Of the three dozen starters in last Friday's Chesapeake Lighthouse Challenge race, only 14 survived to the finish line.
A combination of protracted dead-air doldrums and a vicious Sunday afternoon squall line -- complete with winds gusting into the 40-knot range -- weeded out all but the hardy and the lucky.
The race was created last year by the host Cape St. Claire Yacht Club as an alternative to its traditional DelMarVa Peninsula circumnavigatory Great Ocean Race. It featured three course options, including a full 282-mile round trip from Sandy Point Light to Chesapeake Light in the Atlantic Ocean off the mouth of the bay for the PHRF A-1 and A-2 competitors, and a 142-mile version for the PHRF C and Nonspinnaker classes, turning back around Smith Point Light at the mouth of the Potomac River.
The first finishers in the fleet -- mainly the PHRF C sailors with the shortest course length -- began to arrive at the Sandy Point Light finish line on Sunday afternoon, while the last boat to finish did not arrive until around 10 p.m. Monday, making this race almost as tough in terms of time expended as the GOR it replaced.
Arnold sailor Art Turowski and the crew aboard his C&C; 35 Wisp were the only survivors of the PHRF B 200-mile course to Wolftrap Light and back They finished around 11 a.m. Monday, with their main sail in tatters from the heavy air after sweating out nearly two days of dead air before the front came through.
"I'd say that three-quarters of the race was kind of boring," Turowski said. "The air was real light, all the way down the bay and part of the way back up. We took some time out to go swimming, and we drifted into two crab traps down in the lower bay.
"Then, off Hooper Island on the return trip, it turned completely around. We saw 20- to 25-knot winds from about five p.m. Sunday through 11 a.m. Monday."
Things got even more exciting Sunday night when the heavy air caused major sail damage.
"In the middle of the night we shredded our main," Turowski said. "We finished with it in tatters. It just flapped and flopped around -- I'd say at about 50 percent efficiency -- until we finished."
Turowski said he and his team, whom he characterized as his regular long-distance crew, were determined to finish the Lighthouse Challenge no matter what, particularly after having had to drop out of last year's Annapolis-to-Newport Race in very heavy weather.
Also enjoying a successful race was Allen Davies and crew on his Frers 54 Now, who won the PHRF A-1 class with a finish shortly after 10 a.m. Monday.
"We had a pretty decent race, even if it was kind of light," Davies said. "We sat still for about three hours a couple of times on the way down, between Wolftrap and the [Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel] bridge on Saturday afternoon. But by Saturday evening we got through the bridge and were around the tower about 1 a.m. Sunday.
"We had a fairly good tide situation, because it was ebbing and then turned when we went around the tower. But it was still fairly light until around 6 o'clock Sunday evening, around Smith Point Light, when the front came through," Davies said. "We had 40 knots [of wind] for half an hour, and then a steady 30 out of the north the rest of the way back, so it was just a hard beat back."
PHRF A-1 (7 starters/3 finishers, 282 miles): 1. Now, Allen Davies, Wilmington, Del., 63:44:41 c.t.; 2. Cody, Sandy Morse, Washington, 68:40:18 c.t.; 3. La Chasseresse, Carl Geyer, Severna Park, 70:46:34 c.t.
PHRF A-2 (7 starters/2 finishers, 282 miles): 1. Zingarella, George Brown, Port Republic, 68:07:42 c.t.; 2. Coyote, Gene Barnhart, Annapolis, 68:44:56 c.t.
PHRF B (6 starters/1 finisher, 200 miles): 1. Wisp, Art Turowski, Arnold.
PHRF C (10 starters/7 finishers, 142 miles): 1. Triple Dee III, Peter Driscoll, Beallsville, 29:05:02 c.t.; 2. Scrimshaw, Charles Deakyne, Severna Park, 33:48:58 c.t.; 3. Esprit, Brad Geddes, Severna Park, 33:54:54 c.t.
