They call winter sail “frost biting” for a good reason. Often, not only are temperatures below freezing, but winds are howling and chunks of ice are present in the salty waters of the Providence River in front of the Edgewood Yacht Club.
The Frozen Few – actually as many as 15 sailors – race Sunfish from the yacht club Sundays starting at 10:30 a.m. The boats, sailed single handedly, could be compared to an over-sized surfboard with a sail, rudder and centerboard. They are sensitive to changes in weight – sailors need to pay attention to where they sit – and to wind gusts. Capsizes can happen to even experienced sailors, so the Frozen Few come prepared. They wear dry suits, PFDs and, in most cases, helmets. Getting whacked in the head by the boom or being thrown into a boat is to be avoided.
But there are limits.
It can be too cold and too windy for even the Frozen Few. When sustained winds are more than 20 mph, as they were a couple of Sundays ago, the call goes out to stay at home. Masts, booms and tillers start breaking when gusts hit 30 mph. As for the cold, that’s a judgment call – unless, of course, the inner harbor is a sheet of ice. And then, nothing moves.
While the races are an EYC event, participation is not limited to club members. A couple of boats will join the fleet from Rhode Island Yacht Club and other devote frost biters will trailer their boats to Edgewood.
So far, this winter has been warmer than many.
The Frozen Few love it. They’re toasty out there.
(Text and photos by John Howell)