Six months earlier, in St. Petersburg, Florida, the five-event Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta series marked the beginning of the 32nd year for the regatta circuit, with three outstanding days of racing conditions on Tampa Bay. COVID-19 was rapidly commanding the headlines, and soon enough the virus prompted the postponements and then cancellations of NOOD regattas in Chicago and Marblehead. For event organizers, there’s still hope to host a safe regatta in San Diego in late September, but in the meantime, they have their sights set on the Annapolis NOOD—originally scheduled for May—to be held over the last weekend of August.
One thing for sure, says Annapolis YC race official Kevin Reeds, this year’s regatta will be smaller and far more local in nature, but the club is looking forward to hosting a competitive one-design regatta for local sailors. On the water, the racing experience will be the same, but the on-land social portion of the regatta will be relatively non-existent as the club and organizers adhere to current guidelines.
Current COVID-19 case numbers remain stable in the smaller bubble of downtown Annapolis and across the river in Eastport where AYC’s new state-of-the-art facilities have a slight feeling of normality on campus, and Reeds says this has allowed the club and its nearby partners from Eastport YC and the Severn Sailing Association, to progressively ramp up the popular Wednesday night beer can series, and even host its first significant daylong regatta last weekend, the “Two-Bridge Fiasco.”
The Fiasco was a pursuit race with 133 registered boats, sailing single or doublehanded, and as a simple race aimed at family sailing and “quarantine teams,” the race appealed to Annapolis sailors keen to go racing—in any format possible. The fleet, says Reeds, was about 60 percent keelboat (J/105s, J/22s, etc.) and 40 percent dinghies—from 505s to high performance beach cats, Comets and random others—and was the single biggest sailing event they’ve run this year.The next major regatta for Reeds, the dedicated race committee volunteers and the staffs of the three clubs is the Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta, which is expected to attract primarily regional teams, and will be a strict one-design affair. Volunteers have been preparing over the past six weeks while conducting the Wednesday night series and Reeds says everything is going well thanks to the safety plan the club put in place.
Volunteers experiencing a fever or symptoms are told to stay home. All others are temperature checked before entering AYC’s facilities, and mask wearing is universally mandated on land and on the water. A minimum of volunteers will staff mark boats, and instead of having volunteers piled onto one signal boat for starts and finishes, they’ve added a finish boat on each circle.
Over the first few weeks of Wednesday night racing, various fleets alternated, which allowed the yacht club to limit the number of competitors on land at once, reducing congestion at the hoists and inside the facilities. “It’s worked really well,” Reeds says, “and now we have all fleets coming out. Afterwards, there’s no parties or raft ups. People are being pretty good about it.”
For NOOD competitors, he says, expect two circles, as opposed to the four of years past; one near shore for smaller boats and one further out on the bay for the bigger keelboats. “We’ll try to spread everyone out,” Reeds says.
While it’s easier to manage boats on the water, the greatest challenge, he adds, is maintaining social distancing onsite, so they’ve been working out scheduled departure times and trying to find ways to stagger people on and off the docks.Thus far at other Annapolis YC events, Reeds says post-race gatherings have been happening onboard raceboats or in private homes and operations in Annapolis YC’s boatyard have not changed much besides the institution of a face covering requirement and social distancing: “That means after you launch, there’s no loitering or rafting,” he says. “The idea is to launch, get your gear and leave right away.”
In downtown Annapolis, most restaurants are open and the city has blocked off streets to allow more outdoor seating, so there are plenty of dining options for those choosing to post-race mingle offsite.
The Annapolis NOOD will conclude the 2020 East Coast portion with a rescheduled San Diego stop on the schedule for late September, and plans are underway to resume the normal schedule in 2021. NOOD organizers have announced the dates—St. Pete, Feb 12-14; San Diego, March 19-21; Annapolis, April 30 – May 2; Chicago, June 10-13; Marblehead, July 22-25— with anticipation of a return to robust one-design racing and social gatherings, in whatever shape they may be come next year.