Wednesday, June 19, 2013

J/Teams Sweep Annapolis-Newport Offshore Race

(Annapolis, MD)- Steady, heavy rains and rough seas greeted the fleet of fifty-six sailboats that took to the Chesapeake Bay for the start of the 2013 Annapolis-to-Newport Race.  Nasty weather on the front end of Tropical Storm Andrea made for miserable conditions on Friday afternoon when the 34th biennial event began off Annapolis.  Organizers with host Annapolis Yacht Club pushed the start back by four hours in hopes of eluding the first tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. Race committee chairman Chip Thayer waited until 4 p.m. to fire the first gun so participants would encounter safer conditions.

“We thought if we sent the fleet off as scheduled that many of the boats would reach the mouth of the bay about the same time as the tropical storm,” Thayer said.  Winds held steady at around 15 knots out of the northeast when the smaller, slower boats in PHRF 3 class crossed the start line off the R2 buoy near the middle of the bay. Almost all the sailors wore foul weather gear as the constant rain became heavy at times while turbulent three-foot waves bounced the boats back-and-forth during pre-start maneuvers.

Every boat competing in the Annapolis-to-Newport Race has its own story. Take for instance the tale behind SHINNECOCK, a J/120 skippered by James Praley of Annapolis. Praley chose the name because he was rescued by a Coast Guard vessel based out of Shinnecock, N.Y. after his previous sailboat sunk in the Atlantic Ocean near that Long Island port. Praley and his brother Mike were bringing their Beneteau 40.7 named Making Waves up the East Coast for the start of the 2008 Newport-to-Bermuda race when a rudder post broke at the hull and caused a catastrophic leak. Just over four hours after the accident, the boat went down about 20 miles southeast of Shinnecock Inlet.  “We were never in serious danger. The Coast Guard was on site for about two hours and even tried to take the boat under tow at one point, but rough seas prevented it,” Praley said.

That incident did not prevent the Praley brothers from further pursuing offshore racing. Since taking ownership of the J/120 SHINNECOCK, they have completed both the Annapolis-to-Newport Race and Newport-to-Bermuda Race twice.  “Having the old boat sink didn’t really scare me. Of course, I wasn’t in a life raft for hours on end either. I stepped right from the deck of my boat to the deck of the Coast Guard vessel,” Praley said. “We proved that if you prepare properly you can weather a dangerous situation. We had the right gear, we had the proper preparation and we’d been through all sorts of safety drills.  SHINNECOCK placed third overall among PHRF entries in the 2009 Annapolis-Newport then took third overall in the 2011 Marblehead-to-Halifax Race. Praley, who routinely sails with his brother and son Jimmy, is enamored with offshore racing.  “I like the teamwork, I like the challenge of putting together a group of people, I like the effort that goes into getting the boat prepared,” he said. “It’s something of an adventure.”  Thanks for contribution from the Capital Gazette News.

A somewhat similar story of bravery and extraordinary seamanship took place on the J/122 ORION in this year's race.  On its first offshore race and only the 2nd race since its commissioning 3 weeks ago, the J/122 ORION owned by Paul Milo finished at 0056.25 Monday morning in Newport, RI after experiencing an extended knockdown situation just south of the Patuxent River in the Chesapeake Bay.  After the first six hours of great sailing in heavy air, during a takedown at 2200H the chute wrapped around the head stay and the boat was knocked down and stayed on its side with the keel out of the water for close to an hour.  The crew spent a good 30 minutes working out a plan as to how to proceed safely when the plan of action was formulated and crew member Mary Cox, a class of 2013 graduate of the US Naval Academy, went up the rig and cut away enough of the spinnaker to allow the boat to right itself.  With Mary now at the top of the rig with the boat vertical, additional sail was cut away and with a brief trip down to the deck for a break Mary went up one more time to release the balance of the chute still wound in to the head stay and then it was back to business as usual.  The crew was safe and knuckled down to try and make up what turned out to be a drastic loss of time having been the class leader prior to the knockdown and post the incident finding themselves about 12 miles behind. They made up time and were back with their class by the time they reached the Chesapeake Light tunnel.  Orion’s team did a great job making sure Mary was as safe as possible during the maneuver and she enjoyed the experience of driving most of the balance of the race from Block Island to Newport and over the finish line. "She's our HERO," said Paul!  No kidding, and what a remarkable come-back performance, too.

In IRC II Class, the J/Teams swept the division with the J/44 VAMP skippered by Len Sitar taking the class win as well as taking 2nd overall to Rambler 90!  Second was the J/122 DOLPHIN sailed by Neil McMillan and the US Naval Academy Sailing team, plus they were 4th overall in IRC.  And, perhaps most remarkable of all was the Paul Milo's J/122 ORION amazing recovery to take 3rd in class 5th overall!

The PHRF I Class was treated to a complete thrashing by J/Teams with the J/111 FIREBALL sailed by Kristen Berry and crew winning class, taking 2nd overall and winning the "Overall Performance Award" for the Annapolis-Newport Race!  Second was the J/120 SAYKADOO sailed by Steve McManus.  Third was Marty Roesch's J/111 VELOCITY, fifth was Bill Fields' J/160 CONDOR and 7th was Arne Fliflet's J/120 MAZAL TOV.

Not be to outdone by her more performance-oriented racing stablemates, the J/37c SLEIJRIDE sailed by John Gorski managed a very respectable 4th in PHRF II Class.  Congratulations to all J sailors in the Annapolis-Newport Race, amazing performance.   For more Annapolis Newport Race sailing information