Airheads zoom to wet and windy victory

SAILING

August 21, 1994|By NANCY NOYES

Last weekend's annual Tred Avon Yacht Club Oxford Regatta was one for the memory books and hopefully one not to be repeated for a while.

For Annapolitan Ron Steele and his crew on his Melges24 Airheads, winners of PHRF A-2 and the TAYC Poker Bowl for best corrected time in the fleet, it was a memorable experience.

The big-boat race from Annapolis to Oxford on Friday, Aug. 12, began blandly for the 110-plus starters in seven handicap classes and a Triton one-design start with a one-hour postponement in little or no wind. When a light breeze appeared out of the northeast, the fleet was off.

Steele said the trick to getting out in front in the dying breeze was to stay between the middle of the bay and the Western Shore, while those who went east early parked quickly.

This put Airheads well in front, and despite losing ground to some bigger boats, including Jim Muldoon's 70-foot Donnybrook and Jack King's 62-foot Merrythought as the wind began to build again, Airheads was the fifth boat in the fleet to get around the Blackwalnut Point bell. Then things got exciting as a vicious squall hit the fleet.

Now planing at up to 16 knots under the asymmetrical chute, Airheads took a big knockdown.

"We were screaming along under main and jib. I've sailed the boat in 35 knots of wind enough to know it can be handled," he said.

But the wind continued to build, to 40, 45, 50 and one source on a bigger boat said he saw gusts over 60 as the little ultralight approached 18 knots of speed.

"A gust hit us so hard I thought it would take the rig out, but it didn't," Steele said.

Huge waves whipped up as the squall got bigger and the rain came down so hard visibility dropped virtually to zero. Steele said just as he was getting ready to call it quits, the rain let up enough that he could just see the committee boat, and he realized it was at anchor for a course shortened to 26.7 miles of the original 29-mile distance.

"We altered course 15 degrees to the left, gybed, and went screaming across the finish line," he said. "The committee gave us a gun and a horn, but it turned out they didn't finish us, because without the main there was no sail number on the boat, and they couldn't identify us. They wrote down a description of the boat and what the skipper was wearing, though.

"When I got home that evening, one of my crew called and said we had been disqualified, so the next morning I contacted them to find out why, and when I described the boat and my red coat and blue life jacket, they scored us after all."

The squall after the long lull was so violent that only 57 of the starters finished the race.

Saturday dawned clear and relatively windy for the start of TAYC's busiest day of the year, with big-boat round-the-buoys action out at the mouth of the Choptank, and several one-design fleets competing on separate courses spread over several miles of the Tred Avon.

Sunday proved too windy for a continuation of the one-design regatta, although the Optimist fleet, sailing in sheltered waters upstream from TAYC, was able to continue.

1994 Oxford Regatta Race to Oxford

PHRF A-0 (8 starters/finishers): 1. Sundog, Paul Parks, Shady Side, 5:35:43 c.t.; 2. Donnybrook, James Muldoon, Washington, 5:40:11 c.t.; 3. Muskrat, Nick Iliff, Arnold, 5:49:31 c.t.

PHRF A-1 (20 starters/9 finishers/8 DSQ): 1. Medicine Man, Charles Kohlerman, Brookhaven, Pa., 5:39:58 c.t.; 2. Fun, T.H. Closs Sr. and Jr., Annapolis, 5:54:01 c.t.; 3. Grayling, Richard Born, Baltimore, 5:56:31 c.t.

PHRF A-2 (24 starters/16 finishers/6 DSQ): 1. Airheads, Ron Steele, Annapolis, 5:23:00 c.t.; 2. Contraire, Steve Schaub, Laurel, 5:43:20 c.t.; 3. Scamp, Fritz Corey, Edgewater, 5:44:07 c.t.

PHRF B (21 starters/10 finishers/7 DSQ): 1. Intuition, Howard Stroterhoff, Baltimore, 5:50:52 c.t.; 2. Matchmaker, Charles Majeczky, (hometown unavailable), 6:22:32 c.t.; 3. Liberator, Barry Starke, Easton, 6:23:48 c.t.

PHRF C (11 starters/3 finishers/6 DSQ): 1. Knotbobs, Dan Miller, Baltimore, 5:46:17 c.t.; 2. Rebecca, Bill and Carolyn Paul, Pasadena, 6:07:22 c.t.; 3. Blue Water, Robert Orme, Edgewater, 6:36:30 c.t.

PHRF Nonspinnaker (12 starters/1 finisher/6 DSQ): 1. Anser, Jim Troutman, Bethesda, 7:14:28 c.t.

MORC (11 starters/8 finishers/3 DSQ): 1. Stingray, Robert Muller, Annapolis, 5:35:26 c.t.; 2. Problem Child, Brian Jones, Annapolis, 5:42:24 c.t.; 3. OT, Dale Fowler, Shady Side, 6:00:31 c.t.

Triton (7 starters/2 finishers/5 DSQ): 1. Jubilant, Jim Schwartz, Chevy Chase; 2. Sandpiper, Chris Gordon, Chevy Chase.

Round-the-Buoys Race Saturday, Aug. 13

PHRF A-O (2 starters): 1. First Light, George Wilson, Easton, 2:28:23 c.t.; 2. Donnybrook, Muldoon, 2:34:40 c.t.

PHRF A-1 (8 starters/6 finishers): 1. Wings, Richard Taylor, Lutherville, 2:25:03 c.t.; 2. Medicine Man, Kohlerman, 2:27:34 c.t.; 3. Moving Violation, Samuel Owings, Annapolis, 2:28:04 c.t.

PHRF A-2 (16 starters/13 finishers): 1. Vigilant, Garth DeVries, USNA, 2:19:14 c.t.; 2. The Simpsons, Thompson, 2:20:37 c.t.; 3. Airheads, Steele, 2:21:09 c.t.

PHRF B (13 starters/11 finishers): 1. Big Time, Mike Rajacich, Trappe, 2:14:27 c.t.; 2. Aspire, Jack Yaissle, Allentown, Pa., 2:16:35 c.t.; 3. Nicole, Tad duPont, Easton, 2:16:35 c.t.

PHRF C (5 starters/finishers): 1. Knotbobs, Miller, 2:14:11 c.t.; 2. Rebecca, Paul, 2:15:16 c.t.; 3. Nepenthe, Joe Botkin, Dagsboro, Del., 2:16:59 c.t.

PHRF Nonspinnaker (8 starters/4 finishers/2 DSQ): 1. Albar II, Allen Keiser, Towson, 2:22:28 c.t.; 2. Fraulein, John Belas, Glen Arm, 2:36:25 c.t.; 3. Kateri Ann, Dan Ross, (hometown unavailable), 2:40:36 c.t.

MORC (5 starters/2 finishers): 1. Skylarkn, Robert Dunning, Easton, 2:05:57 c.t.; 2. Stingray, Muller, 2:09:08 c.t.

Triton (6 starters/5 finishers): 1. Pylasteki, Leb Brown, Silver Spring; 2. Sandpiper, Gordon; 3. Jubilant, Schwartz.

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