What Seems Like Sailing Weather Is Just A Lot Of Hot Air

SAILING

April 10, 1991|By Nancy Noyes

An early April warm spell produced a lot of enthusiasm for being outon the water over the weekend, but the glorious weather meant that hot air over still-cold water combined with a weak prevailing westerlyto make racing conditions challenging on the bay.

Sunday, a fleetof 20 boats turned out for a new single-handed race from Triton Light at the Naval Academy out to Thomas Point and back.

Ranging in size from three J/22s to a CSY 50, the fleet was predominantly made up of boats 30 feet and under, and was divided into a 13-boat spinnaker division and a seven-boat non-spinnaker class.

With the first start shortly after 9 a.m., it quickly became apparent that the wind had not filled in enough to get the fleet moving. It wasmore than a hour before the last of the 20 starters had crossed the line, and down the river they bunched up and separated, fighting their way through radical wind shifts and big holes before finding a steadier breeze.

The starting area difficulties translated into a finish that was more attenuated than might have been expected from the pursuit start format, in which handicaps are taken, in effect, before the start.

In fact, although two of the non-spinnaker competitors dropped out before finishing the 12-mile course and one finished nearly an hour after his closest rival, it was about two hours between thefirst boat to finish and the last, despite six spinnaker-class boatscrossing the line within a span of about 2 1/2 minutes.

The fleetleader, spinnaker class winner Dave Scott on his J/22 Bart, returnedto finish the race at 1:09 p.m., followed three minutes later by Mike Higgins on his own J/22.

Things quickly heated up, however, as third-place Marty Kiely on his Kirby 25 Marilyn managed to resist JeffHalpern's concerted efforts to overtake him with his Laser 28 Rugosa, and finished 23 seconds ahead of Halpern.

The fight for the top of the non-spinnaker class was tight, as winner Norman Baldwin on hisPearson 30 Severn Run managed to climb up over John O'Brien on his Catalina 27 Finnigan's Wake and hold on to maintain a 48-second lead at the finish line in that class.

Despite the frustrations from theearliest parts of the race, the racers agreed that the single-handedcontest had been a lot of fun and was something they were interestedin repeating.

"It's so nice to be out there and not have anybody else on your boat," Scott said. "You can pull any string you want to to see what it does, and you don't have to worry about what anybody else is doing, or where he's sitting. It's great."

Scott, along with his fellow J/22 competitors -- and most of the rest of the fleet --was several minutes late for his start as he struggled in no wind towork his way up to the line. A small wind line appeared coming down Spa Creek to Triton Point, and the sailors gradually took off in the light air, spinnakers alternately full and sagging, until a number ofthem massed together in a substantial parking lot off the Horn PointShoal Pole.

"The ospreys took off when we first got there," Scottsaid, "but we were there so long they came back and hung out with us. Then we got a little air and then we got this shift where the sea breeze kind of filled in and we had to get the kites down and the jibsup."

Scott and the other little-boat sailors took the lead in thefleet at that point, able to sneak through the next wall of dead airfar better than the larger, heavier boats. He took the lead at the turning mark when the fleet leader mistakenly continued down the bay toward the next mark instead of turning back.

"It was definitely worthwhile and I really hope we do it again, probably in the fall," Scott said.

And even those who came in at the back of the pack were inclined to agree.

*

On both Saturday and Sunday, an eight-boat fleet of Solings out of the Severn Sailing Association took part in afive-race series for their annual Spring Bowl.

The Spring and Fall Soling Bowl regattas often attract a number of visiting sailors, but this year's event was a little lighter than usual in terms of participation from out of town, in part because of a Pre-Olympic Trial regatta set for next week in Florida that drew the sailors there to practice rather than to Annapolis to sail.

"It was pretty much the same group of us who have been frostbiting all winter together," said regatta winner Stuart Walker.

Walker, a veteran of the Soling class who also is well-known as the author of numerous "how-to" books on the subject of one-design racing, introduced the boat at SSA in 1969. This was after it was selected by the Olympic Yachting Committee to replace the Dragon as the three-man keelboat for the 1972 Olympics.

At the end of Saturday's racing, Walker was narrowly ahead of Sam Merrick. He had beaten his old friend and rival in two of the three races, although the two were tied on points -- each with a first, a second and a third.

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