Current Rules on Day One of the Lands' End Annapolis NOOD

The breeze was up for the opening day of the Annapolis NOOD, but so was a strong ebb tide that left navigators and skippers alike pulling their hair out.

The first day of the Lands' End Annapolis NOOD was picture-perfect yacht racing, with a 12 to 18-knot breeze and clear, cool weather. The only fly in the ointment was a very strong ebb tide, which had even the local northbound tugboat drivers complaining about it on VHF channel 13. The good tacticians overstood by a country mile, and rounded the weather marks OK; the bad ones nailed their teams to weather marks on all four race circles.

"It's not like the Great Lakes," said Steve Jacob, pitman on Zingara, another 36.7. "We had some trouble with the current today; it took a long time to get around the weather mark during the first race, but we were in good company, nine other boats in our class had the same problem." The crew of Zingara, no strangers to victory-they won last year's Lands' End Toronto NOOD overall, and as a result, were one of the teams that sailed the NOOD championship last winter in Antigua-know tomorrow's another day. "Today was delightful," said mastman Andrew Baker, it was our first race of the season and we're banging the rust off. We'll do better tomorrow, and we know that winning races is all about the mast and the pit." Owner Richard Reid seems to agree, "We had a great time today, but we can certainly improve. Our mast and pit kept us in the race; the back office was having some problems." Let's just say that Reid's comment might have been a trifle tongue-in-cheek."

Bad things come in threes, and nobody knows that better than the crew of the Beneteau 36.7 Amritha, one of whom-tactician Cathy Zebrowski- started the day off with a car accident on the way from Baltimore to Annapolis for the first day of the Lands' End Annapolis NOOD. Everybody involved in the accident was OK, and her Volkswagen was still drivable. The next incident happened on the racecourse, when pitperson Mary Branch lost an argument with a spinning winch handle after a weather mark rounding. "We'd rounded the mark, and we wanted to lower the headsail," said Branch, "but the jib halyard got released instead." During the recovery from the errantly dropped sail Branch had her tangle with the handle. "She came back to the rail and didn't say anything except 'my hand got hit by the winch handle,' said Zebrowski, who is calling tactics on Amritha. "She sat on the rail quietly holding her finger." Soon, though, the rest of the crew realized that Branch might be injured, and rather than finish the first race of the day, they headed in to get Branch to the hospital for X-Rays. Remember the law of threes? Well, on the way into their dock, skipper Nate Tower, tagged the dock slightly on the way in. The good news is that Amritha isn't in last, but next-to-last, thanks to the fact Danegeld didn't sail today. Branch won't be sailing the rest of the event, thanks to a cast that runs from her broken finger to her elbow, but the rest of Amritha's crew is looking forward to a luckier day on Saturday.

Having a spectacular day was the well-seasoned crew of the J/29 Hustler, which nailed a perfect 1-1-1 for the day by heading the right way upwind. "The left side was pretty good," said John Esposito. "But even if you overstood from 300 yards out, the next thing you knew, you were three lengths to leeward of the mark." Esposito had confidence in their ability to keep pace with their toughest competitors, Rhumb Punch and Mighty Muffin for the next two days. "Hopefully we'll sail smart and conservative," said Esposito. "If we sail our own race, we're OK. If we get into it with other boats, they tend to drag us down."

Another team having a good day were the guys on Blue Dog, a C&C 115, who scored three second-place finishes for the day. "What a gorgeous day on the Bay," said Blue Dog's skipper, Dan Gourash, another Great Lakes sailor sharpening his game on the Chesapeake. "We had to work hard to make the offset mark during the first race, but we made it. For the rest of the day, we overstood. We weren't playing the shifts, we were playing the current by staying out of deep water, until the last race when the wind got lighter. We caught a shift and came out five lengths ahead of the boats we were behind."

Gourash also credits his PBO rigging for his performance. "We were close behind another 115 and got in a tacking duel with them," said Gourash. "We came out of the tacks so much faster. By the end, we were a boat length ahead, it was like we were shot out of a slingshot."

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