Saturday, October 18, 2014

Our Schooner Race on Shearwater 45 "Apella"

The 25th running of the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race proved to be a well-run and memorable event. The weatherman came close to creating big problems but it all worked out in the end. The massive cold front that tore apart parts of USA in the previous week arrived in Baltimore on Wednesday afternoon, dumping enough rain to wash out the planned Parade of Sail through Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Other than that, everything went off with the usual smoothness of a well-practiced organisation.
"Apella" alongside "America II" at the start of the 2013 race.
Behind the wind-driven soaking of Wednesday, we were handed a couple of gorgeous days to carry us down to Portsmouth. The weatherman didn't get it all correct though. The forecast light breezes from the south at the start, swinging to westerly for most of the race, held only for the biggest and fastest boats at the front of the fleet. Behind them the wind was sometimes the opposite of the forecast and then fell apart into increasingly large holes that trapped boats for hours. The further back that they were in the fleet, the larger the holes and the longer they battled to get through.

As for us on Dan Hall's Shearwater 45 "Apella", we had a pretty good race, one to store in the memory banks for recall in the coming cold winter days when only professional seamen and crazy people are out on the water. We had a good crew, comprising the owner, myself and a bunch of friends who are capable sailors.
Dan Hall, Dudley Dix, Paul Schaub, Dylan Bailey, Tom Miller & Scott Page.




We had a crazy start. Dan was on the helm, labouring under advice from Paul and myself that obviously conflicted with his own thoughts and must have been comical to anyone paying attention to us on nearby boats. Complicated by current, spectator boats and a big boat fleet that started 10 minutes before us but was mostly late to the line, we were dodging boats and going the wrong way within the last minute, yet still managed to cross the start line first, within 10 seconds of the gun and right at the committee boat. As Tom said, "sometimes too many chiefs actually works".
A Class gaff schooner "Hindu", which gave us some close-quarter racing.
We worked our way through much of the big boat fleet and had mostly good sailing all the way down the bay. Most of the time we were lying between 7th and 10th on the water and thoroughly enjoying what we were doing. A highlight of the race was twice managing to get ourselves ahead of the beautiful Baltimore clipper replica "Pride of Baltimore". When the wind came through after we broke out of the hole together, she sailed away from us.
Creeping up on the beautiful "Pride of Baltimore II".
We were in B Class, with our Windmill Point finish line 40 miles short of the Thimble Shoals line for the bigger boats in Classes A and AA. We planned to sail the optional additional 40 miles to claim "bragging rights" but gave up on that idea when the winds went light and onto the nose. Mission accomplished, we whimped out and motored the rest of the way to Portsmouth.

The awards party was today and we came away with first place in B Class, ahead of "Tom Bombadil". A great end to an enjoyable few days. Thank you to the crew of "Apella", all other competitors and especially to the organisers and volunteers who together made this such a successful event.
Tom, Dudley, Paul and Dan with the silverware. Scott & Dylan missed the party.
Dylan has promised to bring his Little Creek 47 "Flutterby" north from St Augustine, Florida, for the 2015 Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race and we will race the bay together again. I look forward to it.

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