Severn Sailing Association's annual Sunshine Open Regatta for Laser sailors last weekend drew a substantial fleet of 36 contenders for two days of racing in varied wind conditions ranging from light and shifty to a major line squall.
The regatta, which is open to virtually any Laser sailor, regardless of geography or club affiliation, is typically one of the most popular and populous early season contests in the region.
"It was pretty good competition," said Havre de Grace sailmaker Max Skelley, winner of the five-race regatta. "A lot of guys came down from New Jersey for it, and there were all the guys from the Naval Academy, plus our national representative, Al Girard, came in for it, along with a lot of the good local guys."
Three races were completed on Saturday, capped off with a wild and woolly contest in driving rain and high winds -- a race which, in combination with two third-place finishes in Sunday's sailing, gave Skelley the edge he needed to win.
"The first race was really fluky," Skelley said. "It started in a light northeasterly, with really big shifts, northwest, then northeast again. We had two decent races in the afternoon, in 10 to 12 from the northwest, and then we had the squall."
Race committee observers said some sailors chose to head into the wind and release their sails from the booms to wait out the bad weather on the water. Some others capsized and others "just sheeted in and took off" in the building wind.
Skelley said he had been back in the pack a bit when the squall hit, but in the heavy air he was able to pass several boats to take the lead.
"On Sunday it was a real light east-northeasterly," Skelley said. "I was second going into the last two races, behind Gary Smith, but I got two thirds and he had a couple of bad races."
In the fleet were five Naval Academy midshipmen and one of their coaches.
Three of the five, including David Fagen in second, Eric Naranjo in fourth, and Manning Montagnet in sixth, placed in the top 10, as did their coach, James Thieler, who finished third.
Although the entire fleet raced as one, several sub-categories of competition were going on, including the quest to be the top Master, Junior, Novice or Female sailor in the fleet.
Smith was the best of nine masters (over age 35) at fifth overall, while Joann Touchette, coming in 12th in the fleet, was the top female sailor, and 23rd-place Jeremy Wilson was the top junior.
Best novice was David Johns, 17th overall.
Skelley, who qualified for the Laser Worlds in March 1993 in Auckland, New Zealand, with a win in last year's Laser Gulf Coasts in St. Petersburg, Fla., will be concentrating on his Laser sailing heavily this season to prepare himself for that competition.
Tax-deductible contributions to help finance Skelley's Worlds campaign can be made to the Fund for Chesapeake Sailors, c/o CBYRA, 612 Third St., Annapolis, Md. 21403.
Laser Sunshine Open results
1. Max Skelley, Havre de Grace, 18.75 (9-3-1-3-3); 2. David Fagen, USNA, (1-11-5-4-1); 3. James Thieler, Annapolis, 27 (7-5-7-6-2); 4. Eric Naranjo, USNA, 32.75 (8-8-9-1-7); 5. Gary Smith, Alexandria, Va., 34 (3-4-3-14-10); 6. Manning Montagnet, USNA, 34.75 (6-1-8-9-11); 7. Philip Karcher, Annapolis, 46 (4-9-6-12-15); 8. Peter McChesney, Annapolis, 49 (14-6-17-8-4); 9. Dave Magno, Lavalette, N.J., 51 (5-16-13-11-6); 10. Randy Eckman, 53 Kennett Square, Pa., (16-17-2-2-16).
After locking up qualifier positions to both the Intercollegiate Yacht Racing Association Women's and Team Racing Nationals, the Naval Academy's Intercollegiate Sailing Team got hold of the third and final qualification slot to the Dinghy Nationals last weekend with a win at the America Trophy at St. Mary's College of Maryland.
The three-part ICYRA national competition will take place at the College of Charleston, with the Women's Nationals, June 1-3, followed by the Dinghy Nationals, June 4-6, and the Team Racing Nationals, June 8-10.
Although each of these competitions is important and a win prestigious, it is the Dinghy Nationals that routinely draw the most attention and excitement.
And the trophy remains the most elusive and difficult to attain.
Navy is in good position this year, as the team was last year, however, to make a very strong showing next month in Charleston, having dominated its home Mid-Atlantic Intercollegiate Sailing Association in dinghies, women's sailing and team racing.
PHRF skippers hungry for some head-to-head competition similar to one-design racing should remember the Eastport Yacht Club's new PHRF Level Regatta set for Saturday.
Starts will be given for boats rated 84-90, 99-105, 114-120 and 132-plus.
A valid PHRF rating certificate will be required of all competitors, but no handicaps will be used in the event, which will consist of vTC up to three short-course windward-leeward events for the four groups of competitors.
An awards party after the sailing will take place at Annapolis Landing Marina on Back Creek.
For more information, or to sign up, contact John or Karen Yeigh, 267-8048.
Nancy Noyes is a member of the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association and has been racing on the bay for about five years. Her Sailing column appears every Wednesday and Sunday in The Anne Arundel County Sun.