Ready, Set Annapolis

The first weekend of May is reserved for the big start of the Annapolis sailing season, so here comes the 2023 Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series.

J/70 racing
J/70s skirt past the weather mark at the 2022 Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series. Paul Todd/Outside Images

Come Friday morning, the Annapolis, Maryland, waterfront will be abuzz with race teams preparing for the opening day of racing at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta, hosted by the Annapolis YC. This third event of the national regatta series is the first major event of the Chesapeake Bay spring sailing season, so there will certainly be heightened anticipation as 160 teams get set for three days of racing across 13 individual classes.

Two classes new to the regatta, which has been held in Annapolis for 33 years, are the Melges 15 and Wayfarer classes, doublehanded dinghies that originated more than 50 years apart. The Melges 15, considered to be the fastest growing dinghy class in the US, has attracted family, coed, and youth teams to its winter regatta series in Florida, and some of these sailors will be taking to the Chesapeake for the first time alongside a few new owners. The Wayfarer, originally designed in 1957, has stood the test of time and is enjoying a resurgence with concentration of owners in the Southeast and Michigan, and the Annapolis regatta will serve as an opportunity for these traveling teams to meet one another on the big stage.

While many competitors will be traveling in from afar, Annapolis is home to robust one-design fleets that produce a unique concentration of class champions alongside some of the sport’s top professional sailors. The largest turnouts for this year’s regatta are in the J/70, J/80 and J/105 classes, which is to be expected in this sailing-obsessed city. The J/105 contingent, with 22 entries to date, will have all eyes on Cedric Lewis and Fredrik Salvesen’s Mirage, overall winners of the 2022 regatta, especially Ray Wulf’s Patriot, which was runner-up to Mirage in last year’s two-race series, truncated on account of the absence of wind over the three days.

With the traditional strong current and dynamic spring weather, the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in Annapolis is always a challenge. Paul Todd/Outside Images

The J/80 fleet only managed a pair of races in 2022 as well, with Will and Marie Crump and Thomas Klok’s R80 beating Thomas and Jennifer Kopp’s Kopp-Out, from Grosse Pointe Farms, by a mere 2 points. While the Crumps will not be in attendance to defend, several past winners, notably Conor Hayes’s More Gostoso, from Meredith, New Hampshire, will take up the challenge alongside 21 other teams, including five teams that have entered as part of the concurrent NorthU Regatta Experience. This immersive race-training program run by the American Sailing Association features two days of clinics and coaching for participants before the regatta and onboard coaching during the races themselves.

Over the weekend, two legacy classes will contest their annual championships: The East Championship for the J/30s and the Maple Leaf Championship for the classic Alberg 30s, both of which have been a regular presence at the regatta for many years. For the Alberg 30s especially, this is the major kick off for their Chesapeake season with teams traveling in from throughout the region.

While the Etchells fleet is small in size following its World Championship in Miami last month, the Viper 640s, having contested their Worlds in New Orleans in March, are back to near strength with 17 entries, including the 2022 regatta winner Evil Hiss, helmed by local favorite Mary Ewenson. The 1-boat J/22 fleet is packed with top local teams, including multiple-time defending champion Jeffrey Todd, as well as four experienced all-junior teams supported and kitted out by event organizers and Helly Hansen as part of the regatta series’ effort to bolster youth participation at all locations.

J/22s peel off the start at the 2022 Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in Annapolis. Paul Todd/Outside Images

The J/70s will also have plenty of young sailors spread amongst the teams, many of which are using the regatta as training opportunity for the high-stakes J/70 World Championship in Florida in November. The leading contender, Brian Keane’s Savasana, which has won all the major winter events to date, will be in attendance, focusing on refining its program and keeping its momentum on the long road to the Worlds.

One new addition to the regatta is two days of distance racing for local PHRF and ORC sailors. These 11 teams will sail Saturday and Sunday only, completing one long race per day over courses that span the Chesapeake Bay for as many 12 miles, or as many hours as needed to get them a quality race and back in time for the nightly parties hosted at the Annapolis YC. With so many classes and racecourses to manage, the club works in partnership with Eastport YC and the Severn Sailing Association for on-water and race committee support.

In addition to planned social activities for the sailors, friends and locals, the Regatta Series and Sailing World will host its third Speaker Series event with American Magic, the New York challenge for the 37th America’s Cup in Barcelona in 2024. Terry Hutchinson, American Magic’s skipper and president of sailing operations, will be on stage Thursday evening to share the team’s progress and provide exclusive insight into their formidable Cup challenge. Quantum Sails, the official sailmaker of the series has a full complement of support planned for competitors, from daily weather briefings, on-the-water coaching and debriefs and sail-repair services and title sponsor Helly Hansen will have an on-site store open daily to fit competitors and club members for the season with the latest sailing gear and accessories.

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