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Flawless crew work, boat speed help Henry Filter, Wild Child team top J/70 class at 86th annual Annapolis Yacht Club Regatta

J/80 winner Dan Wittig and his Turbo Sloth team compete during the 86th annual Annapolis Yacht Club Regatta on July 24.

Henry Filter and his Wild Child team spent 18 days training off the West Coast in advance of the 2021 J/70 World Championships. The Annapolis-based crew dedicated 11 days to training and then followed with seven days of racing.

Filter skippered Wild Child to fifth place among 26 Corinthian entries, an impressive accomplishment.

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All that time on the water has produced a fine-tuned team, a fact that was on display July 24 during the Annapolis Yacht Club Annual Regatta. Flawless crew work was the difference as Wild Child got the gun in two races and placed second in the other to top the always competitive J/70 class.

Filter posted a low score of four points — half as much as runner-up Paul Green and the Progress crew. The Stevensville resident gave all the credit to his crew of Arthur Blodgett, Alex Stout and Will Wagner.

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“Any helmsman is only as good as the guys pulling the strings. That was certainly the case in this instance,” said Filter, an Eastport Yacht Club member.

Stout and Wagner sailed aboard Wild Child at J/70 Worlds and reprised their roles trimming the mainsail and headsails, respectively. Filter cited the work those three put in last August on the Pacific Ocean as the primary reason for this victory.

“We really got going fast while we were out there last summer and it paid off [July 24],” Filter said. “After almost a year since we sailed together, it was great to see the guys pick up right where we left off from worlds.”

Arthur Blodgett, who races against Filter in the Snipe class, made his debut aboard Wild Child as tactician. Blodgett, coach of Optimist sailing at Lauderdale Yacht Club, fit right in with the team.

It did not take long for Wild Child to prove it had superior speed as it won Race 1 despite having to restart after being called on-course side. After clearing the penalty, Filter and team steadily passed the 10 other boats in the class.

Wild Child held a three-point lead going into the third race, which started in 15 knots of wind and while the tide was switching from ebb to flood. Filter and Blodgett felt the right side of the course would offer some relief from the current and also provide a velocity lift.

“With our game plan established, we figured we would have to fight hard to get right. Much to our surprise, the entire fleet [with the exception of one other boat] went hard left up the first leg,” said Filter, calling that development “unnerving.”

However, their tactical reasoning paid off and Wild Child won the final race to clinch the regatta.

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“Overall, the crew did an excellent job of transitioning from light to heavy breeze and back down again,” Filter said. “As the saying goes, good speed and boat-handling can make you look awfully smart.”

Lack of wind turned the 86th AYC Annual Regatta into a one-day event. After bobbing around the Chesapeake Bay for several hours, the July 23 fleet consisting of the ORC handicap and J/105 one-design classes were unable to start a race.

All of the smaller one-design classes completed three races in steady winds July 24 with Jeff Todd the lone Annapolis Yacht Club member to come away victorious. Todd led Hot Toddy to first-place finishes in two of three races to top J/22 class by one point over skipper Chris Junge.

Chris Ryan trimmed the headsails and worked the middle, while Cassie Todd handled the foredeck for her father. Ryan was responsible for upwind tactics with Cassie doing the honors downwind.

There was a three-way tie going into the last race and the Hot Toddy team came through in the clutch by posting the bullet.

Dan Wittig skippered Turbo Sloth to victory in J/80 class, which attracted eight entries. Mike Coe called tactics and trimmed the jib as the crew representing the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association posted a superb score line of 1-2-1.

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Sara Wittig worked the pit for her husband while Coe’s wife Kelly FitzGerald handled the bow. Spinnaker trimmer Aaron Galvin completed the crew.

“Our team did a great job with marking roundings. Sara and Kelly got the kite up and down with no drama at all,” Wittig said. “Mike put us in great spots and everyone worked to keep us going fast. The crew did a great job of switching gears and changing the rig tune when the wind went from the 5- to 8-knot range in race one to 12 up to 12 to 16 in races two and three.”

Annapolis Yacht Club race committee organizers had the Harbor 20 and Viper 640 classes sail on the Severn River around a course set off the entrance to Chesapeake Harbor. Walter Johnson, an Annapolis business owner who resides in Naples, Florida, steered Fortunatelee to top honors in Harbor 20 — the largest class of the regatta with 20 boats.

Bill Vickers reunited with former crewmates Chip Steiner and Steve Kabler to capture Viper 640 class on the strength of a 1-1-2 score line. That trio did a lot of sailing in the J/22 and J/70 classes, but had not been together for several years due to the pandemic.

Vickers said priority one was hydration on a scorcher of a Sunday when temperatures soared into the 90s and the humidity was brutal. Adjusting the rig prior to each race to account for changing wind conditions was also crucial, Vickers said.

“It was the closest Viper racing we have all seen on the water with tight roundings at every windward mark,” said Vickers, noting there were several close encounters with the slower Harbor 20s on the course.

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86th annual AYC Regatta results

J/22 (7 boats)

1. Hot Toddy, Jeff Todd, 1-3-1=5; 2. Corner of Sanity and Madness, Chris Junge, 3-1-2=6; 3. Rocinante, Kevin Kenny, 2-2-4=8.

J/30 (9 boats)

1. Avenger, David Johnson, 6-2-1=9; 2. One Love, Jamie Gregory, 3-3-3=9; 3. Insatiable, Ron Anderson, 1-5-4=10

J/70 (11 boats)

1. Wild Child, Henry Filter, 1-2-1=4; 2. Progress, Paul Green, 5-1-2=8; 3. Johnny Thunder, Brain Wood, 2-4-5=11

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J/80 (8 boats)

1. Turbo Sloth, Daniel Wittig, 1-2-1=4; 2. More Cowbell, Sarah Alexander, 3-1-3=7; 3. Scamp, J.R. Maxwell, 4-3-2=9

Cal 25 (6 boats)

1. Fahrvergnugen, Alisa Finney, 1-1-1=3; 2. Zephyr, David Hoyt, 2-3-2=7; 3. Harlequin, Leo Surla, 4-2-3=9

Harbor 20 (20 boats)

1. Fortunatelee, Walter Johnson, 2-1-1=4; 2. Skimmer, Trogdon/Podlich, 1-3-6=10; 3. Sugar, Garth Hichens, 6-2-3=11

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Viper 640 (6 boats)

1. Gnixe, Bill Vickers, 1-1-2=4; 2. Deep State, Walt Pletcher, 2-4-1=7; 3. Evil Hiss, Mary Ewenson, 3-2-4=9


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