When intrepid sailors take to the high seas Oct. 5 in Lakewood Yacht Club’s Harvest Moon Regatta, they’ll be charting a new course due to hurricane damage to their usual finish line in Port Aransas. The regatta, formerly a one-way race from the Galveston beach front to Port Aransas, has been changed to a loop in the Gulf. The Harvest Moon Regatta has become the largest point-to-point regatta in the United States, and will no doubt return to the popular format in the future.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the scenic start of graceful, colorful sailing vessels from the Pleasure Pier, a lunchtime sight visible from the seawall. Watching the boats get underway has become an annual tradition for many, awed by the array of nearly 200 boats taking part. Another thing that doesn’t change is the need to feed the hardworking sailors on board.
“There’s a difference between cooking for a racing crew and a sailing crew,” Thomas Morris explained. Morris, a professional chef, has cooked for both kinds of crews, and has learned to keep the meals simple but appealing during competition. “During a race, the food is meant to fuel the crew. You have to make good food, because if people don’t want to eat it, they’ll get hungry and fatigued.”
Morris has been a seagoing chef for 15 years, after a successful but less fun career as an attorney. He often accompanies boat owners J.D. and Susan Hill to races on their 40-foot J/122 sailboat, “Second Star.” When not in a boat galley, he is a private chef on land with his own business, Cuisine Counselor.
“When you’re preparing food for a crew, you can’t just think “I’m going to cook delicious food,” or “I’m going to give them a lot of calories,’ but you have to find a balance of those two things,” Morris said. “It’s not haute cuisine we’re serving during a race, but it serves a valuable purpose.”
Often, Morris said, the meal serves multiple purposes. “Hot, tasty food lifts their spirits,” he noted. There’s a mental and physical boost to a good, hot meal.”
On overnight races such as the Harvest Moon Regatta, Morris prepares large pans of food that can be reheated on board. “One crew favorite is baked ziti,” he said. “I use high-protein pasta and 80%-lean hamburger meat, and they get plenty of protein, fiber and immediate energy from carbs.”
Not every racing crew is as well fed as the “Second Star” crew. “Most of the racing boats have galley facilities, but most racing crews don’t have anyone who is actually a chef; they take turns cooking,” he explained. “A lot of people just make sandwiches or eat power bars out there.”
When the boat is not competing, Morris amps up the menu. “Cooking in a galley is not super-challenging,” he said. “You can cook from scratch if you’re cruising.”
Long cruises have other challenges, however. “You have to think about how the food keeps, because you have limited freezer space, and these aren’t the best fridges,” Morris said.