Pressure Mounts At Regatta Series in Annapolis

Shuffles atop the one-design standings, distance racers sending it across the Chesapeake, and Harbor 20s getting in the action on Saturday at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta in Annapolis.
Melges 15s plane in the rain at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series. Walter Cooper

Preliminary Results

YouTube Playlist for Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series Annapolis

Daily Photos

On the second day of the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in Annapolis, the full breadth of the 222-boat regatta bonanza was on display with the addition of the regatta’s distance racers, 16 hardy teams that were dispatched on a long multi-leg course on Chesapeake Bay on a raw and rainy day.

Among the distance teams were three one-design Beneteau First SE 24s, and the first one across the finish line was Sebastian Vallee’s team on Jef, from Quincy, Mass., which finished the course in less than 2 hours.

Alberg 30s at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in Annapolis. Walter Cooper

The second one-design distance fleet featured the classic Cal 25s, and here Alisa Finney, of Laurel, Maryland, skippered her Cal 25 Fahrvergnuggen to victory. After a “pretty good start,” Laurel held a short lead on the first of several legs, and to preserve their position on the downwind leg, the team chose a more conservative approach and flew one of their smaller spinnakers. “They had predicted stronger winds than what showed up,” Laurel says. “We took our time, so we didn’t have any struggles with the spinnaker.”

The seven-boat ORC distance-race division showcased some of the Annapolis’ best big-boat race teams, some of whom are using the regatta’s distance races as warmups for major races this summer, and today’s relatively quick Bay tour went the way of Benedict Capuco’s Aerodyne 38, Zuul. The blue 38-footer made its winning move right off the start by immediately separating from the rest of the fleet, a tactic that set them up well for the rest of the day.

The ORC distance race fleet set off on its first at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in Annapolis. Walter Cooper

James Sagerholm’s J/35 Aunt Jean followed them across the finish line, with Bruce Irvin’s Colby 40 Time Machine notching a third in its first official distance race with a boat that’s new to them. A second distance race is scheduled for Sunday with a forecast for stronger winds and seas, which surely will be an early season test of crew work, hardware and sails.

The Beneteau First 24 SE Jef on the upwind leg of its distance race at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series. Walter Cooper

While the distance racers were enjoying their one long race, the regatta’s other one-design fleets continued to rack up races in the day’s 10-knot easterly, which came with plenty of shifts and surprises. Local skipper Jimmy Praley and his teammates on the Viper 640 Robot Flamingo now lead the fleet as they inch closer to locking in the class’s Atlantic Coast Championship title. With seven races counting so far after two days they’re sitting on an 8-point cushion over Peter Beardsly’s Glory Days, from Shelter Island, New York. 

Waszps fly to finish of their race at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series. Walter Cooper

Praley’s assessment of his team’s results so far is on account of good starts, safe tactics, and being hyperactive with sail adjustments in the day’s variable winds.

“We’re constantly adjusting,” Praley says. “One thing that we do really well is, if the boat doesn’t feel well, we don’t sit and wait for something to change. We’re immediately on it. So, if for example, we feel sluggish, I’ll put the bow down a little bit, Max [Vinocur] will ease the jib, Austin [Powers] will pop the vang off and ease the outhaul if we need to. As soon as we get back up on the rail and hiking fully, all the controls come back on. We never wait for something to change. We change as soon as something else.”

It wasn’t all easy sailing for Praley and his teammates, however. Far from it. The 24-boat fleet is deep with talent and they’re sharing the same racecourse with several other classes, which puts a priority on managing traffic and finding open space for better wind. They won the first race and finished fourth in the next, which required a bit of a comeback after a bad start.

Jimmy Praley’s Viper 640 Robot Flamingo at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series. Walter Cooper

“We got flushed on that one but were able to tack out pretty early on to port,” Praley says. “We found a lane and we just worked our boat speed as best we could. We were able to get back into it quickly enough to save that one.”

That also required them to be vigilant being around so many boats. “It’s really hard when you have boats that are so different,” Praley says. “We’ve got Melges 15s that are planning all the time, and then we have the J/30s that go straight downwind, so they kind of close down the middle of the course. We are fortunate that we have the first start, but we’re always talking about where the traffic is and trying to separate as much as possible.”

J/105s battle for clean air on the run at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series. Walter Cooper

In the J/80 class, the largest of the event with 26 boats, Kopp-Out (aka The Lasso Way), skippered by Thomas Kopp, of Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, maintained his lead for a second day after posting all thirds on Saturday. He credited his tactician for keeping the team out of trouble and praised the rest of the crew for its sail handling and getting around the marks cleanly.

Kopp and the second-place boat, More Cowbell, skippered by Sarah Alexander, of Annapolis, have a comfortable lead on the fleet, but Kopp says the racing has been tighter than the results would indicate.

“We finished overlapped in one race, and there were three different winners today. It just goes to show you the strength of the class,” Kopp says.

On board More Cowbell, Alexander says, the strategy was simple. “We tried to sail conservatively and not do anything crazy. We got lucky on a couple of the starts and steered clear of some messy situations. From there, we just tried to keep it pretty simple with how shifty it was and not tack too much.”

On the very same racecourse, local Cate Muller-Terhune’s team on Casting Couch, cut into the lead of Brian Keane’s team on Savasana, from Weston, Mass., by putting up two top finishes and a win in the day’s final race. The two teams now sit tied with 13 points apiece, but Alec Cutler’s Hedgehog, from Bermuda, is only 6 points in arrears. With J/70 World Championship qualifying berths on the line tomorrow, these three common rivals will no doubt apply more offensive tactics in what is one of the most challenging fleets in sailing today.

Alec Cutler’s Hedgehog at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series. Walter Cooper

Another overall lead change on this action-packed one-design circle is in the J/105 fleet, with 24 boats, where Bill Zartler’s Deja Voodoo went 4-1-13 to move to the top of the scoreboard. Friday’s leaders on Ray Wulff’s Patriot went 1-13-6 to slide to second overall, but the difference between them is only 2 points.

The regatta’s newest fleet, 18 Harbor 20s, joined the action today for the first time, on their own racecourse set closer to the entrance of the Severn River. This race area is notorious for swift currents and geographic wind effects, which makes it extra challenging, and this much is borne out in the results with three individual race winners, only 2 points between the top-two boats, and tight scores further down the results.

Yellow Jacket, co-owned by Jeffrey Sholz, Cornelius Sullivan and Rudolph Joseph Trejo, of Annapolis, were plenty quick and had a handle on the conditions, posting finishes of 1-1-3. Ed Holt’s Trinity with crewmate Tyler Russell were consistent as well with a 2-2-5. Local sailing celebrity Gary Jobson, joining fleet captain John Heintz were in the mix at times, but Jobson admitted they had their challenges, including being over early in the first race and finding themselves on the wrong side of the race course in the last. A fifth in the second race, however, gave him some solace going into tomorrow’s races.

Harbor 20s at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series. Walter Cooper

“In our worst race, we went the wrong way and we were slow and that’s a bad thing in sailboat racing,” Jobson says. “Jeff and his team had an astoundingly good day and they’re really fast. But tomorrow, we’ll be better and faster.”