In the face of blustery, cold rain, heavy air and choppy seas on Saturday, more than half of the sailors signed up for the Cape St. Claire Yacht Club's Rock Crusher stayed home, while those who braved the unseasonal weather found exciting competition even in the reduced fleet.
The race, traditionally designed to support a Saturday evening rendezvous in Rock Creek and a cruise home the next day after a start near Baltimore Light, was a brief 7.5-mile affair this year, in deference to the unpleasant weather.
At its end the rendezvous plans were abandoned, and "everybody went home to see if their fireplaces worked, I think," said Race Committee Chairman Chad Doherty.
"We had 26 boats registered, but only 12 showed up," Doherty explained. "The weather was awful -- it was blowing stink, there was rain, there was fog, but the wind was good, particularly downwind, when the boats were really moving. The A boats said the race was too short, but the C boats said it was too long in the conditions."
When only two PHRF B crews appeared on the starting line, they were instructed to join the A fleet, although for CBYRA (Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association) High Point purposes the two groups will be separated again, Doherty explained.
In fact, second place in the combined A and B start went to the first of the two B boats, Drew Dowling's J/30 Encounter. It corrected out nine seconds ahead of Will Keyworth's Tripp 33 Imp and pushed Keyworth into third, although he will be scored second for High Point purposes behind Jerry Dowling's Orion Syndicate on his X-402 Madam X.
"We felt pretty good about it," said Jerry Dowling of his Madam X win in the combined class. "We were about 50 seconds late for the start because we had a man overboard, and by the time we got him back aboard and got squared away, we were pretty late."
Tactician Paul Murphy called for a tack to port in a favorable wind shift early on, Dowling said, "And within about two minutes we had gotten the front position -- and we never lost it."
Dowling said that holding on to the lead in the final stages of the race was difficult as Keyworth and his Imp crew repeatedly challenged the Madam X crew.
"We had trouble holding them off," he said, "but we had good boat speed, and we were able to do it."
With the best corrected time of any competitor -- and the day's largest margin of victory within a class -- was Arnold sailor David Gendell and his family-based crew aboard his S2 7.9 Bang, who knocked off his competition by more than 4 1/2 minutes.
& CSCYC Rock Crusher xTC PHRF A & *B (7 starters): 1. Madam X, Jerry Dowling/Orion Syndicate, Gladwyne, Pa., 1:10:00 c.t.; 2. *Encounter, Drew Dowling, Arnold, 1:11:18 c.t.; 3. Imp, Will Keyworth, Annapolis, 1:11:27 c.t.
PHRF C (5 starters): 1. Bang, David Gendell, Arnold, 1:09:31 c.t.; 2. Bluesmobile, Alan Hardesty, Baltimore, 1:15:05 c.t.; 3. Rebecca, Bill Paul, Pasadena, 1:15:34 c.t.
All the usual suspects from the racing community will be there for this year's Shearwater Sailing Club Hospice Cup XI on Sept. 19.
But what many non-racers may not know is that the event also includes a special Hospice Class for sailors supporting the Hospice movement who do not normally race.
The Hospice Class, which will start last in the sequence, just before noon, uses assigned PHRF ratings, the same starting line that used for the other classes, and a special, shorter course around government marks.
This gives its entrants a chance to take part in the pleasure of sailboat racing in a lower-pressure environment well-suited to novice racers and family crews.
New this year for Hospice Class sailors who may not be familiar with standard racing practices and signals will be on-the-water assistance to help them get off to a good start.
"We'll have a couple of little boats out there on the starting line to help get them started and pointed in the right direction at the right time," said SSC's Dave Carvey.
In addition, there will be a Friday evening "skull session" at 7:30 at the Shearwater clubhouse at 4th Street and Chester Avenue on Back Creek in Eastport for Hospice Class sailors who would like a practical pre-race demonstration and discussion of racing shapes, signals and procedures.
Proceeds from the event benefit six area hospice programs, the Hospice of Anne Arundel Medical Center, Hospice of the Chesapeake, Calvert Hospice, Montgomery Hospice Society, Hospice of Northern Virginia and Hospice of Prince Georges County.
SSC donates the entry fees to Hospice Cup, Inc., which presents the trophies and raises money for area hospices assisting the terminally ill and their families. Individuals and area businesses also contribute time, money and boats to the race, party and awards.
Hospice Cup, the nation's largest charity regatta, is sponsored this year by Lexus, the luxury-car division of Toyota.
Last year, 100 boats, including 13 Hospice Class crews, were on hand for the event, and organizers expect a similar, if not greater, turnout this year.
Hospice Cup regattas have raised more than $1.5 million since the first one in 1982, and in recent years have generated about $200,000 annually for the hospices. Since Hospice Cup, Inc. is an entirely volunteer organization, virtually all of the proceeds from the race go to the hospices.
The entry fees -- $20 per yacht -- represent a small, but important, part of the money raised each year in this highly successful fund-raising event, because it is the racers' efforts on the water that make the event uniquely appealing to sponsors.
Individual and corporate sponsors are encouraged to make more substantial donations and are invited to take part in the event aboard one of several luxury yachts in the spectator fleet.
They can enjoy the excitement of the racing from unique on-the-water vantage points, and attend a post-race awards party complete with cocktails, a Southern Maryland dinner and ddancing at a private waterfront estate on the Severn River.
The racing sailors -- who put on the show for the sponsors, so to speak -- can attend the awards dinner party at a special discounted rate.
Entries are due by Sept. 14, to SSC Race Committee, 9304 Elger Mill Road, Gaithersburg, Md. 20879-2113. For racing information, call Howard Kluttz, 703/978-4519 (h) or 703/734-8178 (w)
For social and sponsorship information, contact Mary Radzik, 703/525-7070, weekdays.
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.