Hot on the heels of winning the J/22 Midwinter Championships a couple of weeks ago, Chris Larson nailed the Snipe Midwinters in an even more convincing fashion on March 14-17.
Larson, a former College Sailor of the Year and winner of numerous national and international championships in several classes of boats, moved to Annapolis in December and is associated with North Sails.
He returned to his native Florida for the Snipe regatta at the Clearwater Yacht Club where he topped out a tough fleet of 41 by acing the first five contests in the six-race, one-throwout series.
He ended up with a staggering lead of 23.25 points over second-placer Ed Adams of Newport, R.I., the 1991 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and a sailor with extensive successes in the Snipe class, among others.
Larson, on the other hand, is not widely known for success in the Snipeclass, and had only sailed Snipes in three major regattas prior to his Midwinters win.
With John Rogers, co-director of the J/Worlds program in San Diego as his crew, Larson attributed his success in a relatively unfamiliar class to good starts and sailing well in varyingconditions.
"We got really good starts," Larson said, "and after the first 30 seconds or so Ed and we were out in front pretty well. It was a matter of just hitting the shifts right, getting to the puffsfirst, and sailing smart. We were changing gears very well."
Larson said the wind conditions for the three-day, two-races-daily event ranged from a range of 12 to 14 knots at the high end of the spectrumand rarer breezes as light as four knots at the other.
After winning the first five races, and with the knowledge that the sixth couldbe a throwout, Larson said, "The last race was a very even race. Thesea breeze came in and held very steady, and the fleet was very tight. We just kind of spaced a little, and went off in a corner, but we managed to get back into the fleet and finish sixth after all."
Although Larson appeared to walk away with the regatta in a very convincing fashion, other Annapolis Snipe Fleet sailors also did very well in extremely close competition through the rest of the top 20 percentof the fleet, dominating the top seven finishers.
Hal Gilreath finished third, just two points behind Adams, and Bryan Fishback was fifth, two points behind Gilreath and a mere quarter-point behind fourth-placer Henry Filter, himself a recent transplant to Annapolis from Quincy, Mass., while Doug Hart placed seventh with scores including four finishes in the top 10.
The Snipe Midwinter Championship is part of an annual series of Snipe regattas closely spaced on the calendar in Florida.
Although Larson had obligations elsewhere in the country, for other Annapolis Snipe fleet sailors the next stop after the Midwinters was the Snipe Don Q Rum Keg Regatta out of the Coconut Grove Sailing Club in Miami, March 20-22.
Sailing with his regular crew, Lorie Stout of Annapolis, Fishback dominated the 39-boat Don Q series of five races, earning three aces and two thirds.
Fishback,associated with Farr International of Annapolis, was already on his way to New Zealand yesterday, but Stout offered good descriptions of the exciting competition.
"There were no throwouts, so when peoplemade mistakes they had to eat their mistakes," Stout said. "On Friday it blew 25 to 30, and we only had one race. We won that race, and Ed Adams was second.
"On Saturday we had three races, starting in fairly light air which built up to about 20 knots over the course of the day. We had two firsts and a third, in that order."
Stout said that after Adams took himself out of the top of the regatta with a 40-point premature start in one race that day, she and Fishback opened up their lead on the fleet, although competition remained tough.
"On Sunday there was one last race, in a nice, steady 18 (knot breeze), and we were third in that one," she said. "Even if Ed (Adams) had been reinstated, we still would have won."
In second in the regattawas Brazilian sailor Ivan Pimental, with Gilreath in third.
"It was nice for Hal because he qualified for the Western Hemispheres, which will be in the Bahamas in October, because he was the top finisherwho hadn't already qualified," said Stout, who with Fishback qualified for the event last year at the Nationals.
Nancy Noyes is a member of the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association and has been racingon the bay for about five years. Her Sailing column appears every Wednesday and Sunday in The Anne Arundel County Sun.