Race To Newport Battles Brutal Storm, Dead Wind

SAILING

June 26, 1991|By Nancy Noyes

By now it's fairly common knowledge how the sailors in the big-boat classes made out in this year's biennial Annapolis to Newport Race.

But because of the brutality of the storms that hit the fleet for 24 to 36 hours and the dead air that followed, the smallest contestants in the 55-boat fleet did not start arriving at the finish until late last Wednesday night. Some were as late as Thursday night.

The race, sponsored by the Annapolis Yacht Club and the Naval Academy Sailing Squadron at this end, and the Ida Lewis Yacht Club and New York Yacht Club at the other, started on June 15 at the mouth of the Severn River.

It took the six-class fleet over a 473-mile course down the Chesapeake, then up the Atlantic Coast to Block Island, and up into Narragansett Bay to the finish at Castle Hill Lighthouse inNewport.

The IMS-division boats survived the race best. All in the nine-boat Class I IMS finished the race behind New Yorker Bevin Koeppel's Pedrick 82 Congere, the race's largest entry, which arriving just before 11:25 p.m. on Monday, June 17. Only three from the other two IMS classes retired from the race in the heavy weather.

Using the attrition rate as a gauge, however, the PHRF division boats were affected most by both the heavy weather and the doldrums. Five dropouts were among the 13 bigger PHRF boats in Class IV, and seven of the 12 smaller starters in Class V also retired before finishing.

For those in this class who held on through the storms and the painfully light stuff that followed, their arrival -- even on Thursday -- was a significant achievement.

Annapolitan Ned Shuman and the team on his Tartan 41 Snow White, winners of Class IV PHRF, finished the race and took the gun in their class just before 8 a.m. Wednesday. They were only about a minute-and-a-half ahead of second-placers Gary and Karen Rossow and crew on their Kalik 40 Total Eclipse. They corrected toa lead totaling about 48 minutes.

It was more than a day later before the last finisher in that class crossed the line, but at 11:09 p.m. Wednesday Eric Stoer and his team on his C & C 35 P.O.S.H. becamethe first of the five who finished in Class V PHRF.

Stoer and company, including Annapolitans David Scheidt, David Zinn, Jack Donovan,Kevin Grohner, Ed Stigal, Paul Rickett, Pat Moyben and Scott Forrest, finished well enough to save their time over Ron Peterson and his team on his J/30 Valkyrie, although their overall PHRF Fleet rank was seventh.

"Every one of the 'little guys' in our class who finisheddid a really good job," Stoer said.

"It was pretty nasty there for a while, but on the whole, it was a neat race."

The stalwart Annapolis-area finishers in this class also included Rick Baucom and team's Tartan 30 Sails Call, and Gene Horn's team on his Elite 32 Jaguar.

Stoer said the race came down to four elements. "First," he said, "was getting out of the Chesapeake, then the first part in the ocean, then the storm, and then finishing. On the first part the point was to see if you could get out of the bay before the tide changed on Sunday."

The P.O.S.H team did just that by about 11 a.m., but they were forced to anchor in very light air for several hours before rounding Chesapeake Light early in the afternoon.

"Then it was a very pleasant spinnaker run in 15 to 17 apparent up the ocean until Monday," Stoer said. "Monday afternoon was quiet out in the ocean. . . . Then, about midnight, this modest little wind that nobody had predictedhit us right on the nose. We were about 280 to 300 miles into the race."

As the wind and seas built, the crew shifted quickly from theNo. 1 to the No. 3, and then to the No. 4, with a double-reefed main, and worked to hold on through a very nasty night, which included a terrifyingly close brush with a fast-moving trawler, Stoer said.

"It appeared as a green haze and then all of a sudden he was roaring down on us out of the storm. We did some pretty fast maneuvering, and it was a good thing we could handle the boat that well," he said.

"By Tuesday noon it was tolerable, but the first eight to 10 hours were pretty hairy stuff. We never saw more than about 40 knots ourselves, but the waves were 8 to 12 feet and just constant, coming from exactly where we wanted to go."

By Tuesday afternoon, Stoer explained, the seas were down to a more manageable 5 to 6 feet and the winds were less than 30 knots. By Wednesday morning, he said, "We were shaking everything out."

The crew's troubles weren't over, however.

"At dawn on Wednesday, Valkyrie was only a quarter-mile off our stern, and we owed her three hours," Stoer said. "For all practical purposes, they had won the race at that point, but they chose not to cover me. As we went around Montauk Point in about 2 1/2 to 3 knots of current, we were doing 9 knots over the bottom."

An added plus was a nice directional lift toward the rhumb line from the strong current. By the time the wind died completely off Point Judith, within about nine miles of the finish, the team was eight to 10 miles ahead of theirclosest rival, sealing an unforgettable victory.

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