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Sailors Spar at Sea in Second Annual Oyster Festival Regatta

A six race, three-hour duel took place on the bay by the Waterfront Center as local teams vied for the coveted title of champion in the second annual Oyster Festival Regatta on the morning of Saturday, Oct. 24. Fiddleheads Restaurant took the prize in the eight-team competition which included Alex Gallego Group Stifel Nicolaus, Superstar Beverage, Laffey Associates, Global Companies, Mariners Walk and race organizers Oyster Bay Marine Center and Renaissance Property Associates.

Determined mariners created a sea of frenzied activity as they battled each other on choppy seas with gusting winds. “We ran off course a little bit in the first race, but were able to fight our way back,” said local restaurateur Bernie DelBello of the winning Fiddleheads team.

High levels of seamanship skills were demonstrated with several measured near misses and acrobatic balancing over the water to improve speed and position. First-time sailor Neil Manella of Superstar Beverage said “You can’t believe the level of activity and excitement in these races unless you’re in it. You’re jumping from side to side, balancing over the side and manipulating lines and sails all at the same time.“

Alex Gallego, Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce president and first-time sailor, is determined to take the title next year. “It was great to get local businesses and residents together for some good-natured competition. Frankly, I never expected to have that much fun out on the boats and experience firsthand one of the many activities the WaterFront Center has to offer.”

Hosted by the WaterFront Center, the race featured their fleet of Sonars, a 23-foot sailboat used in many sailing centers. Co-organizer John McGrane of the Oyster Bay Marine Center noted how well the WaterFront Center coordinated boats and staff to make for a smooth and safe race.

Although this was a charitable event, the regatta was run by Todd Field, the principal race officer, who posted a formal notice of race and issued written rules based on guidelines in the Racing Rules of Sailing. Mr. Field, well known in racing circles, ran each race from the committee boat supplied by the Sagamore Yacht Club.

Mark Laffey of Laffey Associates said that activities like the regatta are an important part of the character of Oyster Bay. “Oyster Bay has, and is building, a great tradition with sailing and other activities on the water” he said. Global Companies manager Tony Cassandro noted: “We see sailboats racing all the time on the bay, we were glad to be part of the regatta.”

“Once people get involved in activities like this, it’s hard not to come back.” said WaterFront Center director David Waldo. The WaterFront Center teaches sailing, rents boats and offers educational courses about the bay and its natural resources.

A gracious winner, Bernie DelBello invited participants back to his restaurant, Fiddleheads, after the race. There he and retail neighbor Neil Manella of Superstar traded stories and challenges with nearly two dozen other competitors. Fiddleheads won the race, followed by Renaissance Property Associates and Oyster Bay Marine Center. “At the end of the day, everyone won by having a fun day on the bay” said co-organizer Walter Imperatore of Renaissance Property Associates.

This is the second annual Oyster Festival Regatta organized jointly with the Oyster Bay Charitable Fund, the group behind the Oyster Festival. Organized and operated by the Oyster Bay Rotary, the festival, the East Coast’s largest waterfront event which celebrated its 26th year, has generated over $5 million for local humanitarian causes and nonprofit organizations throughout its history. Currently, revenues from the event help fund approximately 40 non-profit organizations in the Town of Oyster Bay.

For more information about the Oyster Festival go to www.theoysterfestival.org.