Shifty winds a challenge in J/27 regatta


A strong turnout and exciting competition marked this year's J/27 North American Championship regatta, sailed last weekend courses from mid-Bay up into the Severn River.

Only three Chesapeake Bay teams took part, but 10 more crews from Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New DTC York, North Carolina and Michigan came to Annapolis for the seven-race, one-throw-out series.

Shoreside hospitality was provided by the Severn River Yacht Club, and on-water management was assisted by the local J/30 fleet, with Ron Peterson, Bob Putnam, Jim Ellis and John Balaam running the show.

Out-of-towners won most of the honors, with the top local finisher being Richard Altman of Baltimore and his team on Vitality, sailed out of Whitehall, in fifth overall.

Four races were completed on Friday in a shifty northwesterly breeze, and on Saturday heavy air near 20 knots greeted the fleet in the morning only to die quickly and continue to fade through the day's three contests. That caused more than one major upset in the previous day's standings when Annapolitan Al Graf and his crew on Fast Forward fell from third to eighth overall.

"It was frustrating," Altman said. "The starts were so aggressive and the shifts were so tough, if you tacked for clear air you could really get hammered."

Aggression at the starting line resulted in at least two general recalls and plenty of individual recalls, including one for Altman in the second race, which left him last after restarting and after winning the first race of the series.

Competition varied from race to race, in part depending on the length of the course, Altman said, describing four-legged windward-leeward courses for all but the last race each day, which in both cases was a short three-legger.

"Some were just like a dog pack, and others had some pretty good spacing," he said. "In the short races, which were really close, if you happened to catch the first shift right, you were in good shape; if you didn't, that was all she wrote."

J/27 North Americans

1. Alibi, Fred Darlington, Newport, R.I., 13.5 (2-2-3-1-1-[10]-5); 2. Bird of Prey, John Shimert, Buffalo, N.Y., 18.75 (3-1-7-4-[7]-2-2); 3. Baby, Chris Princing, Saginaw, Mich., 32.75 (8-5-11-3- [12]-4-1); 4. Brown Sugar, John Fenton, Cape May, N.J., 34 5. Vitality, Richard Altman, Baltimore, 48.75 (1- [13]-9-8-4-3-11).

J/35 Series at Gibson Island

The annual J/35 Mid-Atlantic Championship came to the Chesapeake Bay, with a five-race series for nine boats out of the Gibson Island Yacht Squadron Oct. 23-24.

Overall winner of the series was Sag Sagerholm of Ocean City, N.J., and his crew on Aunt Jean, with two third-place finishes in Saturday's racing, then passed the competition with scores of 1-2-4 on Sunday.

With the series sewed up for Aunt Jean virtually by the second race on Sunday, the real competition appeared to be for second place. After the final race, less than one point separated the second-place finisher, Kevin McNeil with his crew on Moonbeam, from third- and fourth-placers Jeff Todd and crew on Hot Toddy and Sandy Morse, leading the Jake team.

After reasonable wind and good competition in the first race on Saturday, the air went light during the second, mixing up the fleet.

"We were leading 400 yards from the finish, and we wound up fourth," said McNeil. "We were way out in front, but they got a little breeze behind us, and that was it."

On Sunday winds were in the 15-to 17-knot range, McNeil estimated, and an adverse current became a factor. "The current was flooding hard, and we had to beat right up through it," McNeil said. "It was hard to judge the lay lines."

Because he and his crew -- few of whom had sailed together previously -- were less practiced in J/35 racing than some of the others, McNeil said that after trying -- and botching -- a tricky maneuver in the first race in imitation of the other crews, he and his team opted for safety even though it meant sailing a little farther. McNeil found it worked.

"Everybody was going dead downwind and doing gybe-takedowns," McNeil said. "We tried one the first race and totally screwed it up. After that we'd go to the right, then gybe for the mark and do a conventional takedown. We sailed a little more distance, but we gained on the other boats every time."

2' J/35 Mid-Atlantic Championship 1. Aunt Jean, F.N. Sagerholm, Ocean City, N.J., 12.75 (3-3-1-2-4); Moonbeam, Kevin McNeil, Annapolis, 16 (2-4-4-4-2); 3. Hot Toddy, Jeff Todd, Annapolis, 16.5 (5-7-3-1-1); 4. Jake, Sandy Morse, 16.75 (1-6-2-3-5).

* Note: Nancy Noyes' column will not appear on Wednesdays again until the spring. However, her Sunday column will continue to appear weekly.

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