The Miami Yacht Club, which has been around for 91 years, is trying something different.
The annual Miami Key Largo Regatta will celebrate its 63rd anniversary April 21-22, and — for the first time in decades — that second day will include an option for more racing.
“So far, we have 59 boats registered for the race,” said Brian Hollenbeck, who is the vice commodore for the Miami Yacht Club, which is the host of the regatta. “Roughly half of those sailors have said they will also race back from Key Largo to Miami the following day.”
In the past, many sailors would race down to Key Largo and then come back to Miami on the same day.
But now that there is an optional second day of racing, Hollenbeck is hoping the event becomes more social, with sailors staying at Gilbert’s Resort in Key Largo, going to dinner together and meeting with other like-minded individuals before heading back to the water the following morning.
“A lot of people are happy to go down there, spend the night and have an objective coming back,” Hollenbeck said.
The Miami Yacht Club was founded in 1927 as the Southern Florida Boat Racing Association. Several years later, the name change occurred, and the MYC moved to its current location on Watson Island.
In those early days, prominent Miamians would race to Nassau. More recently, the club has prided itself on developing young sailors into Olympians.
The Miami Yacht Club has become such a force for young sailors that part of the USA Sailing Olympic Development Program is located at MYC headquarters on Watson Island.
“We’ve been one of the most successful clubs in developing youth sailing,” Hollenbeck said. “We’ve become known as the ‘Home of Sailing Champions,’ and that’s where we’ve built our reputation.”
As for the Miami Key Largo Regatta, the race will start on Biscayne Bay, just south of the Rickenbacker Causeway, and it is open to all boats 14 feet or longer.
Typically, boats entered include larger monohulls, which can travel about 10 mph, and smaller and sleeker catamarans and beach cats, which can hit speeds of 35 mph.
The race is first to finish for everybody, but there are also class scores depending on the vessel. A “scratch sheet” is used to correct and adjust times depending on the boat used.
Technology, though, has greatly impacted the sailing world in the past two decades as speeds have doubled or even tripled in terms of some of the high-tech yachts seen during America’s Cup competitions.
“This has made sailing more exciting,” Hollenbeck said. “It’s a great sport that encompasses the balance of wind and water with a machine.”
Come race days, Hollenbeck is hoping for a wind “sweet spot” of about 15 knots per hour. There have been days when the wind is so light — 10 knots or below — that it can take eight hours to complete the race.
But there have also been races where the wind is too high — 20 knots or above — and that has caused some boats to sink.
“We had one year where we had a thunderstorm, and three boats sank,” said Hollenbeck, noting that the committee boats rescued all sailors. “Two years ago, we had a boat that flipped.”
Speaking of weather, Hurricane Irma last year destroyed or damaged roughly 1800 sail boats in the Miami area.
“We’ve had a 20-percent reduction in the number of racers this year because of Irma,” Hollenbeck said. “It’s sad, but hopefully next year a lot of people will be back with newer boats.”