Young sailors take to Buzzards Bay in New Bedford Junior Regatta

Jul 7, 2018

Nick Memoli is too old to race in the New Bedford Junior Regatta, so now the Marion resident is giving back to a new generation of sailors by serving as a coach instead.

The Beverly Yacht Club coach and former competitor was in attendance with his crew of 420-class sailors in the 24th iteration of the annual regatta. It began on July 7 and will continue until July 8 in the waters of Padanaram Harbor in Dartmouth.

During the first day of competition on July 7, owing to water and wind conditions, at least one sailor capsized before quickly clambering aboard his O’pen Bic. Overall, the sailors managed the course just fine, navigating around buoys which marked each course and competing fiercely with the elements and each other.

“It’s a tough competition, especially early in the season,” Memoli said, adding he was confident in his sailors.

Open to young sailors up to the age of 18, the event drew competitors from local towns to even more distant environs, including Canada, Colorado, and a rumored Norwegian.

Among the youngest in the competition was 9-year-old Maggie Fearons, although she already has four or five years of experience under her belt. Drawn to the sport by her older brother, the Mattapoisett resident competed in an O’pen Bic, a boat that is notable for its open back, which makes it prone to filling with water. It was the first year the boat was included in the regatta.

A year older than Fearons, Dartmouth’s Phoebe Murray was competing in her home waters, as she is a member of the New Bedford Yacht Club, which hosted the event. She acknowledged the location did give her “a little bit” of a leg up.

This year’s regatta attracted more sailors than in recent memory, according to Jennifer Vescio, co-chair of the event. The event also included 420, Optimist, and Laser Radial boats.

The regatta had four courses marked by inflatable buoys, one for each class of boat, although the youngest Optimist sailors shared a course with the O’pen Bics. Races began around 10 a.m. and continued through the afternoon.

The annual event attracts a lot of repeat competitors, like 13-year-old Max Westhaven. It was his second or third time in the race. Although he’s always sailed Optimists, including this year, he might switch it up in a more advanced 420 next year.

“It’s quite competitive, which I like,” he said of the regatta.

Ava Stephens of Greenwich and Ellie Dyroff of Colorado also noted the stiff competition. Some of their rivals were members of the United States Optimist Dinghy Association, a competitive league. They were confident about the conditions, however.

“The wind should be pretty decent, once you get out into the open area,” Ellie Dyroff said.