The biennial Annapolis-to-Newport sailing race started off the mouth of the Severn River yesterday with its largest field in several years, including Chessie Racing, a 68-footer with an all-star crew led by George Collins of Gibson Island.
Chessie Racing is expected to duel with Donnybrook for first-to-finish in the 473-mile race. Donnybrook is owned by Jim Muldoon of Washington, D.C.
Collins, who spearheaded the Baltimore-Annapolis entry in the last Whitbread Round the World Race, has drawn from his Whitbread crew for this event.
Jim Allsopp of North Sails is one watch captain, and Gary Jobson, sailing editor for ESPN, will be captain of the other watch.
Collins said last week he is going after Donnybrook and hopes to beat the record of 51.5 hours, set in 1987.
Muldoon welcomed the challenge and has altered Donnybrook's underbody to make it lighter and faster in light winds. Donnybrook is a custom 72-footer well-suited to downwind sailing.
Chessie Racing, formerly Pyewacket, is a Santa Cruz 70 that set numerous downwind records on the West Coast.
According to race organizers, there are 59 entries and all but a dozen are in PHRF classes. The field is the largest since 1987, with 14 more boats than the 1997 race.
Ken Penrod of Life Outdoors Unlimited, a regional guide service, is again singing the praises of Potomac River smallmouth bass. After the floods of 1996, Penrod feared the worst for the smallies.
"We're catching more quality bass and walleye than ever before," said Penrod, "and I've fished here for nearly 40 years."
Guided trips are producing about 50 bass per day between 12 and 20 inches and at least one walleye in the 17-inch range.
However, he said, flow volumes this month are the lowest ever recorded and water temperature is nearly 80 degrees.
To beat the heat and low flows, Penrod said, he concentrates on rocky stretches of river in the Brunswick, Lander, White's Ferry and Edwards Ferry areas.
Earth Treks Climbing Center in Columbia is offering instruction in rock climbing at its 13,000-square-foot indoor gym and at other venues in the state this summer.
Courses are available for adults and youths of all skill levels. Classes range from one-day sessions to overnight trips for teen-agers and day camps for pre-teens.
For more information, call 410-872-0060.