus:
eXocet - 2006 Sun Odyssey 45- sailed by George and Liz Bright
Moon Dance- 2008 Sun Odyssey 39i- sailed by Mike and Sam Rossiello
Argo- 2010 Sun Odyssey 39i- sailed by George Loes
Bonkers- 2010 Sun Odyssey 36i- sailed by Kyle Stallones
HMR was an exciting challenge for this diverse group of Jeanneau owners. Among the four Jeanneaus in the fleet was represented a wide range in experience; from George Bright, the only owner in the group with measurable offshore time, to Kyle Stallones, who took delivery of “Bonkers” just four weeks before lining up at the start of this year’s HMR.
The race began with light breezes of less than 10 knots and smooth seas. The wind increased to a steady 10-13 before dark with seas of around 1-2 feet. The first and only reporting mark came at the sea buoy for Freeport Ship Channel, some 35 miles to the Southwest, and each of the Jeanneau owners had moved their boats to a comfortable and improving position within their own divisions. eXocet was in a strong position to lead or challenge the entire fleet at that point, and Bonkers was at the lead in its division.
By midnight, however, the winds had increased to 18-20, with gusts to 24 and seas building to a consistent 4-6. At dawn, thanks to a tropical disturbance which had developed near the Yucatan Peninsula, winds were blowing 24-28 with gusts over 40. The building winds and converging currents in the vicinity of Matagorda Ship Channel, meant that racers, especially those taking a line further offshore, were facing about 2.5 of knots of current, seas of 15-18 and some wave faces well over 20 feet.
Several boats in the regatta withdrew due to either sick crew or equipment issues ranging from blown out sails, to lost rigs and rudder failures. Every Jeanneau sailed on with no damaged sailing equipment or rig, however, the same cannot be said of the crew – 50-75% of the crew on each boat was non-functional because of sea-sickness in the extreme conditions.
I sailed on eXocet with George Bright, and we finished the race at 14:25 on October 22, logging a 4th place in Class with 18th overall Division (Cruising with spinnaker-poleless) with corrected time and the 1st place Jeanneau trophy. Moon Dance, Argo, and Bonkers had each withdrawn during the night (in that order) to look for more comfortable conditions and allow their crews to recover.
When asked later about the race Kyle Stallones stated, “I think we were winning our race but I just couldn’t put my crew through any more of that and I was the only one still up and sailing – the others were hanging over the side. But I loved how my boat sailed and handled it.”
Mike Rossiello said, “We just took your advice: When it stopped being fun, we turned back to Freeport. But the boat performed great and we will do it again - Maybe in better conditions next time.”
George Loes noted that although he and his crew were sick and had to turn in at Matagorda, “I am very happy with my boat and will get a crew together to do the Race to the Border (Galveston to Brownsville) next Spring.”
Each Jeanneau owner agreed that they learned much about their boats, themselves and their crews throughout the HMR, and felt that the experience gained from the preparation alone was invaluable, as their Jeanneaus are now much better equipped for any condition and experience they may want to challenge in the future.