PHRF Nonspinnaker (4 starters/1 finisher, 142 miles): 1. Anser, Jim Troutman, Bethesda.
The computer ate my homework and devoured last weekend's column on the results of the South River Sailing Association's Cruising One-Design Regatta the weekend of May 16-17.
So, here's a recap of the event, which mixed the excitement of short-course, multi-race competition in varying wind conditions with the challenges of fog and swiftly running currents.
South River's race organizers cooperated with each of the three competing fleets -- J/35, J/29, and Laser 28 -- to offer a choice of several in-fleet racing and scoring options, although for CBYRA High Point scoring purposes each of the two days in the event counted as a single race for each fleet.
In Saturday's four-race, one-day J/35 competition, winners Will Keyworth and his team on Moonbeam found that "the trick was to hit the line fast and go left."
Said Keyworth, There was a lot of [ebb] current running out, so whoever could get left first was first at the first mark, and won the race. The emphasis was on the start and on having the option to get to the left side of the course."
Keyworth's team won the favored left-side position in the first and fourth races, and finished "first, last, first, and first" in the series, when their second race turned into a disaster. They overstood the mark in the fog and then had to do penalty turns after hitting it, while the navigational wizardry of a crew member won them the third.
"It was so foggy we couldn't see the mark, so Bob McKay did some kind of magic, and he said we should stay on starboard tack for six minutes and then tack back and we'd be on the layline," Keyworth said. "We all just laughed at him, but when we tacked six minutes later, sure enough, there was the mark, coming out of the fog right on our bow."
Saturday's racing was extremely close in the Laser 28 fleet. At the end of the day's four-race, one-throwout series, Annapolis sailor Joe Phillips and his crew on Joe Cool were narrowly ahead of Tom Price and the team on Hyder-Ally and Bob Reeves and his crew aboard A Train. They went on to capitalize on their position with excellent sailing in Sunday's light and shifty conditions, becoming the only team winning both of the individual days and the regatta.
"I've been racing since 1979," Phillips said, "and even though I've won Governor's Cup and some other important races in the past, this was probably the most gratifying weekend of sailing I've ever had.
"It was pretty exciting to go out there against Tom and Bob, who are two of the very best sailors on the bay, and win a series. When you compete with them, you know you're really sailing at your max to beat them."
Sunday's second and final race, the last of the six-race series, was a particularly close and difficult one, Phillips said, describing a long contest in progressively lighter air.
"All three of us went around the mark together, and I guess I need to thank Bob Reeves, because he decided to jump on top of me at the mark, so we gybed away, and just kept gybing over to the right, where we thought there seemed to be a little more wind. We found a nice wind line over there, and as we came in to the finish, I was on a port tack close reach, and Price was on a starboard reach, and I knew it was going to be close. But he couldn't lay the finish line and had to gybe, so we were able to finish about a boat-length-and-a-half in front."
SRSA ONE-DESIGN REGATTA
J/35 (6 starters): 1. Moonbeam, Will Keyworth, Annapolis, 8.25 pts.; 2. Aunt Jean, F.N. Sagerholm, Ocean City, N.J., 13 pts.; 3. Hot Toddy, Jeff Todd, Annapolis, 14 pts.
J/29 (9 starters): 1. Break Away, Joel Hamburger, Schnecksville, Pa., 9.25 pts.; 2. Mirage, Scott Salvesen, Columbia, 11 pts.; 3. The Fish, Lipshinn Syndicate, Baltimore, 16.75 pts.
Laser 28 (5 starters): 1. Joe Cool, Joe Phillips, Annapolis, 5.5 pts.; 2. Hyder-Ally, Tom Price, Pasadena, 7.5 pts.; 3. A Train, Bob Reeves, Annapolis, 12 pts.
Nancy Noyes is a member of the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association and has been racing on the bay for about five years. Her Sailing column appears every Wednesday and Sunday in the Anne Arundel County Sun.