Longer Races – an Op-Ed Contribution

The following is an Op-Ed Contribution by Jon Pinckney, a member of the Harbor 20 Class Association and Fleet 1.


Open letter to Fleet one members,

I sailed in last night’s NHYC twilight race and wanted to express that the two races we sailed were perhaps the best two races I have ever experienced in the Harbor 20. I am hoping to open up a little dialogue amongst members as to why I felt the races were so good so perhaps we can duplicate last night’s experience for future races if other sailors felt the same way.

What I felt made last night stand out from all the other twilights was the length of the race course. The weather leg was approximately a half mile long and we sailed a twice around WL course lasting approximately 30 minutes. The wind was Southwest at about 8-10 knots. The longer course allowed for the boats to separate out on the course and sail the H20 the way they were meant to sail. This was in sharp contrast to 2 weeks earlier when in the same wind our races were twice around lasting 12 minutes long in the same conditions.

My belief as to why we do short course racing in the harbor is that before the H20 came along we raced sabots and other small boats in the harbor for which a small course was suitable. When the H20’s came along everyone just incorporated the H20 racecourse with the way things were always run for smaller boats.   I believe that is a mistake that we should look as a class to correct as heavier keelboats stop, turn, accelerate and generally handle much differently than a small lightweight dinghy. Short courses are dangerous as only so many 20 foot boats even fit in the race course at one time and the limited space ensures that 3 fleets of boats will always be on top of each other. As soon as one fleet goes around the windward mark, they are immediately headed downwind into another fleet of “hard on the wind” right away boats. I have often times been in this situation where 5-6 B’s are lined up in a row on Starboard tack taking up to 100 feet of space and as a downwind give way boat, I have nowhere to go to give way.

I am hoping that we can agree that longer is better and perhaps even recognize that a 25 minute race is still a short race for a 20 foot keelboat! If so is there a way we as a class can express our preference to PRO’s running our races? While I am thinking that races, regardless of how many legs sailed, should be about 30 minutes long, it is most important that the length of the beat is stretched out to allow for a more safe, fair, and enjoyable experience. The challenge is a southerly wind that runs across our east/west channels. While we are limited in space in these conditions we should do everything we can to make sure that every bit of length is incorporated into the course which I don’t think we always do. Perhaps we can discuss this openly here and then if the class agrees, make recommendations to PRO’s of all the local Yacht Clubs. As our numbers grow the danger grows along with the quality of racing and I think it is time correct something that has been wrong from the very beginning. Let’s recognize that a H20 is a 2,000 pound 20 foot keelboat and not a 100 pound 8 foot sabot or Lehman 12.

Invite all to comment below.


Jon Pinckney

Earth #15



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