September 8, 2016

Annapolis Fall Regatta: progressive and flexible

Annapolis, MD - Organizers of the Annapolis Fall Regatta have been both progressive and flexible over the years, which is a key reason why the event has thrived. Its use of internationally-recognized rating systems and now offering one-design racing highlights this as being the only event on the Chesapeake and one of the few in the USA to do so.

For handicap racing the regatta started off using the IMS system, but switched to IRC when that rating rule become more popular. Along the way, the High Performance Rule (HPR) was added to accommodate those types of boats. Last year, the Storm Trysail Club-Chesapeake Station introduced use of the rating system developed by the Offshore Racing Congress (ORC) as a handicap option. Use of these systems rather than local PHRF assures visiting entries of predictable and consistent ratings, resulting in better scoring and more fair racing.

A few years ago, a couple of one-design classes also requested starts and were welcomed to join the fun. With preparations underway for the seventh annual Annapolis Fall Regatta, it appears that this one-design element has become an important facet of the event.

This year’s regatta, being held Oct. 21-23 off Annapolis, will serve as the Farr 30 North American Championship and also feature a strong fleet from the C&C 30 class. There is also a Sportboat class planned that will include the Donovan-designed GP 26’s and a class for larger boats – both will use ORC ratings.

“One-design racing is clearly the deal in the United States these days and that is reflected in the current makeup of the Annapolis Fall Regatta,” said Dick Neville, event chairman. “Fall is a fantastic time of the year for sailing on the Chesapeake Bay so we will continue to hold the regatta as long as we have customers, one-design or handicap.”

Annapolis remains a stronghold for the venerable Farr 30, which debuted way back in 1995. There are five active Farr 30 racing programs in Annapolis and they will form the backbone for the North American Championship that is expected to attract 10 entries.

“You still can’t beat this boat in terms of cost and performance. You get a lot of bang for your buck with the Farr 30,” said Brad Kauffman, fleet captain for the Chesapeake region. “We race against the C&C 30s on Wednesday night and pretty much have the same speed upwind. This is a grand prix boat in terms of performance.”
Annapolis boatyard owner Rod Jabin and his top-notch crew on Ramrod captured last year’s Farr 30 World Championship, which was held in Vancouver, Canada. Kevin McNeil, who preceded Jabin as commodore of the Annapolis Yacht Club, is another stalwart of the class aboard Sea Biscuit.

“Rod is definitely the favorite based off recent track record, but Kevin is always very competitive,” said Kauffman, who co-owns Gotcha along with Baltimore resident Nate Tower.

Blockade Runner (Bruce Bingman & Taran Teague) rounds out the Annapolis contingent and will likely also compete in the North American Championship. Kauffman is excited that a Canadian boat (Tangley, Peter Toombs) is registered and noted there are three Farr 30s (Downhill Express, Rhumb Punch, Miss Trixie) from the immediate area available for charter.

“We are really looking forward to a great regatta. Storm Trysail Club always provides superb on-water management while the sailing conditions off Annapolis in late October are outstanding. You are almost guaranteed to have at least one 20-knot day,” Kauffman said.

The C&C 30 class made its debut at the 2014 Annapolis Fall Regatta and returned in force with nine boats a year ago. Class leaders are counting on a similar number this year with recently crowned North American champion Dan Cheresh leading the charge.

Cheresh and his Extreme2 team captured the North American crown in June when it was contested as part of New York Yacht Club Race Week. The Michigan resident has been a dedicated road warrior for the class, having signed up to compete in the San Francisco Big Boat Series next week and trailering the boat back to the East Coast in time for the Annapolis Fall Regatta.

Annapolis is home to the largest local fleet of C&C 30’s, with five already registered. Bob Moran, owner of BobSled, said the class has come a long way since its one-design rules were formalized in January.

“This regatta served as our one-design trial run last year. We raced gentleman’s one-design in order to shake out the rules,” Moran said.

The Annapolis NOOD regatta featured the largest C&C 30 gathering to date with 12 boats doing battle last April. Four different entries won races in Annapolis and the competition was very close, as it had been in the previous large turnout with 11 boats competing in Key West in January.

“The one-design sailing in this class has been incredible. There was one race in Key West when seven boats finished within 30 seconds of each other,” Moran said. “Windward mark roundings are intense in this class.”

Stagg Yachts has taken over management of the C&C 30 class and has been working hard to get all the boats properly measured and certificates issued in time for the Annapolis Fall Regatta.

GP 26’s are a box rule design that has found several believers on the Chesapeake Bay. That is due in part to the fact Jim Donovan, a former Annapolis resident, is the designer with the boats affordably built by Wraceboats in Turkey. The boats are racing under handicap due to small differences in their set up of spars, sails, crew weights and other features that have an influence on performance. Peter D’Arista, who owns a Toyota car dealership in California, Maryland, is hoping the Donovan GP 26 will make its debut in the Annapolis Fall Regatta with six boats.

“The fleet is building and we’re having a lot of fun,” said D’Arista, whose boat is aptly named Supra. “I would describe the GP 26 is a like a Melges 24 that doesn’t bite. It provides a stable platform with good control and is relatively safe. It’s a very versatile, very tough boat.”

Annapolis professional Mike Beasley has set the pace in the GP26, beating two others in finishing second in ORC 2 class at Quantum Key West 2016 then topping a fleet of five as the design made its debut in April at Charleston Race Week.

“The harder it blows, the faster this boat goes. We’re planing at 15 knots and you don’t feel out of control at 20 knots. It is quite seaworthy,” D’Arista said.

ORC made its debut for big boats at the 2015 Annapolis Fall Regatta and is in place again for this year’s regatta. Orion, a J/122 owned by Paul Milo of Leesburg, Virginia, topped a group of boats that were double-scored last year under IRC. Cool Breeze, a custom-designed Mills 43 owned by John Cooper of Cane Hill, Missouri, has already committed to return.

“We love the format and it’s great practice for Key West,” said Billy Liberty, boat captain for Cool Breeze, which won the Palmetto Cup as overall winner of Charleston Race Week in 2014.

Organizers expect handicap entries to ramp up in the coming weeks with Sitella, an XP 44 owned by Ian Hill of Hampton, Virginia also registered. Sitella swept all the major awards in the Down the Bay Race for the Virginia Cruising Cup. The speedy X Yachts design captured line honors, secured first place in class and also earned the overall victory.

“After a modest start last year, this will be the second major event of the 2016 season to use the international ORC system in the Chesapeake,” said Dobbs Davis, communications manager for the Offshore Racing Congress. “The Chesapeake Racer Cruiser Association used it successfully in the Governor’s Cup and for their North Sails Series here on the Bay, while initiatives by Storm Trysail, New York Yacht Club and other clubs in the US have grown its use and popularity elsewhere as well.

“ORC is gaining attraction to organizers and sailors because this is a science-based system that issues 10,000-plus certificates per year in 40 countries, can rate a wide variety of boat types fairly, and offers a range of scoring options to produce closer, more accurate results.”

A popular feature of the Annapolis Fall Regatta has been its innovative format with the opening day delivering a coastal race tour of the mid-Chesapeake Bay. Neville, who also serves as principal race officer, said a mid-race scoring gate will be utilized so two races can be scored as part of the 17-18 nautical mile distance race.

Windward-leeward racing will be conducted during the remaining two days of the regatta with shore-side activities based at Jabin’s Yacht Yard on Back Creek. SpinSheet Magazine, a long-time supporter of the Annapolis Fall Regatta, will provide drinks following Saturday’s racing.