The course of the Edlu Race runs from Larchmont Harbor, almost straight down the middle of Long Island Sound to its single turning mark off Eatons Neck 16 miles to the east. The width of the sound gradually increases during this leg from about 3 miles at Larchmont to about 5 miles at Eatons. This gives teams plenty of options for which side of the course to sail.
While a new sailor would probably be inclined to pick the shortest distance and sail right down the rhumb line, sailors familiar with Western Long Island Sound know that the wind usually resides on or near the shores. Which shore is always the question and picking the favored side isn’t all that obvious.
For instance, the prevailing wind in western LIS is a south to southwest breeze, so you might. logically think that the Long Island Shore would be favored. It often is! However, one of the local wind conditions, often encountered in the spring, is a southerly thermal that starts right on the Westchester/Connecticut shore and builds slowly out to the middle of the Sound. This phenomenon, known locally as the “overshoot” is the result of the urbanization of western Long Island (Brooklyn, Queens & Nassau County) which heats up & lifts the gradient southerly breeze up off the surface of the Sound. In spring, when the Sound water is cold but the sun is strong, the land warms quickly and in combination with the cold water, accelerates the development of a thermal breeze. This thermal breeze joins forces with the gradient southerly which is touching down after crossing the Sound and results in the unlikely scenario of solid on-shore breeze on the Westchester/Connecticut shore with nothing in the middle.
This is just one on the many “local knowledge” tricks played on sailors by the wind in the western Sound. It spawns wind conditions that are so fickle that they inspired world renowned skippers such as Arthur Knapp, Stan Ogilvy and Corny Shields to write books about how to contend with them. Corny’s Corner was a famous spot where Corny alone was often the only recipient of the local breeze.
More often than not, the Edlu Race is won on the way home and often in the last five mile as the sound gets narrower and the shores closer together. It is not uncommon to have different breezes on different sides of the sound with a “no man’s” stretch between the two.
As a final caveat, there is no shortage of current in Western Long Island Sound especially when sailing by the some of the large points on the Long Island Shore. The sight of 6-8 racing boats anchored at or near the turning mark is not at all uncommon.
So how can it be classified as a distance race when it’s only 32 miles long. Well you don’t dare assume that the conditions you see at the start will prevail all the way to the mark, you don’t dare leave any sails at home, you don’t dare forget about the times of the tide changes and checking the wind conditions at the surrounding airports on an hourly basis.
To the right is the J/133 BACCHANAL finishing the 2010 Edlu Race. She’s shown with a #4 and double reefed mainsail. When she was seven miles from the turning mark at Eatons Neck, she was totally becalmed. Shortly after finishing while at her mooring in Larchmont Harbor, she recorded a wind gust in excess of 50 knots.
The Organizing authority for the Edlu Race is the Larchmont Yacht Club. The 2021 Edlu will be run on Saturday, May 8th. There will be racing under PHRF and ORC and it will include Non-Spinnaker, Double-Handed and Plus One Classes. The NOR is posted on Yacht Scoring and for additional information, please contact Larchmont Yacht Club at 914-834-2440.