Sometimes it's hard to break old habits, or to draw players into a new game.
But when the first Chesapeake Lighthouse Challenge race began Friday evening, the breezy start was a breath of fresh air for the hosts and race organizers of Cape St. Claire Yacht Club, as 46 starters in five classes set off down the bay.
The Lighthouse Challenge race is the longest-distance event of the season for local racers who don't go offshore for an event like theAnnapolis-to-Newport Race.
It was created as a biennial replacement for the 365-mile Great Ocean Race, a grueling circumnavigation of the DelMarVa Peninsula that slowly had been decreasing in participation as an annual event.
Many of the dyed-in-the-wool veterans of the GOR were along for the new race, joined by a substantial contingentof sailors hungry for a less brutal long-distance challenge without the Delaware Bay and long ocean legs.
"We were pretty thrilled with the participation," said race organizer Sue Davis. "It was a good turnout, and everyone seemed to really enjoy the race."
Three courses were used, all starting at Sandy Point Light about 5 p.m. Friday and finishing at Baltimore Light between midnight Saturday and late Sunday.
The biggest and fastest monohulls, sailing in the 11-boat PHRF-A class, completed a 282-mile circuit down to Chesapeake Light, beyond the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, and back, while the eight PHRF-B boats turned back at Wolftrap Light on a 200-
The 10 boats in the Multihull class also competed on the 200-mile Wolftrap course, and the smallest boats, sailing in a 10-boat PHRF-C division, and the three Nonspinnaker finishers completed a 142-mile course down to Smith Point Light south of the mouth of the Potomac and back.
First over the finish line was Connecticut sailor John Barry, winner in Multihulls with his high-performance Newick 40 trimaran Greenwich Propane, returning from his 200-mile sail a little before 1 a.m. Sunday, a mere 31 hours, 27 minutes after his start.
The rest of his class was primarily smaller cruising multihulls that finished much more closely grouped, starting about 14 hours later. Leading themwas Edgewater sailor Tony Smith on Gemini II, one of four Gemini cruising catamarans in the race that were built by Smith's yard, Performance Cruising in Mayo.
"It was a dead beat down the bay and a spinnaker run back up again -- almost equal time each way," Smith explained.
"True winds were probably 15 to 18 until about two-thirds of the way down, when it lightened up to eight or nine. Coming back again, probably 10 knots was the highest it got, and some people had flat calm around sunrise. But then it was a nice windy day on Sunday."
Completing the longer 282-mile PHRF-A race a little before 2:30 p.m. on Sunday -- with an average speed less than two-tenths of a knot below that of the top multihull -- were co-skippers Nick Brown and Paul Mikulski on
Brown's J/44 Iona, with an elapsed time of 45:22:59.
"It was really perfect conditions," Mikulski said. "We had very consistent winds. The current was a big factor, and there were two main tactical aspects. First, on the first leg it was playing the flood tide and short-tacking James Island. Then at the Bridge-Tunnel, it tookus 45 minutes just to get around the mark.
"We came within half amile of the entrance on a starboard tack that had started all the way up at Hooper's Island but the wind died and the tide prevented us from reaching it. We actually rounded backward (stern-first). We grossly underestimated the funnel through there with the current, and there was very little air."
In the light air and strong current, Mikulski said it took 2 1/2 hours to get from the Bridge-Tunnel to Chesapeake Light, but only 1:40 to get back again as the wind built up againfrom the southwest.
"The wind filled back in again, we set a chute, and bam!" he said.
As scratch boat in her class, Iona owed someof her competition six hours or more over the long course, and was nailed on correction by Paul Kaplan and his team on his Baltic 42 Incessant, who arrived more than 4 1/2 hours later
but floated to the top of the heap by a 36-minute margin.
The Iona team managed to save enough time to hold second place over the boat it was most worriedabout, however. Gerry Smernoff and crew on his Frers 36 F-3 Bam verynearly caught Iona when they arrived at the finish just after 8 p.m., but Iona corrected ahead of Bam by a mere 45 seconds -- after two days and all those miles of all-out racing.
"The wind filled in from behind Sunday afternoon -- from the southwest, a sea breeze -- but we had already finished and they were still coming up the bay," Mikulski said of the Incessant team. "They were on a spinnaker reach in a flood tide a lot of the way, and we had to gybe downwind and fight anebb."