Ok. I admit. I probably shouldn't have led with the statement that, despite being ineligible, we nevertheless intend to "race," which implies that we intend to intrude. This is not our intention, which I made that clear in a follow-up e-mail to AJ Evans, the chairman of the regatta, whom I understand is also the youngest chairman in the history of the regatta.
Not being one to just let things mull about, I picked up the phone and gave AJ a call, primarily to introduce myself, but also to clear the air. Why did I feel the need to clear the air? Let's just say I received a response from a member of the OA that was not meant for my eyes. This e-mail contained a few exclamation marks and made reference to RRS 69.
Despite the vitriolic nature of the response, AJ and I had a very gentlemanly call, and even batted around a couple of ideas, since our request to sail through the official starting line was not well-received. AJ initially proposed that I set sail from Brooklyn. Although starting from Brooklyn has some appeal given that the regatta had its first start there in 1906, ultimately, we are set on leaving from Newport. We can't help it. We love Newport. (If Thomas Day were alive today, we would have kicked back a few over at IYAC culminating with unspeakable activity at the Candy Store). AJ, however, expressed a concern about potential interference with other boats while offshore if we were to leave from Newport. I reiterated that we have no intention of intruding upon the race--especially with the official entrants who have undertaken significant preparations (both time and expense) to get to the starting line of this classic regatta. I also mentioned that we would not seek to enforce any rights of way that we might have against any official entrant while offshore; if we have a port-starboard situation, and we're on starboard, we're going to give way, well before the port boat has to change course. We're out there to sail as a fast as we can to Bermuda and participate in the adventure, not to be dicks.
AJ also suggested that we sail out of Narragansett Bay either before or after the exclusion zone is enforced. This too has appeal, but we're waiting to see the Notice to Mariners once it's posted on the Newport Bermuda Race notice board. What we don't want is to leave too late in the day on June 17.
One option that we did not discuss would be departing after the last start, but potentially before the exclusion zone is lifted. In 2014, the last class (14 in total) would have crossed the starting line at 1520 EDT. Departing after the last start would address both of AJ's concerns: potential interference during the start and while offshore. Unless it's blowing 20-30 knots from a downwind point of sail at the start, most if not all of the fleet will remain ahead of us well into the ocean. If it is blowing 20-30 knots from a downwind point of sail at the start, fuggedaboutit.
No resolution was reached other than that we made clear that we'd keep clear.
All in all, I'm happy I was able to speak with AJ. From what I could gather, he's doing exceptional work as the regatta's chairman and clearly has the interests of the regatta and its competitors as his primary focus (as he should as chairman).
But I also got the sense that AJ understands and perhaps even appreciates what we're trying to accomplish. In the end, we're all sailors and are unified by our connection to the sea, regardless of whether we're pros or weekend warriors, or whether we participate for trophies and records or for pure adventure and the feeling that overtakes us when we grab the helm on a downwind run under a full moon and universe of stars. Just like Thomas Day and his contemporaries who chose to venture offshore in small boats in what became the first Newport Bermuda Race, we all just want to "get a smell of the sea."
See you out on the water.
REVISION: Based on a comment posted to Sailing Anarchy, we want to make clear that we did not refuse AJ's suggestion that we start either before the exclusion zone is in place or after it is lifted. In fact, we fully support that approach. When we stated above that we would keep clear, we did not mean to suggest that we intended to start in a sequence but keep clear of official entrants. We intend to keep clear by starting well before the first start, or after the last start clears. In other words, we will be avoiding the exclusion zone altogether unless the OA gives us permission to sail through after the last start clears (but before the exclusion zone is lifted). Our intention is not to violate any rules that are applicable to us as a non-racing, non-participating boat.