'Great time' puts sailing skill to test

The Baltimore Sun

David Askew isn't one of those fair-weather sailors.

Two summers ago, the Annapolis resident stayed in the Governor's Cup Yacht Race when a squall of heavy lightning, rain and winds spurred more than two dozen others to drop out.

Some have said it was one of the toughest races in the more than three-decade history of the annual 70-mile regatta - with fewer than half of the 161 boats in the race finishing within the 21-hour limit - but that didn't deter Askew, who has been racing sailboats since he was 10.

That year, 2005, he was not only one of the 70 boats to weather the storm and successfully make the trip down the Chesapeake Bay from Annapolis to St. Mary's City within 21 hours - but his Flying Jenny V, named after his "spunky" mother-in-law, placed first in his sailing division.

He's hoping for better weather at this year's race, which leaves from Annapolis Harbor this evening at 6. But he hopes for the same outcome: Victory.

"We go out there to have a good time, but we also go out there to win," said Askew, 43. "People with sailboats are competitive."

Askew is among the hundreds of sailors from across the Mid-Atlantic who will be in the 34th annual race, which runs from 6 p.m. today through 3 p.m. tomorrow.

About 150 boats have registered in eight sailing divisions to participate in the oldest overnight race in the Chesapeake, making their way from the state's current capital to Maryland's first state government seat. St. Mary's College of Maryland hosts the race.

The Governor's Cup draws a diverse group, from those who think of the race as a way to enjoy nature, good friends, food and stargazing, to those with a serious competitive streak, like Askew.

"We've done this race about 10 times, and it's always a great time," Askew said. "At night, while you're kind of bobbing up and down out there, we like telling stories about times we've had bad weather on the water or stupid sailing mistakes we've made, just silly stuff."

Among the sailors this year is one of the race's founders, Russell Baker. Baker is old school. His boat is 35 years old and at 32,000 pounds, weighs nearly twice as much as the sprightly racers that will crowd the Bay this weekend.

"We've probably also got the oldest crew in the race," said 55-year-old Baker, whose crew of 10 includes his 81-year-old father and a friend of his father who's in his 70s.

Baker, a real estate developer who lives in Sherwood Forest outside Annapolis, came up with the idea for the race in when he was a student at St. Mary's College.

At the time, the liberal arts school wasn't well known, Baker said, and it had a lackluster fleet of boats despite its waterfront location. As a member of the sailing team, Baker joined two other teammates and began slowly building a sailing and racing reputation for St. Mary's. With a new fleet of boats, the college began holding a number of small regattas. Success with those races spurred the idea for a larger race that would take place overnight and attract sailors from around the region. In the first year, they had 45 boats. Baker said he's happy to see the Governor's Cup has more than tripled in size since then.

The Cup's popularity is victory enough for Baker. He won't be pushing to be first in the race, he says.

"Mostly this is a good excuse to be out on the water at night, when it's cooler, less bugs and more breeze, drifting around in the bay," Baker said.


Yacht race


2007 Governor's Cup Yacht Race, hosted by St. Mary's College of Maryland. The race is in its 34th year.


The 70-mile annual regatta leaves from Annapolis Harbor and ends in St. Mary's City.


Today, 6 p.m., to tomorrow afternoon


Sailors from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware and across the Mid-Atlantic. The race has 150 registered boats in eight sailing divisions.


For more details, read about it at St. Mary's College Web site: www.smcm.edu

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