Perfect sailing conditions, great hospitality and excellent race management by the Fishing Bay Yacht Club in Deltaville, Va., characterized last weekend's MORC East Coast Championship Regatta on the beautiful southern bay.
Twenty-six teams sailed against each other for overall standings in the regatta, as well as in each of their three respective classes -- MORC A, MORC B, and J/29 one-design. The regatta was a little smaller than it has been in recent years, but it was just as big on pleasure, excitement and general fun.
The regatta this year became something of a bi-coastal event when the coveted Stingray Point Light trophy for best overall went to the Californians headed by Hugh Grenfal on Easy Go, a Nelson-Marek 25. Grenfal dominated both the overall fleet and the nine-boat MORC A division with the well-sailed pocket rocket.
County sailors who went south for the event also fared well, with Bob Muller and his Stingray team fourth in MORC A and in the overall fleet. They were followed in fifth overall by J/29 class winners Cedric Lewis and Scott and Fredrik Salvesen and the team on Mirage, with J/29 division-keeper scores of four bullets, a second, and a fifth.
The Mirage J/29 win also will mean that local sailors may see a new battle flag aboard the boat -- FBYC's "J-Busters" banner -- which was awarded to the team along with a half-model trophy.
Placing sixth overall and topping out the 10-boat MORC B division were Magothy River Sailing Association member Dave Prucnal and the crew aboard his Wavelength 24 Azure, with a mere eight points for class finishes including four aces, a second and a third. It was the best score of any division winner in the seven-race, one-throwout series.
"I'd really have to say it was our conditions -- light to medium air, and smooth water," Prucnal said. "Plus we have a new chute, which really helped us off the wind."
In his second year of campaigning the boat, Prucnal said he and his crew are better able to sail it for maximum effect this year, but added that good tactics were another factor in his team's success.
"In two races we were just about last off the starting line and had to come up through the fleet to win," he said. "But we played it conservatively most of the time, and once we got ahead we covered, and we knew who we had to beat to win."
Prucnal said the weekend's conditions ranged from light-air drifters early each day to a more solid blow as the afternoons wore on, with three races each on Friday and Saturday, and a final contest on Sunday.
"Friday it started off light, and the first race became a drifter at the end," Prucnal said. "Then it built to a solid seven to 12 later in the afternoon. Saturday was the same, but it built to around 15, and that was our hardest race, when the air got heaviest. I think we were fifth in the last race on Saturday, and that was our throwout."
Prucnal called the regatta "an overall good time.
"The weather was fantastic, and the race management was, in my opinion, fantastic. The committee was really good about keeping the course true to the wind all the time -- they were moving windward marks, the leeward marks, really trying to keep the course square all the time."
MORC Overall (26 starters): 1. Easy Go, Hugh Grenfal, Los Alamitos Bay, Calif., 12.25; 2. Insatiable, Tom Carruthers, [address unavailable], 20; 3. Pigs at Sea, Dick Robertson, Erie, Pa., 27.5; 4. Stingray, Bob Muller, Annapolis, 34; 5. Mirage, Lewis/Salvesen, Annapolis/Edgewater/Columbia, 36.75.
MORC A (9 starters): 1. Easy Go, Hugh Grenfal, 8.25; 2. Insatiable, Tom Carruthers, 13.75; 3. Pigs at Sea, Dick Robertson, 18.5.
MORC B (10 starters): 1. Azure, David Prucnal, Owings Mills, 8; 2. Bang, David Gendell, Arnold, 15.5; 3. Phantom II, Al Seim, Richmond, Va., 17.75; 4. Rush, Kates/Sindle, Richmond/Yorktown, Va., 22.
J/29 (7 starters): 1. Mirage, Lewis/Salvesen, 10; 2. Cheryl Lea, Ben Weeks, Hampton, Va., 13.5; 3. Busted, Thomas Whittle, Chester, Va., 18.
This year's Potapskut Sailing Association Overnight Race was one of the finest in the event's history.
The fleet of 26 in four PHRF splits raced around the 38-mile course in the upper bay in record time under a full moon in cooperative 15- to 18-knot southerly breezes.
The race, which dates back about 50 years, took the fleet on a traditional figure-eight course, beginning with a two-mile beat from the Baltimore Light start to Sandy Point Light, followed by a four-mile run to the Swan Point Channel, a screaming spinnaker reach across the bay to the Forward Craighill Channel Light, and a broader reach northeast to Poole's Island before the final 14-mile beat back to Baltimore Light and the finish.
PSA race organizer Tom Price, who raced his Laser 28 Hyder-Ally to third in PHRF B, said that the fleet was around Poole's Island just as the sun was going down. The first boat to finish, Bill Weisburger's J/35 Downtown Girl, crossed the line at about 11:15 p.m., for one of the earliest finishes in the race's history.
Price said that although competition was hot throughout the beautiful evening, the final beat to the finish was "where the real race was" after the extended reaching work.
Winning the six-boat PHRF A division was Annapolis sailmaker Glenn Housley and the team aboard his Olson 30 Sweet Agnes, when they corrected out ahead of Weisburger's team by a margin of nearly eight minutes.
"It was a pretty straightforward race," Housley said. He attributed a great portion of his success to excellent work by St. John's College student John Lagasse on spinnaker trim.
"I had a guy trimming the spinnaker who was absolutely phenomenal," Housley said. "We only lost the chute once all night, and took no knockdowns. He was perfect. He's one of my star crew, and he's come a long way very fast."
On the final beat, where Price said he fell to third by going right to look for smoother water while his competition went left, Housley said he also went right, but with better success.
"We went right to stick with the J/35, Weisburger's boat," Housley said. "We figured he could gain a minute a mile on us upwind, and at Poole's Island he had about four and a half minutes on us. We thought if we stayed with him he'd have us by about 18 minutes at the finish, and he owed us 22. As it turned out, we were closer to him than that at the finish."
Housley's win was a kind of vindication for him after his last experience with the PSA race several years ago.
"We were winning the last time I did that race, probably in about 1985, when I put the boat aground on the Craighill Channel Light. There's a shelf that sticks out there, and I tried to cut it too close. That was a unique experience -- being one with the Craighill Channel Light."
PHRF B winner Drew Dowling and the team on his J/30, Encounter, turned in the best corrected time for the event at 4:50:23, with PHRF C winner Harry Zeigler and the crew on his Pearson 28, Ziggy, second-best overall.
PHRF A (6 starters): 1. Sweet Agnes, Glenn Housley, Annapolis, 5:02:07 c.t.; 2. Downtown Girl, William Weisburger, Arnold, 5:09:56 c.t.; 3. Seraph II, David Littlepage, Severna Park, 5:12:26 c.t.
PHRF B (7 starters): 1. Encounter, Drew Dowling, Arnold, 4:50:23 c.t.; 2. Intuition, Howard Stroterhoff, Baltimore, 5:02:09 c.t.; 3. Hyder-Ally, Tom Price, Pasadena, 5:07:09 c.t.
PHRF C (10 starters): 1. Ziggy, Harry Zeigler, Glenwood, 4:54:11 c.t.; 2. Serendipity, David Ellerbrake, Severna Park, 5:02:54 c.t.; 3. Rebecca, Bill Paul, Pasadena, 5:02:58 c.t.
PHRF Nonspinnaker (3 starters): 1. Sundae Lovers, Bruce Bogdanoff, Swedesboro, N.J., 5:24:35 c.t.; 2. Fusion, Tom Apple, Westminster, 5:45:57 c.t.
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.