The Annapolis Yacht Club's Fall Series continued last weekend with the second set of races in the three-week event.
It drew 113 starters in five handicap classes and a J/29 one-design division out to a 15.3-mile windward-leeward contest on Saturday.
Eighty-three starters were in MORC, PHRF-C and five cruising one-design classes with the faster divisions tackling Olympic courses of 9.7 miles and 6.2 miles for some of the others.
Saturday's clear skies and breezy 15- to 18-knot conditions saw the fleet speed around the course in good time, with the biggest of the boats -- Jack King's Frers 62 Merrythought -- finishing less than 2 hours after starting.
After adjusting for handicap to corrected time, King still held his lead over the other sailors in his 28-boat IMS I class by a fairly comfortable margin of more than two minutes. But deeper in that class' results, only about three minutes separated the fifth-place finisher from the 19th, revealing clearly the level of competition.
A phalanx of six visiting and local J/44s, in town on their way to Baltimore for the Cadillac Columbus Cup match-racing regatta this week and sailing the AYC Fall Series races as part of their own one-design series, cut into the top of that class, too. They nailed down third through eighth, with some of their finish times being a single second apart.
And although J/44 skippers, including former Delaware governor Pete duPont on Glory and Annapolis attorney Ben Michaelson on Quintessence, are familiar figures often seen near the top of the regional heap, it was exciting to see Kin Yellott, who begins match-racing today as skipper of Team Baltimore in Columbus Cup, up in the top ranks of the class as well.
He showed that the many days and evenings of practice he and his team have put in on J/44 sail-training are paying off.
In other classes, too, many final scores were only seconds apart below the top one or two, so that in virtually every division a clear leader emerged while the rest of the class fought in tight ranks. The day's largest margin of victory was turned in by Dave Dodge on Privateer, just over seven minutes corrected time ahead of the second-placer Michael Duncan on Driven in the 20-boat IMS II division.
Sunday's racing also was tight in many cases, but conditions such as light air early in the race, a heavy motorboat chop and heavier air as the afternoon went on, combined to make it difficult and challenging.
Winner in the 32-boat J/24 class was Paul Hull and his team on Freestyle, who overcame stiff competition from many of the early leaders in his class to win the race and take the top slot in the series scoring to date.
"It was pretty light at the start, around seven or eight knots," Hull said, "and it was pretty difficult steering because it was really choppy.
The wind didn't really fill in until the last beat, and then it was out of the southwest up to about 16 or 17, I guess."
Hull gave credit for his come-from behind win to his crew, including Mardela High School junior Eric Weik, Bill Rumpler, D.C. lawyer Diane Sullivan, and Navy "rocket scientist" Gail Haberlin.
"I was really fortunate to have such excellent crew," Hull said. "The competition between the top five or six boats was really close all the way around the course. We were fourth until the last downwind mark. On that leg, we got out into the front due to the excellent concentration of the spinnaker trimmer."
Paired aces so far have given good starts on taking the series to winners in several classes, including IMS II and III, Alberg 30s, and Cal 25s. But the big and aggressive J/24 fleet, where big upsets easily can happen, will be one to watch as Fall Series goes into its final event this coming weekend.
Hull has a lead of slightly more than two points over his nearest competition, Bunky Hines on Bunky's Boat, but there are at least five to seven others within dangerously close striking distance -- including a three-way tie for third between Al Goldin on Price of Eggs, Rick Bowe on Blood Sweat & Tears and Pat Fitzgerald on Rush Hour. Any one of them also could be the winner depending on next week's race.
AYC Fall Series II Preliminary results Protests pending Saturday, Oct. 6
IMS I (28 starters): 1) Merrythought, Jack King, Fairfax, Va./Annapolis, 1:56:01 c.t.; 2) Ichiban, Jim Allsopp, Annapolis, 1:58:20 c.t.; 3) Glory, Pete duPont, Rockland, Del., 1:59:27 c.t.; 4) Quintessence, Ben Michaelson, Annapolis, 2:00:18 c.t.; 5) Iona, Kin Yellott, Baltimore, 2:01:04 c.t.
IMS II (20 starters): 1) Privateer, Dave Dodge, Annapolis, 1:58:10 c.t.; 2) Driven, Michael Duncan, Washington, 2:05:13 c.t.; 3) Crescendo, Stephen Hiltabidle, Annapolis, 2:05:26 c.t.; 4) Wahoo, Henry Fretz, Rock Hall, 2:07:18 c.t.
IMS III (11 starters): 1) Second Chance, John White, Severna Park, 2:06:25 c.t.; 2) P.O.S.H., Eric Stoer, Bethesda, 2:07:41 c.t.; 3) Joe Cool, Joe Phillips, Annapolis, 2:08:18 c.t.