Bay Shows Struggling Cedar Point Racers Who's Boss


September 11, 1991|By Nancy Noyes

Anybody who was on or near the Chesapeake Bay last weekend experienced a superb weekend for enjoying a motorboat ride under sunny skies with virtually no wind to kick up nasty waves.

A number of hardies were out trying to complete a 53.5-mile race in sailboats, however.

Their experiences were a little different, although those brave or masochistic enough to to finish the Gibson Island Yacht Squadron's venerable Cedar Point Race in the wee hours Sunday wound up having a particularly good time in spite of the frustrating conditions.

At 10 a.m. Saturday, the starting sequence began on time for the first two classes, IMS I and PHRF A, and was going as well as could be expected in the ghostly southerly air, said Race Committee Chairman ClaudeEngle.

"We had two or three knots of wind and a pretty good ebb current at first," Engle said, "and it worked pretty well up until theend of the second start, when the wind was fluky enough that one guylost his air and drifted back over the line and couldn't get across again. It was just the Chesapeake Bay reminding you it's still the boss."

The current dropped in velocity as low tide approached and the wind vanished, and the committee was forced to postpone the remaining six starts until conditions improved.

It was noon by the time the third start of the restarted sequence, for IMS II, got under way. By then a number of boats in many of the remaining classes already had dropped out rather than continue to wait to sail a light-air long-distance contest. That left a fleet of 66 that actually started out ofthe 84 that had registered.

"It was clearly very difficult," saidEngle as he described continuing problems for the racers, including four boats that drifted down onto the committee boat's anchor rode and had to exonerate themselves before restarting. "There was a lot of good seamanship out there -- it was just one of those awful days."

Luckily for this year's fleet, the Cedar Point race no longer goes as far as Cedar Point. Instead of the old 73-mile course for the fastest boats, all classes now sail the shorter version from R'2' at the mouth of the Severn down to a turning mark at R'78' across from the mouth of the Little Choptank, then head north again to finish off Baltimore Light north of the Bay Bridge.

"The Race Committee was on station all night," Engle said. "About 3:30 we heard cheering, and it was (James Muldoon's Santa Cruz 70) Donnybrook coming in to the finish."

The second boat in, at 4:01 a.m., was Nick Iliff's J/44 Merope, to claim second after corrections in the IMS I class, while Donnybrook fell to fifth.

"After that, the boats kept coming in at one- or two-minute intervals," Engle said. "Just about everyone was in before5:30."

Persistence, a bit of luck and good instincts about where the light breeze would come from paid off for the Naval Academy team,headed by Offshore Team Captain Mid. 1/C John Ahrens aboard the Navy44 Lively. They won the IMS II class by a margin of half an hour corrected time after crossing the finish line at 4:03 a.m., third of the31 total finishers in the fleet.

"We sat for a long time in no wind," said Iliff as he explained the close finish with the IMS II boatLively despite a two-hour head start and greater boat speed potential.

"It took us 10 hours just to go the first 18 miles. There were spotty little zephyrs here and there. We would get one, then someone else would get one, back and forth. We were only a quarter-mile behind Donnybrook just before Sharps Island Light, and they had us earlierby maybe a couple of miles. We were hoping the wind would come in from the east so we went east, but we didn't get any easterly air untilafter we rounded the mark, and it filled in from the southeast."

"Tenacity pays sometimes," said Naval Academy Offshore Director StevePodlich, who sailed with the Lively team in the race. "At sundown wewere joking about calling in to Chesapeake Beach and having somebodysend a pizza out to us, because that's as far as we'd gotten after all that time."

The Lively sailors continued to play what puffs they could find along the Western Shore and were in the right place at the right time when the sun set.

"We had a pretty good heading, andwhen we got in about to the 25-foot (depth) line and tacked out, we were basically heading at the mark," Podlich said. "The wind that we had was pushing us at 3 or 4 knots, and we could see that the wind hadn't gotten to any of our competition yet. From the time it got dark until we got to the mark it was a close reach; we never did have to tack, and we laid the mark very easily."

After rounding R'78', the boats set spinnakers for the long leg north and held them until closeto the finish, when the angle became too tight.

After seeing the finish times, Podlich cautiously guessed that Lively had been the first boat in the fleet to round R'78', leading even the ultralight maxiDonnybrook, which normally has a great speed advantage over the other boats.

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