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Allure of the Figawi

Our writer recalls his favorite moments from 18 Figawi races across Nantucket Sound

Photo by Blake Jackson

The boat safely docked, I joined the celebration erupting all around us. This might be my favorite time of the whole weekend. The people-watching is nonpareil.

The rest of Saturday and all of Sunday is an open-air festival that is equal parts boat show, Mardi Gras and rock concert. Crews party on the decks of the boats, beer flows—from cans, because only an amateur brings glass bottles or bananas on boats, or whistles once aboard—and the afternoon becomes a pastel-clad, glad-handing procession of genial wanderings. Invitations on board become as casual as the wave of an arm.

By sundown, things are getting loud, funky and fun, and then they open the big party tent. Soon the drink lines are 10 deep, the band is rocking, and it’s a life-in-your-hands adventure out on the drink-slick dance floor.

There’s no racing on Sunday, when they present first a joke-telling session, the awards ceremony, and then a big clambake in the tent.

Like the Figawi itself, the joke session started informally when one race legend, the late Jeffrey Foster, ran aground in Nantucket Harbor. It became part of the weekend, moved into the tent and has been hosted for years now by a goodtime prankster troupe who call themselves the Band of Angels. They bill the event as a “champagne brunch, you bring the brunch.” It is a raucous and decidedly off-color event—50 shades of inappropriate.

After they sweep out the lobster and clam shells, the tent reopens for another bacchanal, traditionally topped at the end of the night as the band breaks into “God Bless America” and everyone sings along in full throat.

Then it’s back to the boats and berths, where sleep is fitful and the sea awaits the morrow.

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