Sailboats are a common sight in St. Augustine waters, but next weekend, their presence will be especially commanding.

Sailors gather for competitions in speed, navigation and maneuverability for St. Augustine Race Week March 23-30. The weeklong festivities include inshore and offshore sailboat races for sailors of all ages and sailboats of many kinds, along with social and spectator events around St. Augustine.

Race Week is an opportunity for sailing enthusiasts or even those who know nothing about the sport to have some fun by the water, said Dan Floryan, chairman of SARW and an organizer and co-founder of the event.

“The idea was to bring sailing events to the rest of the community,” Floryan said. “We want people to understand that on-the-water activities can be really fun.”

With boats racing along roughly five miles as far south as the Bridge of Lions and north to The Reef restaurant on Vilano Beach, Race Week extends far throughout St. Augustine.

“Our aim is to have this be as much as a citywide event as possible,” said Dave Montgomery, publicity and marketing chair for SARW.

Youth races kick off the competitive events March 23-24. One-Design 420 Youth Regatta races will be in the Intracoastal Waterway near the bayfront. The One-Design 420 sailboats are manned by two youth sailors. There will be about 15 children ages 12 to 18 participating.

Floryan said that while younger children have participated in the opti-class in previous years, sailing small, one-person dinghies, that race will not happen this year.

Aside from the youth boats, there are currently about 30 boats registered for inshore and offshore races, Floryan said. However, registration to particpate in races remains open until Tuesday, March 19.

There are two main types of sailboats competing in Race Week. They include performance sailboats and "cruisers." These boats will race Thursday-Saturday, March 28-30.

Cruisers are the more common boat. They are heavier, designed for cruising and comfort and “not built for speed,” Floryan said.

The other type is performance sailboats. These are made with a deep keel to travel faster.

Races are divided by inshore and offshore categories, and then by class of sailboat. Offshore classes include Spinnaker, Non-Spinnaker, Cruiser and Cruiser Spinnaker. Inshore classes are Class 1 Performance and Class 2.

A spinnaker is a big, colorful sail, which can help boats move faster when traveling downwind. Race classes are divided by sailboats with and without spinnakers so races are fair, Floryan said.

The fun extends to land with Meehan’s Irish Pub setting up their Big Party Tent for two after-race parties March 28 and 29. The public is welcome both days, where they can party with sailors and enjoy food, rum and other drinks, live music from different bands each day and shop sailing merchandise.

Race Week started in 2015 in conjunction with the 450th anniversary of St. Augustine. It branched off from the First Coast Offshore Challenge event, another sailboat racing series that took place from St. Marys, Georgia, to the Daytona Beach area for about 10 years.

Floryan was a co-founder of SARW, and he’s been chair for four years. It is organized by the First Coast Sailing Association, an umbrella organization for sailing groups and events from Jacksonville to the Daytona Beach area.

Floryan said past events have included Dragon Boat racing, which is a boat powered by a team of rowers, often with a dragon head on the hull, as well as paddle boarding.

“What has really stuck over time is the sailing portion,” Floryan said.

While there are registration costs for sailboat races, it is free to the public to spectate or attend the fun, social events.

For information or to register for the competitions, go to staugustineraceweek.com.

 

PATHS TO THE FINISH LINE

The races aren’t all just a matter of which boat can sail directly to the finish the fastest. There will be navigational challenges, advanced maneuvers around buoys and other obstacles.

The Tactical Challenge Series presents a set of coordinates to be reached by any route sailors choose. It will test sailors’ ability to determine the fastest, most efficient course on the fly.

Performance boats will race the offshore Mariners Triangles format. It’s traditional round-the-buoys, upwind-downwind racing, in which boats must navigate a particular path around buoy markers, reach a turning point and return to finish.

Cruisers have two offshore races: Conquistador’s Corner and Menendez’s Meander.

In Conquistador’s Corner, sailing crews will receive latitude and longitude coordinates. They sail out to touch each line at any point and return to the finish.

For Menendez’s Meander, boats will sail much like they way of Pedro Menendez, in a straight line along the coast. The route travels from the starting point near the inlet, up to a north latitude, then to a southern latitude, then back to finish.

The inshore series course will be tight racing between the banks in the Intracoastal Waterway north of the Vilano Bridge. If conditions are suitable, there may be racing along the bayfront near the Bridge of Lions in front of spectators.

 

PERSPECTIVES FROM LAND

Youth races along the bayfront are the most popular for spectators, since they come so close to land and stay in a relatively small area. People can line up along the seawall on the bayfront, at the Castillo de San Marcos or on the Bridge of Lions.

The other inshore race will travel north from the Vilano Bridge, so vantage points could include the bridge itself or restaurants or parks along the banks.

Offshore races will start out on the ocean from a buoy marker roughly a quarter to half a mile out from the shore, close to the St. Augustine Inlet. During much of the races, they will be two miles away from shore, so they may not be easily visible from the beach, Floryan said.

However, Floryan said the turnaround point marked by a buoy would make an entertaining spot to watch the race. The buoy will be in the waters directly outside of The Reef restaurant in Vilano Beach. The public is invited to watch from the outdoor deck at The Reef from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, but seating is limited.

For reservations at The Reef, call 904-842-8008.

 

A CHANCE TO SAIL

In the spirit of sharing the sport of sailing with the community, SARW works to extend the sport to children — especially those who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to enjoy it.

Proceeds from SARW are used to send roughly 40 underprivileged children to summer sailing camps for free. The goal is to bring children to the helm of a sailboat, often for the first time, for a fun summer experience. It also fulfills SARW’s objective to train the next generation of sailors.

The proceeds usually total around $7,000 to $8,000 each year, Floryan said.

“Charity has always been a part of Race Week,” Floryan said. “We were inspired to get kids into sailing clubs.”