If you sail a boat of 30 feet or less and you like exciting racing with a fun bunch of people, MORC is for you.
Membership is a prerequisite for those who want to take the helm in what promises to be oneof the year's best regattas, the MORC Internationals, set for late June out of the Fishing Bay Yacht Club in Tidewater Virginia.
MORC (pronounced "mor-see," not "mork") is the Midget Ocean Racing Club, an organization dedicated to good racing and good fun. The class welcomes amateur sailors of boats from the smaller end of the keelboat spectrum, generally ranging from about 22 feet to the class maximum length of 30. It accommodates both high-tech custom yachts andstock production boats.
The Internationals, set for June 24-28,will be a seven-race, five-party event with plenty of trophies for daily and overall winners -- and plenty of opportunity to be a winner.
"We're trying to make this the biggest and most fun regatta forboats under 30 feet there has ever been," said regatta organizer Bob Kates of Fishing Bay Yacht Club.
The chances of bringing home amemento of victory in the event are high. Class breakdowns in the expected 80-boat fleet will include: Grand Prix A and B divisions for the custom hot-rods, Modified Production A & B and Production A & B for more standardized vessels, and one-design divisions for J/29s, S2 7.9s and probably J/24s, as well as a Classic division for older boats, and daily as well as overall trophies.
"This thing's been organized similar to the East Coasts," Kates said. "At those events we've found that about 80 percent of the people go home with at least one trophy. We try to keep the wolves out of the chicken coop, and even out the competition all around as much as we can, so everybody has a chance. We try to have around seven or eight boats in each class competing."
Kates explained that he already has a pretty definite list of about 60 boats from across the United States and Canada whose skippers either already have submitted their entry forms or have made definite verbal commitments to be at the event, and he expects more. But, he added, there will be no upper limit on overall fleet size.
The regatta actually will begin with a practice race June 23. "At least half the fleet probably won't finish that race," Kates said. "It's always been considered bad luck to win that race, since it always seems like whoever wins it doesn't do very well in the regatta. So most really good guys just drop out before the finish."
The five days that follow offer a varied and interesting schedule, with two round-the-buoys races, probably windward-leeward types, on the first day; a medium-distance race to Wolf Trap Light and back on the second day; and a longer-distance race to Smith Point Light and back on the third day.
"Those distance races should be very challenging," Kates said. "You'll have to go to weather in at least one direction, and deal with some pretty substantial currents, and probably a lot of chop. A lot of the people from out of town who come to the regatta seem to like racing around geography, so those should be really good races."
On the fourth day, it's back to round-the-buoys again with another two windward-leeward-type contests. A final buoy race and any makeup races needed to complete the total of seven take place on the fifth and final day of the regatta.
"It should be very exciting,"Kates said. "At the start of the fourth day, there will still be three races to go, so it's going to still be up in the air."
But all that's happening won't be on the water, as anyone who knows MORC sailors can attest. This is a fun-loving bunch, and Kates and his committees have a lot planned for their entertainment.
"We like to put an emphasis on the social side of things," he said, listing a crab feast, a dinner-dance, a barbecue and "a real blowout on Friday night" among the week's activities. "It tends to be an older crowd, and a family-oriented crowd down here, but the social side of it is really a big part of the regatta."
Kates said that the weather at the end of June in his neck of the woods is generally delightful, so that sleeping on the boat or in a nearby campground is not unpleasant, andthe sailing is generally good.
"That time of year is usually the tail end of the spring season here," he said. "We can get a good front running through, but the sea breeze is also often working really well, kicking in a little after noon and building to 18 or so by the end of the day. Or it can be dead calm. But generally, it's one of the best times to sail around here."
There's good reason to start thinking about the MORC Internationals pretty soon, because getting organized to qualify for and sail such an event can take time and effort.
First, entrants must have a valid MORC certificate and have submitted their entries at least 30 days prior to the regatta. This means that a boat has to be measured and assigned a rating to compete.In addition, all skippers and anyone who will act as helmsman for the Internationals must be current members of the MORC class and of theU.S. Yacht Racing Union.
There are two ways to get a rating, especially if a boat is a production type rather than a custom job. TheMORC class allows for the use of standard hull ratings as well as aprecise custom measurement system's individualized rating.
Eventhough a standard hull rating certificate costs only $25, and full process for a measurement certificate runs about $185 between getting the boat weighed, measured and interpreted for rating, Annapolis MORC Station 15 Chief Measurer Bob Dunning said the extra money is worth it in terms of outcome on the race course.
"If you wanted to do the Internationals, you'd definitely want a measurement rating," he said. "If you've got a J/29, for example, I guarantee you'll be losingsix to eight seconds a mile using the standard hull rating instead of a measurement rating. We really want to encourage you to get measured, and you'll be a lot happier with the results if you do. And the measurement certificate is good for the life of your boat.
"What I like best about racing in MORC is that the only way I can lose is when it's my fault. There are no gift ratings, and I get beat by a better class of sailor. I mean, a lot of the good guys come and go, but the people who are consistently in the top five are just really good sailors."
For membership information about the local MORC club, Station 15, contact Secretary-Treasurer Tom Donaldson, 4431 Wickford Road, Baltimore, Md. 21210, or call (301) 467-4616.
Entries for the Internationals can be obtained by writing to Mike Karn, 1912 Floyd Ave., Richmond, Va. 23220. Entry fee is $150, with a $60 a person entertainment fee for the week (and some of us can attest easily that we have had at least $60 worth of fun at a single MORC party).
But in the meantime, get out and sail a MORC race up here before you head for deep, dark Virginia. It's a great crowd of sailors, and always excellent competition.
Nancy Noyes is a member of the ChesapeakeBay Yacht Racing Association. Her Sailing column appears every Wednesday and Sunday in The Anne Arundel County Sun.