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Annapolis to Newport Race sails off on a 'steady breeze'


While most Marylanders have endured stifling summer heat over the past few days, offshore sailors enjoyed one of the smoothest races in recent history.

This year's Annapolis to Newport Race was powered by a strong, steady southwesterly wind. The biennial race started at noon Friday, and the first boat finished in Newport, R.I., on Sunday evening. The final boats are expected to finish this morning.

"They had no real light spots, and it is a nice steady breeze," said Chip Thayer, race committee chairman. "It was a good hard beat down the bay, and then a nice run down to the finish."

The race started just off the mouth of the Severn River, went down the Chesapeake Bay to the Chesapeake Light Tower, then headed up the Atlantic Ocean to Newport.

"We had some pretty choppy stuff [in the bay]. ... You come off a wave and you smack down," said Jim Muldoon, owner of the Donnybrook, a 72-foot sloop. "You wouldn't want to do it for two days."

The hard upwind leg was worth it, since it meant the race's long ocean leg - from the mouth of the Chesapeake up to Rhode Island - was all downwind.

"The highlight of the race was putting up the spinnaker at the Chesapeake Tower and not taking it down," said Larry Bulman, owner and skipper of the 53-foot Yellow Jacket.

While the competitors stayed cool on the water, those on shore had a chance to watch the race via the Internet for the first time.

Each boat had a transponder mounted on the deck that relayed information to a race Web site. Virtual spectators could log on and track the boats' progress.

"It increased people's ability to watch and observe the race," said Molly Hughes Wilmer, a spokeswoman for the race. "It definitely increased the audience."

Wilmer said the race committee needed to upgrade its server in the middle of the race to accommodate all the traffic on the Web site.

Those sailing in the race also could access the Web site - meaning they could see how they were doing compared with other boats in the fleet.

"We had competitors tell us that it was a good morale boost," said Wilmer.

She paused before adding: "I'm sure for the boats in the back it might have been a bit depressing."

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