Friday, June 16, 2017

J/Crews Eclipse Annapolis to Newport Race!

J/109 sailing AnnapolisJ/122, J/44, J/109, J/120 Collect Silverware Everywhere!
(Newport, RI)– To keep it simple, the 2017 edition of the Annapolis to Newport Race was an extraordinary collection of experiences that ranged from wild & woolly to downright exasperating for some. For one, a race record for the 475nm race was set by a Volvo 70, but for those in the tail-end of the fleet, the frontal systems were not their friend!  In any event, J/Teams performed incredibly well in the demanding conditions for most of the race.

Fifty-two intrepid adventurers approached the starting line at the opening of the Severn River off Annapolis, MD wide-eyed as to what might happen to them in the next 24 to 48 hours as they flew down the Chesapeake Bay, through the cool Bay Bridge spanning the Bay from Virginia to Delaware, then offshore into the wild blue wilderness known as offshore racing in the Atlantic Ocean!

J/120s start Annapolis to Newport RaceThere were some great stories to tell about this classic offshore race.  A race that plays weather systems in three very distinct strategies- Chesapeake Bay flat water, then offshore from the Bay to Block Island traversing that patch of water past New York City, then Block Island to the finish. Each race is exasperatingly different each year, it is extremely influenced by a combination of macro weather systems flowing across the North American continent as well as very influential shore-based wind patterns (shifts and thermal seabreezes). In other words, the Saturday Night Live “wild and crazy guys” with Dan Aykroyd & Steve Martin could be the theme for this race!!

Overcoming their truly wild and crazy race in the previous edition, Paul Milo’s J/122 ORION eclipsed the fleet and took 1st in IRC 2 Class.  Taking the silver (an affirmation of J/Design versatility offshore) was a 20+ year older design, Chris Lewis’ J/44 KENAI that got the job done!

In PHRF 2 Class, it was just about an all J/crew class.  Winning was Rick Hanson’s J/109 ROSALITA, followed by Jim Praley’s J/120 SHINNECOCK in second.  From there, Greg Leonard’s J/120 HERON was 5th place, Craig Wright’s J/109 AFTERTHOUGHT was 6th, Richard Born’s J/120 WINDBORN was 7th, Steve McManus’ J/120 SAYKADOO in 8th and Rick Oricchio’s J/120 ROCKET SCIENCE in 9th.

Here is a fantastic report from skipper Rick Hanson and his crew aboard the J/109 ROSALITA.  They were out to sea for almost three and a half days. Those seven sailors on the 2017 Annapolis to Newport Race could have relaxed at any time during the grueling passage down the Chesapeake Bay and up the Atlantic Ocean.

After weathering a nasty storm on approach to Block Island and strong winds exceeding 20 knots shortly thereafter, the exhausted crew could be forgiven for easing up a bit. In fact, the exact opposite happened as the crew worked even harder as they neared the finish of the 474-nautical mile course.

Kyle Hanson, the skipper’s son, did the math and figured out that Rosalita had a shot at capturing class honors if it could complete the final 12 miles in a certain time.

“We were cold, wet and tired, but we pushed like crazy coming into Newport,” Rick Hanson said. “I give the crew an awful lot of credit. These guys didn’t let up for a second for the entire race. They were constantly pushing the boat.”

That effort was rewarded when the handicaps were computed and the Rosalita team learned that it had captured PHRF 2 class by less than two minutes on corrected time. That last-gasp push down the stretch proved crucial to the J/109, overtaking the J/120 Shinnecock for the victory.

“We are absolutely ecstatic,” said Hanson, a resident of Avondale, Pa. “We put a lot of time and effort into preparing the boat for this race. To come away first in class is simply spectacular.”

Rosalita crossed the finish line off Fort Adams almost three hours later than Shinnecock, but is owed 21 seconds per mile by the J/120. This was the first Annapolis to Newport Race for Hanson, who has been racing the J/109 for eight years.

“We normally do distance racing on the Chesapeake Bay,” said Hanson, who has secured class honors in the Governor’s Cup multiple times. “This is our first time taking the boat offshore so it goes without saying that we are extremely pleased with this result. Annapolis to Newport was on our bucket list. Just completing the race is an accomplishment. Winning is icing on the cake.”

Similar reports were told by the other class winners as the sea stories were told on the docks of the Newport Yachting Center. Thirty-two boats started June 2 with the balance of 16 starters on June 3, with sailors braving spitting rain and unseasonably cold temperatures to perform the work of stowing sails and other post-race boat breakdown.

Just down the dock from Rosalita, skipper Jimmy Praley could only lament how close Shinnecock came to winning PHRF 2. This was the second straight runner-up result for the boat, which was beaten by fellow J/120 Saykadoo by just 43 seconds in the 2015 Annapolis to Newport Race.

Praley and his crew could console themselves with the accomplishment of winning the J/120 sub-class, which consisted of five boats. Shinnecock came from behind during the latter stages of the 474-nautical mile race to beat Heron (Greg Leonard) by 1 minute, 22 seconds.

“We are very, very excited. It’s always great to walk away with the win in a one-design class like this,” said Praley, a lifelong Annapolis resident. “Any one of the 120s could have easily won this race. They are all so equally matched. We put together the strongest crew we possibly could and worked really hard. We never stopped adjusting sails and changing gears.”

Orion almost didn’t make it to the starting line for the Annapolis to Newport Race. The J/122, owned by Annapolis Yacht Club member Paul Milo, was dismasted during Key West Race Week and repairs took much longer than expected. Milo said the new mast showed up two weeks before the June 2 start and it was a mad scramble to get it stepped into the boat.

Jay Herman of Annapolis Rigging did a remarkable job of getting the rig ready, earning high praise from Milo for his efforts. Several other industry professionals in the Annapolis area also contributed to making sure the J/122 was properly prepared for an offshore passage.

“A lot of people pitched in to make this race happen for Orion,” Milo said. “I’m just so thankful for all the people that helped us out.”

Orion put forth a fantastic performance, leading the entire fleet for much of the way and capturing line honors among the Friday starters with an elapsed time of 3 days, 5 hours, 32 minutes, 27 seconds. The J/122 wound up winning IRC 2 class on corrected time by about 21 minutes over Kenai, a J/44 skippered by Chris Lewis.

“I am absolutely thrilled to win Annapolis to Newport,” Milo said. “This is a premier event and it’s just a terrific feeling of accomplishment to be a class winner. My crew was just phenomenal. Everybody did exactly what they were supposed to do.”

Milo was extremely impressed with the work of navigator Libby Greenhalgh, who performed the same role for Team SCA in the last Volvo Ocean Race.  “You can ask any member of the crew, Libby was our secret weapon,” he said. “She kept a close eye on the weather and called all the shots.”  For more Annapolis to Newport Race results Add to Flipboard Magazine.