In 1972, a friendly conversation among friends at Baxter's Boathouse in Hyannis escalated to a challenge to see who could sail their boat to Nantucket the fastest over Memorial Day weekend that year. This was the inception of Figawi Race Weekend, a Cape Cod tradition which has grown considerably in popularity since it's informal start in 1972, thanks to names like Kennedy and Koch joining the competition in the 80s and beyond.
The annual race, which raises money for various charities, is sponsored by a number of companies including Vineyard Vines (their boat is the Nancy A), Fuze, Denali, Budweiser and Sam Adams.
Since it's inception, the race and 3-day festivities have drawn thousands of sailors, sailing enthusiasts and those who just want to be part of this fun tradition to Nantucket for Memorial Day weekend. Though the race is competitive, the emphasis on this event is more about friendly camraderie and the festivities following the race.
Figawi 2011 kicked off Saturday morning in a thick fog at the Hyannisport breakwater that delayed the race start time for hours. After a long wait, only 18 of the over 250 registered boats finished, with many dropping off early and heading to Nantucket at their own pace. Top finishers in the spinnaker divisions included the Natalie J (Buzzards Bay, MA), Slide Rule (Barnstable, MA), Gambler (Canton, MA) and Bronco (Barrington, RI), while top finishers in the non-spinnaker divisions included Wildflower (Mattapoisett, MA), Kinship (Fairhaven, MA) and Boondoggle (Wellesley, MA).
Though action on the water was lacking, the fog didn't stop captains, skippers and their supporters from heading to the Figawi Tent Party near the Boat Basin to enjoy Goombay smash's, Dark N' Stormies and music by Freeballin. While sailors kicked off Saturday night inside the tent, everyone else poured into Slip 14, Straight Wharf and the Lobster Trap that afternoon to celebrate the occassion.
On Sunday, the Figawi Tent Party continued with a joke telling ceremony in the morning – the dirtier the better – followed by the traditional lobster clambake, awards ceremony and more live music by Freeballin.
On Monday, the weather for the journey back to the mainland was much more cooperative as the starting guns went off around 9:30 a.m. amidst very little fog on the Nantucket side. For the Nantucket to Hyannis leg of the race, Ursus Maritimus (Sterling, MA) and Restless (Hamden, CT) were among the top finishers in the spinnaker divisions. Non-spinnaker top finishers included Wildflower (Mattapoisett, MA), Helios (Mattapoisett, MA), Rendezvous II (Boston, MA), and Simpatico (Boston, MA) to name a few.