Weather Muddles Oxford Regatta

Sailing

Racers Face Dead Calm After Start In Rainstorm

August 14, 1991|By Nancy Noyes

For the sailors in this year's summer Oxford Regatta, with the Tred Avon and Chesapeake Bay yacht clubs as hosts, it was another memorable event.

The event combined a big-boat race to Oxford on Friday and buoy race Saturday with a major one-design regatta Saturday and Sunday. Even a special event for the picturesque and exciting log canoeswas part of the festivities.

The big-boat racers found the Friday-Saturday event to be a bizarre combination of feast and famine as far as weather went.

Friday's fleet of at least 120 PHRF, IMS and MORC boats and Tritons met at the starting line in a torrential downpour and strong, gusty winds reported at 30 knots or better.

The fleet actually have featured as many as 136 boats, but poor visibility in the heavy rain at the start made a complete and accurate check-in of starters very difficult for the Race Committee.

Filling in the gaps at the finish also was tough because a number of boats were forced to drop out during the race after suffering rigging or sail breakdowns.

As the fleet worked down the bay from the mouth of the Severn River, into the Choptank and then the Tred Avon, to the finish line off the Tred Avon club 29 miles away, the wind continued to change in strength and direction.

Itdropped to less than 5 knots and picked up again with a vengeance (some crews reported more than a dozen headsail changes in the on-again, off-again wind), forcing the wet, tired sailors to work to the limits of their endurance to stay on their toes at all times.

Saturday's round-the-buoys race was an endurance contest of another kind whenthe noontime light air died off.

The 14-mile course in the Choptank couldn't be shortened, a Race Committee spokesman said, because Jim Muldoon on his Santa Cruz 70 Donnybrook was too far ahead of the rest of the fleet to allow the committee to make the change across the board.

Of more than 100 boats starting that race, only 25 or 30 could finish within the six-hour limit, and all were among those with the earliest start times that day.

Among those who did finish Saturday were Tom Closs Sr. and Tom Closs Jr. and the crew on their Oyster43 Fun. They aced the IMS II class after getting the gun in Friday'srace to Oxford.

"I enjoyed the race down," said Closs Jr. "It waskind of fun watching the bow go under water, sort of like ocean racing. I always like the Oxford race, because I think it's a fun race, and there's something to do when you get there. It's an excellent overall product, and it's a wonderful place to visit."

In the beat down the bay in the changing wind speed, the Fun crew made an excellent recovery from a near disaster.

"We went shrimping for about seven minutes," Closs said. "When we changed from the No. 1 to the No. 3, the No. 1 went under the netting up forward and filled up with water under the boat. We couldn't get it back aboard for the longest time. Ifinally had to stop the boat and literally back it down with the main to save my brand-new sail. It was exciting."

Once they had recovered, Closs said, it was a close reach up the Choptank in gentle breeze, followed by a light-air spinnaker run up the Tred Avon to the finish.

Although the Closses were first over the finish line, their mishap cost them the Friday victory when Dave Dodge on Privateer was able to take them on corrected time and left them second.

On Saturday, Closs explained, "We were very fortunate. We led at all the marks, and we finished just as the wind was dying. We just drifted across the finish line. The wind was shifting, and the shifts were very fast. That made it difficult for the committee to set a real windward leg. By the time we started, the wind had shifted so it was almost a reach, reach, reach around the course, so I'd say a key to winning was waterline. But we are lucky to have a very, very coordinated crew."

About 100 one-design sailors took part in two races Saturday and a single contest-closer Sunday.

Summer Oxford is always an important event for the area Star sailors, and this regatta was no exception, when the fleet included 12 teams from around the region.

First in this event went to Annapolitans Steve Kling and Sandy Warwick after finishes of 1-5-4.

"It was blowing about 10 knots most of the time, but it dropped off in the afternoon both days," Kling explained. "We sailed pretty well, all things considered."

Kling said that the duo won the start in the first race Saturday and stayed in front through the rest of the race. After a particularly bad start in the day's second race, they managed to work back up through the fleet from virtually dead last to finish fifth.

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