J/105s flock to Annapolis

The Baltimore Sun

A winter's worth of dockside bragging will be sorted out in the water off Annapolis this weekend during the Sperry Top-Sider National Off-Shore One Design (NOOD) regatta.

The three-day event features more than 250 boats competing in 19 classes, with two additions and one subtraction from last year. Organizers have added a J/80 class and a Melges 32 class. The Star class was eliminated.

While the NOOD is largely a showcase for local talent, 24 states and Canada and the United Kingdom also have representatives registered.

The largest class is the J/105, with 45 entries so far.

The reason, says class coordinator Chris Groobey, is that the Annapolis Yacht Club will play host to the North American Championships in late October.

"We think people are coming here either on their way back from Florida or other winter sailing ports so they can get comfortable with Annapolis," he said. "With the exception of one or two North American Championships, this [NOOD] regatta is the largest collection of J/105s ever since the class started in 1992."

The race will see last year's second-place finisher, Jack Biddle of Chevy Chase, battle Jim Konigsberg of Vienna, Va., who took third.

The second-largest group - the one that usually leads the field - is the J/22 class. Barring last-minute entries (and there always are some), the field still has 34 competitors, including last year's winner, Greg Fisher of Annapolis, plus Chris Doyle of Kenmore, N.Y., and Peter McChesney of Annapolis, who finished second and third, respectively.

The J/22 class is not alone in packing the field with top contenders. Defending champions are competing in at least 10 classes, but some battles will see the return of the top three finishers from last year.

Perhaps the most interesting duel will pit Fisher, the 2006 overall regatta winner, against his wife, Jo Ann, who is using this race as a tuneup for the Rolex International Women's Keelboat Championship this fall.

Fresh off their win last weekend at Charleston Race Week in the J/80 class, Arnold residents Brian and Kristen Robinson will try to best a dozen other entries in a competition that also decides the East Coast Champion. The Arnold couple splits duties, with Brian at the helm and Kristen trimming the jib.

The East Coast Championship also will be decided in the C&C; 115 class, which has seven competitors, including the second- and third-place finishers from last year. Last year's winner, Scott Dodge of Annapolis, has switched to the C&C; 99 class.

The C&C; 115 class has two local skippers, Richard Griner (who finished third in 2006) and Ole Haaland in the hunt. But the "hot hand," said Dodge, belongs to Steve Stollman, who won the 12-boat PHRF-C class at Charleston last weekend.

But no one should count out Daniel Gourash, winner of the 2006 Chicago NOOD and runner-up in Annapolis.

"We'll see what local knowledge is worth," Dodge said. "It should be a close regatta with all these talented guys."

The overall winner in Annapolis, the third stop on the nine-regatta circuit, will advance to the NOOD Regatta Championship this fall in the British Virgin Islands to compete against the eight other overall winners.

Last year, the Annapolis regatta attracted 279 teams representing more than 3,000 sailors.


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