xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Local skipper Tapio Saavalainen awarded C. Gaither Scott Memorial Trophy for Annapolis-to-Newport performance

Kalavela II, a Grand Soleil 37 owned by Tapio Saavalainen that won ORC 5 class.
Kalavela II, a Grand Soleil 37 owned by Tapio Saavalainen that won ORC 5 class. (Willy Keyworth)

Tapio Saavalainen’s wife maintains strict control over what is displayed in the family room of their Washington, D.C. home. Much to Saavalainen’s chagrin, almost all the mementos from his career with the Ministry of Finance in his native Finland are down in the basement.

However, Saavalainen is now in possession of perhaps the most prestigious trophy he’s ever been presented. The longtime Annapolis Yacht Club member beamed with pride as he held tightly to the C. Gaither Scott Memorial Trophy for Corinthian Spirit.

Advertisement

“I suppose that I’m going to demand there is nothing else in the family room except this trophy,” Saavalainen said with a wide grin following the Annapolis-to-Newport Race prize-giving ceremony on Wednesday night.

The C. Gaither Scott Memorial Trophy is presented at the discretion of the Annapolis-to-Newport race committee. It is named in honor of the Annapolis Yacht Club’s longtime race committee chairman and was introduced following his death in March 2000.

Advertisement
Advertisement

“Every trophy is important, but this one is very, very special. I could never, ever have imagined I would receive such a prestigious honor. Very fabulous,” said Saavalainen, an economist by trade who retired in 2006 after working for the International Monetary Fund.

Saavalainen was honored after finally breaking through to capture class honors in the Annapolis-to-Newport Race. He skippered Kalevala II to the corrected time victory in ORC 5, which drew 10 entries.

Kalevala II, a Grand Soleil 37-footer, posted a time of 3 days, 18 hours, 36 minutes, 24 seconds after handicaps were computed. That was a mere 27 seconds better than class runner-up Towhee, a Cal 40 skippered by Ken Jennings of Branford, Connecticut.

Saavalainen sailed Kalevala II in seven previous editions of Annapolis-to-Newport and was a place-winner several times.

Advertisement

“The one thing you realize is that every time you do this race you learn something new,” Saavalainen said. “This time around, what was new was that we were on top of the podium. I’m very pleased because this is something I’ve been chasing for some time.”

Tapio Saavalainen and his crew pose with their haul of trophies from the Annapolis-to-Newport Race Prize-Giving. Pictured from left are: Mike Oh, Polly Jarman (seated), Nick Amendola, Tapio Saavalainen, Shannon Hibberd (seated) and Eric Glaser.
Tapio Saavalainen and his crew pose with their haul of trophies from the Annapolis-to-Newport Race Prize-Giving. Pictured from left are: Mike Oh, Polly Jarman (seated), Nick Amendola, Tapio Saavalainen, Shannon Hibberd (seated) and Eric Glaser. (Willy Keyworth)

Saavalainen sailed with a crew of five amateurs that is quite familiar with Kalevala II, having raced aboard the boat many times over the years. Eric Glaser served as navigator and headsail trimmer, while Nick Amendola was mainsail trimmer. Mike Oh (foredeck), Shannon Hibberd (pit), and Polly Jarman (trimmer) completed the crew.

“We have a great crew that has been sailing together for quite some time, so the boat-handling is excellent, and the overall mood aboard is quite good,” Saavalainen said.

A large contingent of participating sailors attended the Annapolis-to-Newport prize-giving ceremony, which was held at Waite’s Wharf in Newport, Rhode Island. Kalevala II was one of eight class winners recognized, while several other special trophies were presented.

Chessie Racing, a Tripp 62 owned by Annapolis Yacht Club member George Collins, earned the Blue Water Trophy after posting the best corrected time among 17 boats in two PHRF classes. Annapolis professional Chris Larson was navigator aboard Chessie, which also received the Chip Thayer Perpetual Trophy for capturing line honors among Friday starters.

No beginner’s luck

Don’t call it beginner’s luck that Mark Lister was a class winner in his first time competing in Annapolis-to-Newport as a boat owner. The Crownsville resident has been preparing to go offshore aboard Winsome Ride ever since buying the Bavaria 46 in 2016.

Lister spent two seasons learning the sailing characteristics of the racer-cruiser, which was a year old when he purchased it from a Connecticut owner. The Round Bay Sailing Association member gradually upgraded the equipment and sails aboard, while training the crew how to sail her by doing point-to-point races on the Chesapeake Bay.

Lister and his son Kevin gained experience going offshore by crewing for skipper Donald Snelgrove aboard Himmel in the 2019 Annapolis-to-Newport Race.

“It took a while to build up to the point I felt confident in the boat’s ability to go offshore,” said the elder Lister, who previously owned a C&C 27.

Winsome Ride’s ocean racing debut was supposed to be the Bermuda Ocean Race but that passage from Annapolis to St. George’s was canceled due to COVID-19. Annapolis-to-Newport became the maiden offshore voyage, and the result was spectacular with Winsome Ride winning the PHRF Classic class on corrected time.

