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A Test of Perseverance Over Preparedness

Traditionally, the Gearbuster is a 46.5 mile race to Stratford Shoal and back. Subsequently, a second shorter course to Eatons Neck and back (19.0nm) was added to accommodate non-spinnakered classes. 

This Year’s Race

The outlook for this year’s race was not good. One professional weather prognosticator remarked rather drolly that he was concerned “that there will not be enough breeze for decent sailing” (weathman speak for it’s going to be a good day for golfing). Given this, the race committee wisely elected to invoke the “short course” option. This had the Stratford Shoal fleet (spinnakered) sailing to Eatons Neck (19.0nm) and the Eatons Neck fleet (non-spinnakered) sailing to Mid-Sound buoy 32A, The Cows and then to the finish (10.9nm). Regrettably, the forecaster’s concerns proved warranted and ultimately there was no second guessing the RC’s decision. In the end, the race was more about perseverance than preparedness—persevering against pounding motorboat chop and a dearth of wind versus preparing for a 30 knot easterly and steep seas. 

Bill & Jackie Baxter's J111 Fireball - Long Course Winner

Spinnakered Fleet

This year’s Stratford Shoal fleet included five classes: three fully crewed, a “plus one” and one double-handed..

The double-handed Class 1 started first and enjoyed an early jump on the fleet in the best breeze of the day. When it was over, Barry Purcell and his J27 Lucinda came out on top, bettering Josh Burack’s J105 Peregrina by just over nine minutes. Impressive also was Purcell’s 7th place overall finish given that Lucinda was among the slowest rated boats in the fleet in what proved to be a big boat race..

Fireball, a J/111 helmed by Bill & Jackie Baxter, placed first in Class 2 and corrected out in front overall. Finishing second in her debut race under Rick & Skip Sinclair was Bellerophon, a Farr 40. In what was, for the Class 2 boats, mostly a reach up and back, Michael Levy aboard Eagle in Class 2 described the conditions, "It was puffy at the start with about 5 to 7 knots briefly going up to about 9 knots and then fading. The race was about constantly shifting gears between the 5 knot range and the 8 knot range"  Unfortunately, the rest of the fleet would have been very happy if they only had to worry about dealing with shifting gears as the breeze built from a low of 5 knots!

In Class 3,
Smokeshow turned in a remarkable performance.. The  GP26, helmed by Paul Sevigny, won her class by roughly 29 minutes. Even more impressive was that she finished third overall. Of the top six finishers overall she was the only boat not among the faster rated Class 2 boats. Nevermore, skippered by Ken & Drew Hall, finished second in division and eighth overall.

Easy Red, skippered by IHYC's John Cutting, persevered in Class 4 to take the class win and 20th overall as the dying breeze dashed any hopes of the smaller boats finishing well in the overall standings. Second was CAYUGA, Eric Letellier’s Laser 28, a healthy 20+ minutes back.

In Class 5, Arthur Hanlon's Dauntless took first with David Cielusniak's  J-Curve taking second.  

Glim "enjoying" the conditions much of the fleet experienced!

Non-Spinnaker Fleet

The Eatons Neck fleet featured two non-spinnaker classes.

Among this group, two boats continued their strong sailing in this race. Derek Ettie's Whirligig finished first for the second year in a row in class 6 (117 and faster) while John Ekberg’s Foolish Pleasure continued a run of dominance, winning the Non-Spinnaker 118 and slower class for the fourth year in a row. 

Despite less than gearbusting conditions, it was still a pleasant enough day on the water. By the early afternoon, the overcast skies turned to blue for the remainder of the day. And after a long day of racing, competitors headed back the IHYC to compare war stories and enjoy the traditional spread of free beer courtesy of Heineken Brewing and some of the finest post-race food on the Sound on the club’s stunning new South Patio. A great way to end the day and, for many, their sailing season.

Full results on Yachtscoring (search under “Gearbuster”).


The Indian Harbor Stratford Shoal race was first sailed in October of 1956. Since then, the race has become one of the premier fall sailing events on Long Island Sound. Originally sailed as an overnight race with starts in the early evening, and often featuring typically sporty autumnal conditions, the race quickly earned its "Gearbuster" nickname. Now the race is now a mostly daylight affair given its 1100 first start. Being at the end of the season, can still feature gear-busting conditions.

The Geartester

Several years ago, the Gearbuster was paired with the spring Geartester with trophies awarded for the best combined performance. Held in Mid-May, the Geartester allows sailors the opportunity to test their gear in an early season tune-up race. The notorious Gearbuster brings the chance to challenge the durability of one’s gear in the typically strong autumn conditions. Hence the motto “test it, then bust it”. These two races bookend the handicap racing season at IHYC.