This year's Magothy River Sailing Association Spring Race was sailed last Saturday by a fleet of 20 PHRF racers and a new six-boat Cruising class.
It was an exciting chase around the upper bay and into the Patapsco River to a finish in the McHenry Channel, capped off by an awards party at the Inn at Henderson's Wharf in the Inner Harbor.
All classes began the race at a starting line set northeast of Baltimore Light and finished in the Patapsco River upstream of Key Bridge.
The PHRF racers used a challenging 23-mile course that first sent them south to Sandy Point Light on a windward beat, followed by a long run downwind and up the bay to the forward Craighill Channel Light before heading southwest to a turning mark across the river mouth and up the Patapsco on a spinnaker reach to the bridge and the final run to the finish.
The new Cruising Class sailed 14 miles, heading away from the starting line on a more direct route up into the Patapsco to the finish line, without the southerly beat and long run north.
As a last-minute substitution aboard the Orion Syndicate's X-402 Madam X in the nine-boat PHRF-A class, I had a chance to relish the sweet taste of victory in good company, despite some sore early season muscles that followed.
With syndicate head Jerry Dowling at the helm and noted Annapolis sailor Paul Murphy as tactician, the Madam X crew had its game plan set before the start. They headed hard right in a 15- to 18-knot southerly on the first beat, to get west of a ripping northbound flood current of a knot or more in the deep water, hoping for what might be better breeze off a line of storm clouds along the Western Shore.
This move was the key to our success, because it gave us an early and substantial lead over the many who opted for the opposite side of the course -- and the current -- and kept us in good position against the two other boats who went west with us on that first leg.
As Madam X completed the beat with a series of short tacks just inshore of the current line, we rounded the first mark behind Butch Michel and the team on his Frers 50 Airwaves and followed them back out into the northbound current and up the bay on the next leg, ahead of Carl Geyer and the team on his Hunter 54 La Chasseresse.
Over the course of the long run north and the next two legs up toward Key Bridge, Airwaves was still within striking distance, but La Chasseresse slowly gained until she passed us as the wind dropped and then filled again to more than 20 knots.
Down the final run to the finish in lightening air, we anxiously timed the 14 1/2 minutes from Airwaves' spinnaker drop at the finish line, through La Chasseresse's finish some 11 minutes later, until our own, when we knew we had won. Airwaves owed us nearly half an hour and La Chasseresse about seven minutes on handicap correction.
In all, it was a good race in great conditions, except for a temporary hole near the finish line that proved frustrating for some racers who were becalmed within yards of completion.
Cruising-class sailors can look forward to another start just for them and a chance to join the racing fleet's fun in September's Queenstown Race, said MRSA event chairman Ron Conklin.
"It was the first time we've had a cruising class," he said, "and we are looking forward to doing it again, particularly on those races where we have a destination and some sort of raft-up or party afterward."
MRSA Spring Race results
PHRF A (9 starters): 1. Madam X, Orion Syndicate, Berwyn, Pa., 3:17:21 c.t.; 2. La Chasseresse, Carl Geyer, Severna Park, 3:20:17 c.t.; 3. Airwaves, R.E. Michel Jr., Baltimore, 3:31:34 c.t.
PHRF B (3 starters): 1. Elusive, John Clark, Severna Park, 3:38:01 c.t.; 2. Blind Luck, John Fowlkes, Annapolis, 3:39:29 c.t.; 3. Fusion, Tom Apple, Westminster, 4:05:04 c.t.
PHRF C (6 starters): 1. Accomplice, Dennis Rice, Timonium, 3:35:19 c.t.; 2. Airwaves, David Wiemer, Baltimore, 3:36:10 c.t.; 3. Wizard, Les Toeplitz, Pasadena, 3:38:13 c.t.
PHRF Nonspinnaker (1 starter): 1. Alize, Chris Chamberlin, Washington, 3:30:09 c.t.
Cruising Class (6 starters): 1. Min Van IV, John Lund, Severna Park, 2:55:12 c.t.; 2. Magic Dragon, Joseph Jackins, Severna Park, 2:58:46 c.t.; 3. Seascape, John Jacobs, Annapolis, 3:06:25 c.t.
Eastport Yacht Club's first-ever PHRF Level Regatta last Saturday offered several groups of sailors who normally compete on a single-race-per-day, handicap basis an unusual chance to try their skills in a multiple-race, short-course, boat-for-boat, non-handicapped format similar to one-design racing.