People really seem to enjoy sailing the back-to-back but separate races commonly lumped together under the informal title, "Fall Oxford."
The paired Naval Academy Sailing Squadron Race to Oxford on Saturday, Sept. 21, and Tred Avon Yacht Club Hammond Memorial Race from Oxford to Poplar Island the next day proved that theory once again.
The fleet for the NASS 29-miler from R"2" at the mouth of the Severn River down the bay, into the Choptank, and up the Tred Avon to a finish line near TAYC in Oxford, swelled to 252 yachts starting in 19classes.
The total was an increase of 14 starters over last year's NASS race, making it again one of the most popular CBYRA-sanctionedevents on the bay, second only to the Governor's Cup Race to St. Mary's in August.
The Fall Oxford races are among the oldest continuously sailed events in the region, with 1991 being the 37th year for the NASS race and the 31st for the TAYC contest.
Although the Sunday partial return trip usually is slightly smaller than its Saturday counterpart, both have remained strong, well-attended events over the years.
Saturday's race was a fairly fast trip down the bay in a pleasant 8- to 12-knot northerly breeze and on up into Oxford.
Most of the fleet -- 194 teams in 18 classes -- returned Sunday for the 20-mile Hammond Memorial Race from Oxford to Poplar Island. It was mercifully cut short this year to a 12.3-mile version as the sailors suffered through radical wind shifts in the light and spotty air.
Results in many classes varied from one race to the next because of differing conditions, and PHRF A was further unsettled by its division into two separate classes on Saturday and subsequent reunion to one on Sunday.
Despite that, some sailors managed back-to-back bullets in the pair of races: Ben Michaelson and the crew on his J/44 Quintessence at the top of the IMS I class; Bob Dunning and team on his Andrews26 Skylarkn in MORC; Alberg 30 ace Bill Chambers and his Sundance team; Pearson 30 winner Steve Bandy with his Mr. Hyde crew; and the J/29 team on Mirage, headed by David Lewis and Fredrik Salvesen on Saturday, and Scott Salvesen on Sunday.
"We had a very nice breeze on Saturday," Michaelson said. "It was a gorgeous day, and a beautiful sail. Going over was basically a matter of boat speed and trying to keep clear air, which was hard to do since we had to sail through the rest of the fleet."
Unlike many bay races, the largest and fastest boats start last here, and must fight through miles of wind and water that have been disturbed by smaller, slower boats.
"Up the Tred Avon on the last leg, it was sort of like finishing on Wednesday nights(in Spa Creek). There were weird wind shifts, and if you got on the wrong side of the river you were dead, so what we did was just ride every lift we could as high as we could."
All the weeks of practicein the AYC Wednesday Night Series paid off, however, when Michaelsonand his team topped their class by a margin of 19 seconds.
"Sunday was very frustrating," Michaelson said of the agonizingly long spinnaker leg virtually from the start to the finish that was plagued by substantial shifts and large windless holes.
"The boats that were in the right place at the right time did well, and the boats that weren't just died," he said.
Quintessence has generally done very well this year, a fact Michaelson attributes to "good, reliable, steady crew, basically the same group out there every week, and everybody knowing their jobs, which really helps."
NASS RACE TO OXFORD, SEPT. 21
IMS I (5 starters): 1) Quintessence, Benjamin Michaelson Jr., Annapolis, 1:59:01 c.t.; 2) Cinnabar, Robert Bruce, USNA, 1:59:20 c.t.; 3) Merope, Nick Iliff, Arnold, 2:01:55 c.t.
IMS II (13 starters): 1) Crescendo, Stephen Hiltabidle, Annapolis, 1:44:24 c.t.; 2) Fun, Thomas Closs Sr./Thomas Closs Jr., Annapolis, 1:45:56 c.t.; 3) Flirt,Chuck Cook, USNA, 1:47:07 c.t.; 4) Whiskers, Neil Siegel, Washington, 1:50:45 c.t.
IMS III (8 starters): 1) Sugar, Brad Parker, Annapolis, 1:40:19 c.t.; 2) Moonshine, Jim Schneider, Salisbury, 1:41:37 c.t.; 3) Contraire, Steve Schaub, Eldersburg, 1:43:02 c.t.
PHRF A-1 (20 starters): 1) Der Baron, Don Wagner, Shadyside, 2:44:22 c.t.; 2) Challenger, Dan Rugg, USNA, 2:45:06 c.t.; 3) Wings, Richard Taylor, Lutherville, 2:47:44 c.t.; 4) Prelude, St. Mary's College, St. Mary's City, 2:48:02 c.t.; 5) Charlie, Bruce and Lori Mitchell, Arnold, 2:49:57 c.t.
PHRF A-2 (13 starters): 1) Caledonian, Peter Gordon, Annapolis, 2:36:38 c.t.; 2) Moon Lighting, Thomas French, Annapolis, 2:38:17 c.t.; 3) Fin-Esse, Alan McMillan, Rosslyn, Va., 2:41:59 c.t.; 4) Evolution, Kane/Noto/Taylor, Baltimore, 2:44:13 c.t.
PHRF B (35 starters): 1) Baffled, Vance Strausburg, St. Michaels, 2:27:28 c.t.; 2)Stat, Mel Tockman, Baltimore, 2:32:42 c.t.; 3) Thunderbolt, Kyle Weaver, USNA, 2:32:46 c.t.; 4) Toro, Paul Tipton, Washington, 2:32:58 c.t.; 5) Fast Track, Yeigh/Tullman, Annapolis, 2:34:12 c.t.; 6) Goldfish, Donald Zinn, Annapolis, 2:34:50 c.t.