March 2, 2023
The 2023 Archipelago Rally
Family adventure on a COQUINA replica
Written by Peter Alarie
Every fall I anxiously await news of the upcoming Archipelago Rally, one of my all-time favorite sailing events. The Rally is the brainchild of Chris Museler, a local writer and sailing enthusiast who is always looking for new ways to have fun with his buds. The idea was simple enough: one final group sail to cap off the season. Bring whatever sailing craft you have, fill it up with family and friends, and go for a spin on the ‘racecourse!’ Since its beginnings in 2006, the Rally has delighted young and old, showcasing some of the nicest locations in Rhode Island and some of the craziest craft you have ever seen. There have been over 200 unique boat designs that have competed—a truly staggering number! Sunfish, Lasers, Hobie Cats, and Mitral sailboards have mixed it up with a Frosty, an original 1940 International Canoe, multiple Penguins, a Polynesian Outrigger, and whatever that thing is that Brad Read brings every year!
I sailed a Laser that first year in Mount Hope Bay (before I had kids) and have returned to the Rally many times since. This year, I was delighted when HMM Executive Director, Bill Lynn, reached out with a simple text: Would you like to sail the Museum’s COQUINA at the Rally? I had been struggling to come up with a suitable craft that would be event-appropriate and could accommodate our family of five. The COQUINA was the perfect solution. I shot back: Wait, what? Sure, you bet!
This particular COQUINA was built by D. N. Hylan & Associates of Brooklin, Maine. The Guerriero estate had recently donated the boat to the Museum, and we would be the first people to use her. The boat is stunning in both design and build, and the Rally crowd could not have been more excited to see such a piece of yachting history participating in the regatta. Upon arrival at the Watch Hill Boatyard, COQUINA did not take long to draw an admiring mob. The pristine varnish, gleaming topsides, and period correct hardware all contribute to the astonishing good looks of this vessel. Everyone was curious about the history of the design and the quality of the build. One of the beauties of COQUINA is the simplicity of the rigging, with freestanding masts and gaff rigged main and mizzen. With minimal help, we had her ready to sail in about 15 minutes and carefully launched her down the nearby ramp.
Roughly 35 boats turned out for this year’s regatta, with a course laid out to cover Little Narragansett Bay—a simple triangle starting and finishing at the dock. My children Ellie, 14, and Jack, 8, joined me for the day. We had to wait awhile for the wind to fill in, but eventually the staggered-start “race” got underway in about 3-4 knots of wind. The rope steering took some getting used to, but COQUINA responded nicely to the gentle breeze, tracking well, and responding to small adjustment on the main and mizzen sheets. It was apparent that this was a true sailing boat, and I only wish that we had a bit more pressure to see how she would go. I have read that Captain Nat loved the original of this little dinghy and kept her as his personal knockabout for many years in Bristol.
It was real thrill to sail such a beautiful boat in such an amazing environment. Bright sunshine, clear blue skies, family aboard, and a very appreciative crowd to add to the wonder. We struggled to keep up with some of the more modern designs on the initial light air beat, but we more than held our own on the reaching and running legs that followed. Ellie steered for much of the race (when she wasn’t rowing!), and Jack was the self-appointed mizzen man. We had fun experimenting with the mizzen trim, trying wing on wing and by the lee set ups, and finally decided to just enjoy the perfect conditions.
The staggered start often results in crowded finishes, and this year was no different. We came into the finish in a big group, COQUINA ending up 11th, I think. There were smiles all around as we packed up the boat and made our way to the potluck cookout. There is a prize ceremony, but it is unlike any other event I have been to. The top “prize” is given to the last place finisher, breakdowns and perseverance are celebrated, and almost every child in attendance goes home with some sort of memento. The Alarie Clan and COQUINA took home the coveted Family Trophy, as well as the unofficial Best in Show Award!
Many thanks to Bill Lynn and the Herreshoff Marine Museum for allowing us to use this stunning replica of COQUINA, and to the Guerriero family for the generous donation that made it all possible. I have always admired Captain Nat and his clever designs, and this was a genuine chance to feel a bit of his magic. I think The Wizard of Bristol would have enjoyed the spirit and diversity of the Rally, the great people, and the beautiful sailing boats.