Shearwater Sailing Club's annual St. Brendan Cup Race drew more than100 boats divided into three fleets and 10 classes to the starting lines near the mouth of the Severn River Saturday for a challenging and memorable race.
Named for the legendary Irish cleric/sailor/navigator who voyaged to North America centuries before Columbus, the St.Brendan Cup Race is traditionally a long one, requiring skillful navigation strategies as well as good tactics.
Although this year's event was a light-air contest far shorter than the 20-to 50-mile courses originally hoped for, the navigators aboard the top boats in each of the three fleets still deserved the recognition they received with their special Navigator's Trophies.
Going the right way through holes, foul currents and massive wind shiftsaround each of the three courses made an immense difference in how well the sailors finished the race.
"During the race, the wind shifted through nearly 180 degrees," said Shearwater Fleet captain Bob Moyer. "I suspect that most of the racers had all of the light-air spinnaker work they could want for the rest of the season."
Moyer saidthat a morning northerly breeze was replaced by a southerly that filled in later in the day after fighting and canceling the northerly down to nothing. He said the racing also was complicated by a strong ebb current running at between 1 and 1 1/2 knots while the wind was only blowing at about 3 or 4.
"The breeze filled on the western side of the bay a little earlier than it did on the east side," Moyer explained, "so the boats that were over on that side really made out. Theracing seemed to be pretty tight, and a lot of the leads changed back and forth often. There were all sorts of possibilities to fall intoholes, to get out of holes, to pick a favorable shift, whether to take wind over tide, all kinds of things."
Although there were many close finishes throughout each of the classes, there also were some astonishing leads.
For Wayne Fisher and his team aboard his Peterson 45 Nighthawk in the 18-boat PHRF-A class, being scratch boat by a considerable rating difference was not really a handicap after all. They finished their 17-mile race nearly 40 minutes ahead of their closest competition.
That left them with a comfortable 25-minute corrected-time lead over second-placer Sam Owings and his team on his Soverel 33 Moving Violation. Owings also finished well enough to easily maintain his relative fleet position.
Nighthawk's feat earned navigator Russell Miller the Fleet 2 Navigator's Trophy when it turned out that no other boat in A or any of the other three PHRF splits could correct closer to Nighthawk than about 20 minutes.
Now in his second year of actively campaigning the boat -- an ex-IOR contender originally christened That Cat -- Fisher is starting this season with considerably better luck than he had most of last year.
"We didn't really kill anybody on the windward leg, although we were ahead of the other old IOR boats, which was kind of a moral victory," Fisher said. "The real thing was making the decision to stay in the channel down the bay in the current. It kept pushing us down in a little bit of windto the mark.
"By the time we got down to the mark we were about 20 minutes ahead. Coming back up the bay, the same current that was helping us on the way down was hurting us, so we got over to the western shore, and the wind filled in first over there.
"It was sort of a big strategic decision that we made, and it paid off. The amazing thing was that we took a 20-minute lead and were actually able to stretch it out even farther."
St. Brendan Cup results
Fleet 1 (16.85 miles)
IMS I (3 starters): 1) Dancer, Bill Steitz, Pittsburgh, Pa./Annapolis, 3:15:26 c.t.; 2) Delta 7, Allen Davies, Wilmington, Del., 3:15:33 c.t.; 3) Quintessence, Benjamin Michaelson Jr., Annapolis,3:19:07 c.t.
IMS II (10 starters): 1) Yellow Jacket, BFSS & W Syndicate, Annapolis, 3:58:20 c.t.; 2) Strike, Russell Hale, Arlington, Va., 4:15:48 c.t.; 3) Windborne, Kevin and Mary McLaughlin, Annapolis, 4:20:22 c.t.
IMS III (7 starters): 1) Interlude, Wayne Bretsch, Olney, 3:58:03 c.t.; 2) Scrimshaw, Charles Deakyne, Severna Park, 4:05:49 c.t.; 3) Joe Cool, Joe Phillips, Annapolis, 4:14:24 c.t.
Fleet 1 Navigator's Trophy: Dancer, E. J. Rowland, Alexandria, Va.
Fleet 2 (17.15 miles)
PHRF A (18 starters): 1) Nighthawk, Wayne Fisher, Lexington Park, 4:43:24 c.t.; 2) Moving Violation, Samuel Owings, Annapolis, 5:08:02 c.t.; 3) Witch, Glenn Robbins, Severna Park, 5:11:35 c.t.
PHRF B (17 starters): 1) Rude Awakening, Chuck O'Malley, Annapolis, 5:05:46 c.t.; 2) Hilite, Leonard Eastman, Annapolis, 5:06:18 c.t.; 3) Fast Track, John and Karen Yeigh, Annapolis, 5:06:54 c.t.
PHRF C (10 starters): 1) AJ, David Scheidt, Annapolis, 5:03:27 c.t.; 2) Marilyn, Martin Kiely, Berwyn Heights, 5:07:13 c.t.; 3) Pendragon, John Hadley, Arlington, Va., 5:12:13 c.t.