Sailors who won last weekend's 39th annual Naval Academy Sailing Squadron Race to Oxford or (on the return trip) the 33rd annual Hammond Memorial Race out of Tred Avon Yacht Club have a lot to be proud of.
But only a few of the 250 entrants won both the 39-mile NASS race from Annapolis on Saturday and the 20.5-mile reciprocal TAYC race from Oxford to Poplar Island on Sunday.
Among that elite class this year was PHRF Nonspinnaker's King Nummy crew led by Don Breder, Dave Wooldridge and his team on his Cal 25 Riders Up, and Jim Cullen and his crew on Jackrabbit, acing the J/30 class.
"It was a pretty tight pack all the way down to '84' [off Poplar Island], but we sailed into a nice 20- to 25-degree shift on port tack," Cullen said. "We wanted to bite in good and hard, and we nailed it. We could lay '7' [south of Blackwalnut Point] from there."
Cullen said he worked his J/30 up into the big-boat fleet, which had arrived in the Choptank ahead of him as he stretched out his lead on his competition.
"From there we just sailed conservatively," he said, adding that he and his crew held off on setting the spinnaker for a mile or so up the river. By the end, he had built a nine-minute lead on the rest of the J/30s.
J. D. Sullivan's beautiful Concordia yawl Loon got the PHRF C gun in both races, correcting into second in the NASS race but saving her time in the TAYC reciprocal to win.
The wind, of course, was of concern at the fall Oxford. Saturday's southeasterly breezes slacked off from the 15- to 18-knot level at the start to nearly nothing as the stragglers inched up the Tred Avon to the finish near sunset, but averaged a very sailable 12 or so for most of the competitors.
On Sunday, however, many sailors found themselves facing near-survival conditions as the breeze in the Tred Avon and Choptank ranged in the low 20s with higher gusts and built even more over 3- and 4-foot chop on the bay before easing some as the sun came out.
In Sunday's heavier air, Cullen said his team opted for a #2 genoa while others in the class were already down to their #3s.
"I love to sail in heavy air," he said. "We were beating out the river in big breeze and pretty big waves. We were first to the first mark."