Kevin Lister served as navigator aboard Winsome Ride, which crossed the finish line on Narragansett Bay more than seven hours ahead of the next boat in PHRF Classic. That led to a convincing victory on corrected time as well with the Tartan 37 Desna (Adam Van Voorhis) finishing almost four hours behind.

“We are extremely thrilled,” said Lister, who only had six sailors aboard after one crew member got injured two days before the start.

Kevin Lister spent an entire year learning about weather routing and those diligent efforts paid dividends. His pre-race planning worked wonderfully as Winsome Ride enjoyed an almost perfect trip.

“Kevin pretty much told us what to do and we drove the boat where he told us to go,” Mark Lister said. “We trusted the modeling and route planning Kevin prepared.”

Mark Lister is a volunteer skipper for the Naval Academy sailing training program along with close friend Steve Small. They provided the foundation for an experienced crew that included Ken Jacobs, Chris Michel and Robert Penfold.

Winsome Ride was easily the first PHRF Classic boat to exit the Chesapeake Bay after power reaching under spinnaker for many miles. Perhaps the best decision was to hug the Eastern Shore and short tack back-and-forth upon approaching to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

A L’Assaut, another Round Bay Sailing Association boat, was miles ahead of Winsome Dove for most of the Chesapeake Bay portion of the race. However, that Dufour 40 Performance was forced to anchor for five hours to avoid getting swept backward by foul current while completely becalmed.

“They watched us sail past and were like, ‘How are those guys moving the boat?’” Lister said. “In preparing for this race, we all agreed getting out of the bay was going to be the hard part because it was light, shifty winds and we’re a big, heavy boat.”

Winsome Ride entered the Atlantic Ocean well ahead of its competition and the crew proceeded to build a huge lead while sailing downwind in a 15-knot southerly.

About five hours after rounding Chesapeake Light, Kevin Lister convinced his father to head inshore instead of sailing a rhumb line course to stay between the finish and trailing competition.

“That first night in the ocean is when our navigation tactics really came into play. Do we believe in the models enough to go 35 miles inshore to catch the wind that’s coming over the next 48 hours?” Mark Lister said. “We trusted the models because Kevin made a strong argument to do so.”

Huck's Finn, a Dehler 36 sailed by brothers Jeff and Tom Leigh that won double-handed class.
Huck's Finn, a Dehler 36 sailed by brothers Jeff and Tom Leigh that won double-handed class. (Willy Keyworth)

Surprise, surprise!

Huck’s Finn skipper Jeffrey Leigh was stunned when informed on Tuesday afternoon that his Dehler 36 was the corrected time winner of the ORC Double-Handed class. Leigh and his brother Tom checked the event website shortly after arriving at the Newport Yachting Center and found Huck’s Finn was in third place.

Advertisement

After being shown an updated version of the results, Jeffrey Leigh noted it was his 50th birthday and he could not have received a better present.

Advertisement

“It feels fantastic. This is our seventh time doing this race and we’ve gotten podium finishes three other times, but were always a bridesmaid,” the Eastport Yacht Club member said.

This year marked the first time the Leigh brothers raced Huck Finn double-handed in the Annapolis-to-Newport Race. They have been sailing together in some form or fashion for 40-plus years now.

This 2021 Annapolis-to-Newport was conducive for doing double-handed because the wind direction offshore held steady for almost the entire run. The elder Leigh knew Huck’s Finn was doing well when it came out of the Chesapeake Bay along with several J/120s, which had never happened in previous editions of the race.

“It was one of our fastest trips down the bay ever, and we got out just in time because the wind shut down and a lot of the boats behind us got parked,” Jeff said. “We did not need to make a whole lot of sail changes out in the ocean until after coming around Block Island.”

Brothers Jeff and Tom Leigh pose aboard Huck's Finn at the Newport Yachting Center.
Brothers Jeff and Tom Leigh pose aboard Huck's Finn at the Newport Yachting Center.

Running Tide results

One of many storylines going into the 38th biennial Annapolis-to-Newport Race surrounded the return of Running Tide, one of the most renowned offshore racers of the 1970s and early 80s. Beau Van Metre bought back the Sparkman & Stephens 60 that was owned by his father for 16 years and spent $4.5 million restoring her.

Al and Beau Van Metre sailed Running Tide to victory in Class I during the 1981 and ’83 editions of Annapolis-Newport, claiming line honors and setting the course record the last time they competed in the race. She was sold to a French owner in 1988 and fell into serious disrepair.

Beau Van Metre treated the 2021 Annapolis-to-Newport as a Running Tide reunion, putting together a crew of sailors from the boat’s heyday. Running Tide received some hardware during the prize-giving as first boat out of the Chesapeake Bay in ORC 2 class and winner of the Corinthian sub-class.

Running Tide was the second boat across the finish line among ORC 2 entries but dropped to ninth in class on corrected time.

Ranger, a Farr 40 crewed by members of the Naval Academy Varsity Offshore Sailing Team, was presented the Surflant Prize for top performance among service academy boats. Rising senior skipper Luke Gillcrist also accepted the Gerber Cup for best corrected time by a Naval Academy entry.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement