Sailors participating in Hospice Cup XI Saturday had a real battle on their hands.
They faced wet and blustery conditions at the start of the race in the morning.
But after the storm clouds and 20-knot-plus winds passed, many in the 73-boat handicap fleet found themselves in an uphill battle to finish the 16.8-mile windward-leeward course in a dying northerly breeze, wind shifts of up to 30 degrees and a building adverse-ebb current.
The additional 13-boat Hospice Class, a special division of this regatta for sailors who do not normally race, had their own separate challenge on a government-mark course, mercifully shortened to 9.6 miles in the vanishing wind.
Billed as the nation's largest charity regatta, the Hospice Cup is an annual event of the Shearwater Sailing Club, sanctioned by the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association for High Point competition.
It has been and continues as a highly successful fund-raiser benefiting six regional hospice programs: the Hospice of Anne Arundel Medical Center and Hospice of the Chesapeake as well as Calvert Hospice, the Montgomery Hospice Society, Hospice of Prince George's County and Hospice of Northern Virginia.
This year's Hospice Cup, the 11th in a series that already had raised more than $1.5 million in its first decade, counted as an unqualified success in terms of fund raising. It generated an all-time high of nearly $300,000 for the six hospice programs, non-profit operations that serve terminally ill patients and their families.
A unique feature of the Hospice Cup, in addition to its fund-raising aspects and the Hospice Class, is the line of special trophies for outstanding performance, each of which is specifically endowed for the event.
The Naval Academy's Varsity Offshore Team sailors, with 10 entries in four classes, once again did very well in three of them. They took first in PHRF A-1 and A-2, second in PHRF A-2 and B, and third in PHRF A-1, and demonstrated exciting intramural competition among the team crews as well as excellent sailing against their civilian counterparts.
The Ralph Beeton Memorial Trophy, a silver cup for excellence in helmsmanship by a Naval Academy midshipman, went to Matt Arnold of Johnson City, Tenn. He was skipper of the Academy's Frers 48 Morning Light, victorious in PHRF A-1 by a margin of 12 1/2 minutes and posting the best overall PHRF corrected time.
It was the second year in a row that Morning Light and her crew earned the Beeton Trophy.
Going home with two of the most prestigious special trophies was PHRF C sailor David Gendell of Severna Park, sailing with the crew aboard his S2 7.9 Bang. He aced his class by more than 37 minutes to earn the John P. Hills Memorial Trophy for best overall performance by a PHRF skipper.
"We played the shifts pretty well early on," Gendell said. "We had opened up a little bit of a lead, but not that much, but right by the last windward mark we saw a little wind line and we went for that and got around the mark.
"The boats behind us had a lot of trouble getting around, and then we sailed higher going back down the leeward leg so we were able to carry the spinnaker a little longer than the others who went low earlier and had to switch to their jibs."
Gendell said that as the new flood current reached the middle of the bay it tended to cancel out the ebb that seemed to continue all day near shore, to continually confound those who hit the corners of the course.
"We tended to stay near the middle of the bay toward the end of the race," he said. "On the last leg you had to steer about 15 degrees higher than you were going over the bottom -- you had to sail the loran course over the ground rather than the eyeball course to the mark. We had a close reach to the finish, but with the wind shift the others had to tack to make the finish."
Gendell also earned the Hospice Cup Trophy and a Lemania watch as its keeper, presented in memory of beloved Annapolis sailor Dr. Ray Brown to the sailor who has had the most consistently high performance in three consecutive Hospice Cup races.
"I knew we had won PHRF C, but we had to take the boat back up to the Magothy after the race and I was late for the awards," Gendell said. "We're not usually in contention for best overall in PHRF, so that was really a surprise. And just about the time I was recovering from that, they announced the Hospice Cup."
With thirds in the 1990 and '92 races prior to his win this year, Gendell tied on points and won the tiebreaker for the Hospice Cup with PHRF Nonspinnaker sailor Tony Sanpere based on best performance in the most recent race of the series.
Sanpere, sailing a borrowed Pearson 30 this year in place of his disabled Hunter Legend 35 Cayenne, finished third on top of past first- and third-place finishes.
This year a new trophy, in memory of Annapolis sailor Cathy Hartman, who served for many years on the foredeck of IMS I racer Dancer, was endowed for presentation to the foredeck crew of the winning IMS I yacht.