Pleasant fall breezes got the Annapolis Yacht Club's Fall Series off to a good start last weekend, when both Saturday and Sunday fleets were able to complete close, exciting races.
"We had a nice, steady breeze with mild oscillations," said Saturday's MORC class winner Chuck O'Malley, skippering his Kirby 30 Rude Awakening to cross the line second behind the Lewis/Salvesen team's J/29 Mirage and neatly correct into first by a one-minute margin.
"We got pushed real hard by Mirage, but we just kept working to grind them down," said O'Malley. "We were in the thick of it with a lot of other boats, but we had real good crew work, and after we rounded the windward mark we were able to get low in clear air. We had good concentration, good crew work, nothing flashy, only the fundamentals."
O'Malley's win was particularly pleasing to him because the three-week Fall Series is his favorite regatta of the year.
"I've been doing Fall Series since I was 11," he said, "and I only missed two years in all that time. This is a regatta we aim at all year. We came close last year, but we lost by a quarter-point to Paul Awalt."
In Saturday's huge and aggressive J/24 class, Stewart Spettel and the crew on Latent Defect were off to a good start and took an early lead, holding on to win over 31 other '24s.
"It was a beautiful day to be out sailing," Spettel said, describing 10- to 15-knot breezes from the south that picked up as the day went on.
"We stayed so far to the left that we overstood the weather mark twice. But we felt really good about the way the boat was set up, that we had good speed."
Saturday's race for cruising one-designs, PHRF C and MORC was a good one, but Sunday's PHRF A-1, A-2, and B, IMS and J/35 contest was even more exciting, and lies at the heart of AYC's Fall Series tradition.
The venerable event dating back dozens of years initially was created to take advantage of numerous large racing boats that stopped in Annapolis in October on their way south to winter in Florida or the islands.
Winning both the PHRF A-1 class and overall in the 64-boat PHRF fleet, in which 56 boats started Sunday, was Hampton, Va., sailor Seward Lawlor and his crew on his Serendipity 43 Chesapeake, including Drew Sinnickson of Annapolis.
Sinnickson described breezes in the 12- to 15-knot range with higher puffs, and told of intense competition among several boats in his class.
"Navy was out there charging like crazy. It's not easy to beat them -- they have good overall consistent sailing," he said, giving special credit to Navy Offshore coaches Jack Quinn and Brad Dellenbaugh.
Will Keyworth and the team on Imp, a Tripp 33, were first in IMS II and the overall 40-boat IMS fleet, disputing Sinnickson's opinion that bigger, heavier boats did better in the increasing chop late in the race.
"I thought the race was unusual because we sailed the whole race in no current," he said.
Honor for Steele
Scott Steele of Annapolis has been named one of the three Tudor Boardsailors of the Year, cited as Most Valuable Contributor to the Sport.
Steele, 34, whose name has been virtually synonymous with windsurfing for the past decade, is a top competitor, dedicated race organizer, coach and sportsman.
His sailing credits include winning the Windsurfer World Championships in 1984, and silver medals at the 1984 Olympics and 1990 Goodwill Games, as well as serving as both member and coach in the windsurfing division of the U.S. Sailing Team in 1991 and '92.