Southern Bay Race Week’s day one regatta party had been subject to bad thunderstorms all night.  After two or three times setting up and packing up again due to too much rain splashing under our tent and putting our computers at risk, team PhotoBoat finally “gave up” and began packing up our photo viewer terminals into our waterproof dock box.  We were glad we did.  As we packed away the last computer and locked the box, the band stopped playing suddenly and announced a tornado warning.  Before we had time to check radar, we were all being herded into the yacht club by the staff.  Resist as some of us did in the typical sailor mindset, thinking we could make our own decision with a quick check of our smartphones, security wouldn’t have it.  Within seconds, all 200 or so people were inside the club and huddled in the hallway and stairwell.

The nature of properly bracing for a tornado means you never get to see it.  So no, we didn’t get any storm chaser photos.  But we knew exactly when it arrived; the power went out, we heard a high pitched wind, and there was a sharp pressure change in the building.  I felt it in my ears.  A few seconds later, it was clear that the tornado was gone as quickly as it had come.  In that short time, it ripped away the regatta tent and several other tents belonging to us and other vendors like CRSA.  It threw Optis, 420s, and Lasers around like frisbees, landing them in odd places and positions.  It tore down trees and power lines. It ripped part of the roof off of the club and broke the large bay windows in the club’s dining room. Of course, the impact of this tornado was felt throughout the area. Many other homes and businesses also experienced roofing damage afterwards. Perhaps those that are in need of roof repair could consider contacting Red Canyon Roofing, for example. People can visit their Website here if they’d like. That company should be able to repair roofing problems, ensuring that more people can get their lives back to normal. The tornado also toppled boats in the drysail area and broke the masts of several boats in the basin. Bare poles, snapped.  And it broke windows in about 3/4 of the cars in the parking lot.   

Everybody suffered some damage, and some people had to spend the night at the club.  But it’s amazing that nobody got hurt.  We have the Hampton Yacht Club staff to thank for that.  And after the storm, the scene was very civilized and comfortable considering what we had all just been through.  If I ever have to go through a tornado or similar disaster again, I can only hope to be in the company of a bunch of sailors.  And early the next morning, thanks largely to the two teams from the Naval Academy who organized a very effective debris pickup, cleanup was so fast, snapping photos for insurance purposes had to be done quickly.  By the time we left the club at 9 AM, all of the branches and other pieces of debris were in a large pile.  The navy kids were on to, and almost finished with, sweeping up glass now.

The regatta was abandoned due to the extensive damage and downed trees in the streets, so we headed home to CT to start taking care of repairs on our truck and replacing equipment.  But our boat survived unscathed, and we enjoyed an unexpected opportunity to photograph the Cedar Point One Design regatta in some pretty, and far-from-threatening, conditions on Sunday.  It’s good to be home.  See Friday’s Southern Bay Race Week photos here and Sunday’s CPYC One Design photos here