Waiting for the Big Send-Off

The Volvo Ocean Race's long Chesapeake stopover comes to an end tomorrow, May 7, with the lap in the Bay and then off to New York. The crews are itching to go.

The Chesapeake is History
Dave Reed

The Big Send-Off IF SOMEONE GETS AWAY before we get to the bottom of the Bay it's going to be tough to get them back," says movistar's navigator Andrew Cape, whose team stands second in the Volvo Ocean Race's overall standings. "Or it could be close all the way up. Tomorrow the race's seven entries start Leg 6, a short 400-mile hop to New York City, and with the race's leader ABN AMRO One mathematically unbeatable, it's second place that's now up for grabs. Getting movistar to New York in good shape, and defending its half-point lead, however, will be far from straightforward, says Cape. He and other navigators have done recon in New York in anticipation of a close finish, but none of the teams have actually sailed this stretch of water between Annapolis and the Big Apple. They can count on the typical nearshore hazards of commercial traffic, sandbars, currents, and geographical oddities, and with such little racetrack don't expect much variation in their courses. "No one really knows how to get ally the way up the river into New York," adds Cape, "and there's not much opportunity to go off on your own, but someone could really jag something in the river [approaching New York] and come out a winner." The forecast from race officials has light winds for the early hours of the race, but overnight on Sunday winds are expected to rise into the high teens, providing fast reaching conditions into New York, where winds may again turn light as the boats approach. If this scenario does play out, the four Farr boats (movistar, Ericsson, Brasil 1, and Pirates of the Caribbean) could step out in the opening hours, but once and if the breeze kicks in, the heavy-air loving ABN boats (One and Two) will bring the fleet back together. At the approach to New York, a virtual restart is not out of the question. The Leg's restart is scheduled for 1 p.m. tomorrow afternoon, and unlike the last time this race left Annapolis in 2001) with a start-and-dash down the Bay, tomorrow's send off keeps them in the Bay for a short windward/leeward lap. The start line is to be set North of historic Thomas Point Lighthouse south of Annapolis. From there, the boats will race north to a turning mark immediately south of the Bay Bridge, and then it's down and out, bows pointed towards Norfolk, Va. The boats were loaded with sails and food before leaving Baltimore last Thursday, so they're essentially ready to go. Today, crews are relaxing, tending to VIP and sponsor gigs, or making themselves scarce among the massing crowds at the Annapolis City Dock. The town in general was sleepy this morning, with many locals nursing hangovers from the massive Annapolis Salutes party hosted by Eastport YC and the Severn Sailing Association on Friday night. Living up to its claim as the biggest sailing party in America, there were more than 6,000 tickets sold (at $50 a pop), and all of those and more were packed onto Eastport's grounds, consuming in excess the basics of a sailing party-live music, beer, and rum.