With or without Mother Nature's astounding and terrifying pyrotechnics last Sunday, the fourth annual Northern Bay Race Week was a brilliant victory for Shady Side sailor Paul Parks and his team on his J/35Sundog.
The three-day contest was staged off the mouth of Middle River for a fleet of nearly 80 boats sailing in five classes.
Sailing with Parks and his wife, Cathy, to a perfect all-ace record through a wide range of conditions were Tim Mangus, Tee Thieler, Rob Simkins, Scott Haerbig, Bob Cornelius, Mark Goode and George Barnes.
Parks and his team likely would have won the third and final race on Sunday, because they crossed the finish line first ahead of theeight or nine boats that could be scored.
The severity of the squall forced abandonment of the race in zero visibility caused by darkness, rain, hail and spindrift off the tops of the high waves generated by the 60-knot-plus gusts, which also blew the pin end of the finish line away. The third race was not scored for anyone.
Because theseries came down to only two races, and Sunday's abandoned contest would have been decisive for many of the competitors, a number of tiedscores will have to stand as final official standings. Those included Severna Park's Mike Miernicki and his crew on Mischief, one of two second-placers in the 14-boat PHRF-Nonspinnaker class.
Despite Sunday's terrifying weather, this year's Northern Bay Race Week, which was managed jointly by the Columbia Sailing Association, Glenmar Sailing Association and Havre de Grace Yacht Club, counted as a triumph.
"Once again, it was a big success," said Glenmar's George Culbertson, one of the event's founding fathers. "We had more people from a greater variety of clubs than ever before, and it looks like our efforts to make it more fun, and to get more people to want to come worked out."
And now for a personal observation. As a member of Sunday's race committee, who was lucky enough to have a large, comfortable boat at anchor into which to retreat when the going got rough, I had ample opportunity when the storm lifted to observe a large number of boats in the vicinity of what once had been the finish area.
Most sailors, especially those on the smallest and, perhaps ironically, the largest boats racing in the fleet, were properly and sensibly fitted out in life jackets through the terrible weather.
But enough other boats where this important precaution had not been taken were around to warrant comment.
When the skies to the west go black on the Chesapeake Bay, it's time to start handing around and putting on the life jackets. In the chaos of handling a boat through a sudden, violent squall, it would be all too easy for someone to slip over the side accidentally and be almost instantly lost from sight -- an almost certain prescription for disaster, if the one overboard isn't wearing a life jacket.
Please don't become a statistic for the Coast Guard. Racing or cruising, if your crew is big enough, assign someone as safety officer in the event of sudden bad weather, and let him have no other responsibility than getting the jackets passed out while the rest of you keep the boat under control. If you sail short-handed or on a small boat, keep the jackets handy -- or even (dare I say it) wear them.
Northern Bay Race Week Series results
PHRF A (16 starters):1) Sundog, Paul Parks, Shady Side, 1.5 pts. (1-1); 2) (tie) Patriot,Larry Lehner, York, Pa., 6 pts. (4-2); and Moco Jumbie, Larry Puckett, Churchville, 6 pts. (2-4).
PHRF B (18 starters): 1) Ovation, Henry Peacock, Rock Hall, 5.75 pts. (5-1); 2) Another Fine Mess, EugeneBremont, Baltimore, 6 pts. (2-4); 3) Wooly Bear, Ted Rapp, Riverside, N.J., 6 pts. (3-3).
PHRF C (22 starters): 1) (tie) Red Streaker,George Culbertson, Timonium, 3.75 pts. (1-3); and Knotbobs, Daniel Miller, Baltimore, 3.75 pts. (3-1); 3) Pronto, Steve Rowlands, Baltimore, 7 pts. (2-5).
PHRF Nonspinnaker (14 starters): 1) Sundae Lovers, Bruce Bogdanoff, Swedesboro, N.J., 1.5 pts. (1-1); 2) (tie) Glory,Ray Munsch, Philadelphia, Pa., 6 pts. (4-2); and Mischief, Mike Miernicki, Severna Park, 6 pts. (2-4).
J/24 (five starters): 1) Grim Reaper, Fred Reynolds, Quarryville, Pa., 3.75 pts. (3-1); 2) Rush Hour, Pat Fitzgerald, Baltimore, 4.75 pts. (1-4); 3) Hotspur, Scott Kulp,Lititz, Pa., 6 pts. (4-2).
Annapolitans John Torgerson and Myles and Tracy Conway became the top junior sailors on the ChesapeakeBay in the single-handed and double-handed categories last Monday when they won their CBYRA quarterfinal rounds toward national titles.
Torgerson, representing Severn Sailing Association, topped out the eight-boat fleet of single-handers hoping for a shot at the Smythe Trophy. He had a perfect four-ace score in his series, sailed out of the Norfolk Naval Sailing Association on Willoughby Bay in light westerly winds. Gregory Miernicki of Severna Park, representing the Round Bay Sailing Association, was second.