The second annual Pier Five Cup Race took a fleet of 87 starters in four PHRF classes on a 21-mile course last Saturday in a test of tenacity that saw only 37 of the competitors stick out the light, shifty air to the finish.
The course ran from Belvedere Shoal off the mouth of the Magothy up to Craighill Light and back into the Patapsco to a finish off of Harrison's Pier Five in the Inner Harbor.
The event was managed by the Baltimore City Yacht Association and the Gibson Island Yacht Squadron and sponsored by Harrison's in conjunction with Baltimore Bay Days.
"The wind was horrible," said BCYA spokesman Albert Grimes. "There were huge holes everywhere, and at one point we had two knots of current running down the bay. It was a race of patience and persistence, but the ones who hung with it had a very nice, dramatic spinnaker finish in front of Harrison's, and I think everyone had a very good time in spite of the wind."
This was the first year the Pier Five Cup had sanctioning toward annual High Point standings by the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association. "We had 48 boats last year, the first year for the race, and we're very pleased with this year's turnout," Grimes said. "The Harrison family throws an enormous good time up there, so we're hoping the race will become a very popular event in the future."
The race included an awards party and seafood festival at Harrison's and was followed the next day by a 7.7-mile race back to Gibson Island.
After a 10 a.m. start in about five knots of air, the wind quickly died off and became very sporadic. In late afternoon it filled in again fairly steadily, leading to the colorful and exciting finish as the sun was going down.
First over the finish line was Bill Steitz's Baltic 43 Dancer, at about 5:30 p.m. But of the 20 PHRF-A finishers out of that class's 32 starters, Dancer corrected into fifth, leaving Glenn Robbins and his team on Farr 37 Witch the winners in that class.
"It was tough, and it took a lot of patience," said Robbins. "At the start there was a big wind shift, so we port-tacked the line and got a pretty good start. From there we just tried to find the puffs and stay where they were."
Robbins said that in addition to patience, a bit of luck and a lot of excellent crew work made the difference.
"We got kind of lucky," he said, "because some of the other boats near us in our class had some problems, but it's a good light-air boat, and my crew -- just regular people, no rock stars -- did a good job. We gybed many, many times in the river, and they just did everything right."
Overall fleet winners were to be found at the top ranks of the PHRF-B class, with Jim Powers' Windsong in first, Jeff Klein's Rong Bay in second and Gene Bremont's Another Fine Mess in third.
Sunday's GIYS Pier Five Raceback drew a fleet of only 24 starters in the three PHRF spinnaker classes for another light-air test of will and determination.
"It just wasn't a great afternoon for sailing," said Claude Engle of the GIYS Race Committee, explaining that it took the first finishers more than three hours to sail a course of less than eight miles.
But, Engle added, "I think we're going to ask (CBYRA) for a sanction on this race next year and see what happens. I think it has some potential."
One of collegiate sailing's oldest and most prestigious big-boat sailing events, the annual McMillan Cup contest, drew teams from across the nation to compete at the Naval Academy last weekend. After four races over two days, skipper Brian Doyle's team from Brown University emerged victorious.
This year's event had an added historic quality, since it marked the last time that the academy's 44-foot Luders yawls, which are being phased out and replaced by a growing fleet of Navy 44 sloops, will be used in collegiate racing.
In a light northeasterly breeze on Saturday, only a single race could be completed, but three additional contests in Sunday's steadily moderate southeasterlies rounded out the series. Courses were windward-leeward twice around, with start/finish lines in the middle, said Naval Academy coach Ward Blodgett.
"I thought that the quality of the sailing was excellent," said Blodgett, adding that unlike past years, very few of the teams had previous experience in the event or in the old yawls.
In addition to the Brown team and the Naval Academy's home team, skippered by Mid. 2/C Bob Bruce, sailors came to the event from the State University of New York Maritime College, the universities of Rhode Island and Delaware, Boston College, Maine Maritime Academy, Cornell and Yale universities, and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at King's Point, N.Y.
Annapolis' own fledgling fleet of E-Scows (flat, lightweight, rockety speedsters popular on inland lakes and once considered the fastest monohulls in the world) has been drawing attention all summer with the unique appearance and speed of the three local teams, which are on the water regularly.