Stiff competition was the rule, not the exception last weekend for the 64 contending crews in this year's Eastport Yacht Club J-Jamboree.
After several years of holding the event on one course, the fleet was divided in two this year, with each portion sailing its own course in different areas of the bay on two beautifully sunny and pleasant days.
The split fleet, which proved popular and manageable for racers and race committee alike, set the J/22s and J/24s on a northern course nearer to Annapolis, while the J/29s and J/30s sailed a course south of them.
Though winds ashore were strong and relatively steady all weekend, the breezes were lighter and very shifty out on the Chesapeake, and only two races could be completed by each fleet on Saturday, instead of a hoped-for three.
Sunday's breeze was a bit more cooperative, allowing an additional three contests for the northern course J/22s and 24s, and giving the J/29s and 30s two more on the southern course.
Many of the J/24 sailors had an additional incentive to compete all-out. The Jamboree was the final event in a five-regatta, 13-race qualifying series that began in April to determine which four of 13 eligible fleet members would earn slots to compete in the J/24 Worlds in Annapolis Oct. 26-Nov. 9.
Annapolitan Doug Clark with his crew on Dusty Work captured the Jamboree J/24 Class, as well as the qualifying series.
Clark, one of the capable coaches of the Naval Academy's Intercollegiate Sailing Team, had returned from Michigan, where he had been competing in the J/22 Internationals, sailing to seventh overall in the 57-boat Gold Fleet only the evening before the Jamboree started.
With his Jamboree win, Clark took the lead in the qualifying series by a quarter-point over the Latent Defect team of Tim Mowry, Stewart Spettel and crew, and outranked fellow qualifiers Tony Parker and the Bangor Packet crew, and Bunky Hines and Chip Carr and crew on Bunky's Boat.
"We were racing two different ways," Clark said, "for the regatta, and for the slots. I thought we were fifth going into this regatta, and we hadn't qualified in the series, but we were actually fourth, but we knew we had to put some points on some people."
Saturday's two light-air, windward-leewards were tricky, but "pretty good races," Clark said. He and his crew, including former Navy coach Ward Blodgett of Marblehead, Mass., Peter Renehan of Greenwich, Conn., Reid McLaughlin of Wickford, R.I., and James Appel of Annapolis, were able to rack up two second-place finishes, with their nearest rival, Parker's Bangor Packet, notching two thirds.
"On Sunday, we were fortunate, with a northeasterly," Clark said. "But there were so many other races out there, on so many different courses, that we wound up just south of Tolley Point, kind of in the middle of the shipping channel in about two knots of ebb current, which made some pretty interesting competition.
"It was really difficult to pick a favored side, and we didn't want to get caught out on one side or the other, so we kind of placed ourselves in the middle, and it worked for us, especially when we came from behind in the last race and got fourth, which was just enough points to put us over the top."
Clark says he now will take his show on the road, hitting regattas from Hampton, Va., to Canada through the summer.
"We're going to see if we can give some of the big guys a run for their money," he said. "The level of racing in this fleet has really risen, and we were fortunate to qualify. I think all six of us, including the four from the qualifying series as well as Bo McBee and Peter Cramer, and John Wright, have a good chance of doing really well in the Worlds."
McBee and Cramer qualified for a Worlds slot last year when they won the CBYRA J/24 High Point series, while Pennsylvanian Wright, an America's Cup veteran, earned a slot when he was the top District 6 finisher in the J/24 East Coasts last November.
In the southern course's four-race series, the class winners each topped their respective fleets with three aces and a throwout score, a fifth in the fourth race for the Eastern Shore team of John Shannahan and John Thompson and their crew on The Simpsons in J/29s, and a second in the third race for Charlie Scott and Charlie Smith and the crew on Houdini in J/30s.
With their strong J/30 win, Scott, Smith, and the Houdini crew became the overall regatta winners.
"They did a really good job of running the regatta," Clark said. "I really have to commend the Race Committee, because I know it was hard for them with all the wind shifts, but the courses were all really good."
J/22 (18 starters): 1. Schwing, White/Strong/Potts, Severna Park/Annapolis, 7.5 (1-1--2-4); 2. That's Nice, Carroll/Bruno, Glen Arm, 10.75 (-3-3-4-1); 3. US 1048, Dalley/Bellinger, Washington, 16.75 (2-4-10-1-); 4. Special K, Kip Koolage, Annapolis, 19 (3--7-6-3).