A Long, Slow Sail from Annapolis to Solomons
With sometimes zero wind, the only records at this years Governors Cup were for the slowest race
story by Maureen Miller; photos by Craig Miller
Mother Nature can be fickle and weather reports wrong. No one knows this better than sailboat racers. But once out on the water, youre committed. On August 5, 161 skippers made that commitment to the 32nd Governors Cup Race.
The annual race starts in Annapolis, Marylands current capital, and ends 70 miles later at St. Marys City, Marylands colonial capital. The overnight run is popular for first-time and long-time racers alike, and its quite the affair for families possibly because families are used to the strains of commitment.
My husband Howdy and his mom have been racing their boat, Intuition, in the Governors Cup for over 20 years now, Baltimorean Heather Stroterhoff told me as she waited on shore for the three-quarter ton Carter to sail to the finish line at St. Marys early Saturday morning.
Stroterhoffs husband, a sailor since he was 13, sails regularly in Baltimores Inner Harbor race series.
I think they like this race because racing point-to-point is easier. You dont have to worry about which buoy you need to go around or which way youre supposed to go around it, explained Stroterhoff.
The crew of Tantrum, a Tartan 10, agree that point-to-point racing is more fun.
This is the third time weve raced in the Governors Cup as a family, said Doug Savage of Alexandria.
Ken and Sigrid Morris are another variation on the family theme. Normally, they use their boat Drummer, a Catalina 34, for cruising the Bay, and they consider it part of the family. When his company transferred him to Michigan, Morris insisted that his company move Drummer along with his family.
This Governors Cup is Drummers and the Morris familys maiden race.
Its my son Steves idea, said Morris.
Steves plan is to make the Governors Cup a yearly family reunion.
From Doldrums to Dodging Lightning
The Morrises, Savages and Stroterhoffs were three of the 161 entrants committed to a long night. With warm winds at seven to 10 knots out of the south, 2005 was a far cry from last 2004s colorful spinnaker start in cool 15- to 18-knot northerly winds. Last years race was won in record time just over six hours. This years race again set records the longest and, at least so it seemed, the slowest race.
Half an hour after the first gun, many lead-boat skippers were desperately seeking pockets of breeze to eek out forward movement. As the breeze dropped to one knot or less in places on the glassy Bay, some found themselves dead in the water. It was shaping up to be a long night.
Within an hour, the weather changed. Winds picked up to 25 knots as racers dodged lightning bolts and heavy rains.
We ran into the first bunch of squalls off Thomas Point Lighthouse, said Robert Noyce, of Annapolis, who was ferrying the T2 Production crew along the course in their effort to capture the race on video. Lightning was bouncing around like ping pong balls.
Alexander Layne, 15, of Glen Bernie, sailing with his father, said he felt overwhelmed. We almost capsized when we were hit by a microburst, he said.
Steve Morris had another viewpoint. It was the best light show Ive ever seen, the Drummer sailor said.
Crawling to the Finish
At the finish line near the St. Marys College boat dock, 7am Sunday found land crews waiting to see the first boat.
Race committee coordinator Brian Sekinger was taking calls from boats, as he had been all night long. Sailing rules hold that a skipper who resorts to motor, a disqualifying action, must notify the race committee.
Nightingale had been one of the first to drop. They called in around 10:30 last night saying they had been struck by lightning, Sekinger said. Thank goodness no one was hurt, but unfortunately all their electronics were fried.
By 7:30am, Sekinger had 13 cancellations on his list. At 7:35am one of the tender boats reported that not a single boat was visible at Point Lookout, seven miles from the finish line.
There was a slow race in 1998 or 1999, reminisced Kathy Grimes, events and conferences coordinator for St. Marys College, but this may very well go down as the slowest.
By 8am, rumor had the closest boat six hours away. To the relief of those waiting, rumor proved untrue.
Out on the water, after a long night interspersed with eventful and non-eventful moments, tiring skippers and crew were making decisions. Do we drop out and motor home or to the nearest port? Or do we keep going? Seventy boats committed to continue.
Around 9:30am, Greg Harris Blatant Behavior motored into St. Marys harbor.
With a blown-out mainsail, Blatant Behaviors crew agreed that getting to the post-race party was more important than finishing the race. Thus in the early hours of the morning, they revved up their motor.
At this point, we believe we are the undisputed leaders of the race, jested sailor Tom Toth.
It was close to 10am 16 hours after the start of the race before the first boat under sail, Wild Card, crossed the finish line.
It takes a competent sailor to handle the conditions of the Chesapeake Bay, said skipper Tim Layne of Glen Burnie.
And it takes commitment, as the crew of Tantrum found. After sailing down the Bay, they had rounded Point Lookout and breezed up the St. Marys River within a few hundred yards from the finish line. There, across the point below St. Marys College, The Dove the colleges replica of one of the Maryland colonys founding vessels marked the finish line. But before Tantrum could pass, her race time limit of 21 hours expired.
Its disappointing, but we had a good time, said Savage. Dont worry; well be back next year.
About the Author
Maureen Miller is a Galesville sailor who winters in the Bahamas. Retired from the World Bank, she now teaches tai chi. Her last piece for Bay Weekly was Mowing Down Pollution on July 14.