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Race Down the Bay ~ GCBSR 2010

Dockside Portsmouth, Virginia
Post 2010 Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race

It is just better than 30 hours after completing the 2010 Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. Most of that time I have been on my back catching up with sleep…no sleep for the race…which started at 1340 hours on Thursday and ended at 0250 hours Friday morning. Up at 0600 on Thursday, asleep for only a couple hour nap at 1000 hours Friday…a span of 28 hours…followed by another couple hour nap from 1600 to 1800…followed by a dead to the world sleep from 2100 to 0715 Friday night to Saturday morning. I feel human again. So seem the ship’s complement…but I do not think they slept as much as I did.

The weather forecast for the race suggested a “parade” of racing was in the offing. Meaning, once the order of start was established…there might not be much change to that order. In the end, that seems to have come to pass…more or less. PRIDE was able to achieve a good start and came out 2nd in fleet parade order after the start…behind the well crewed Annapolis “hotrod” schooner WOODWIND. It took PRIDE half of the Chesapeake Bay to get by her…a vessel nearly half of PRIDE’s size. But with a much more modern underbody and construction…she is very fast…and very well sailed.

New to the race is United States Merchant Marine Academy, Kings Point, entry SUMMERWIND. A recently donated schooner yacht of 1929 designed by the venerable John Alden. She is being promoted as a “practical” experience training platform for Merchant Marine Cadets. (Agile and responsive sailing vessels are a really good addition to any maritime academy if anyone were to ask me). Updated with a very high-tech schooner rig with fully battened mainsail and foresail with squared off tops to her sails and a full suite of reaching sails like jenikers (radial head single luff spinnakers) and a gollywobbler (mainmast balloon staysail reacher…rigs like a fisherman between the two schooner masts and reaches all the way to the deck), she was an unknown entity. Let me say she is very fast. In size she is midway between WOODWIND and PRIDE. In the first third of the race she came up from behind during the reaching phase of the race and threatened to pass PRIDE. With conscientious attention to “blocking” strategies, PRIDE was able to force SUMMERWIND to jibe away. This gave PRIDE a chance to maximize her deeper reaching capability during the more downwind phase of the race to extend a lead upon SUMMERWIND.

Meanwhile not far behind was Privateer LYNX…also new to this race…did a decent job with her start…meaning she was not among the first to cross…she was right behind. This enabled her to capture the reaching winds and sail a direct course towards the finish…finishing within only one quarter or a third of an hour behind SUMMERWIND. Good job LYNX! By the way, her skipper is our own relief “partner captain” Jamie Trost. So it stands to reason LYNX would turn in a good performance.

Even though PRIDE had to spend time steering away from the centerline of the race course to attend to preventing SUMMERWIND from overtaking, PRIDE was able to speed down The Bay with the fresh and favorable winds and be the “first in fleet” to cross the Thimble Light Finish Line, more than an hour ahead of SUMMERWIND. But SUMMERWIND was not the second vessel to cross the finish line! It was the venerable WOODWIND from Annapolis! Hail to WOODWIND!

What was it like to sail PRIDE in this 2010 Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race? It was a lot of yelling and bellowing and rushing from one end of the ship to the other hurrying to get thousands of square feet of sail up in a very short time while trying to position the ship for a decent start in a day of constant rain ranging from drizzle to downpour with a 15 knot breeze…i.e. a fresh breeze. The “bellow and bark” from this captain and PRIDE’s mate is always a function of a race…especially near the start…but also due to lots of new hands aboard still becoming familiar with PRIDE. Once the start was accomplished the ordering was much more conversational and the work less constant…plus there was a pause in the wind as it began to morph from SE at 15 knots to NW’rly with virtual calm in-between. Still, there were intense and stunningly dynamic moments (the rain eventually passed and the late afternoon broken cloud sunlit sky painted everything beautifully) where PRIDE crew were standing-by to attend to sail when we were “jousting” with SUMMERWIND by steering ahead of her with the goal of blocking her efforts to pass PRIDE. Then there was the after mid-night, post half moon darkness when the wind rose to an erratically puffy 35 knots and also backed towards the west from northwest (wind more on the beam) and it was necessary to get sail down. First the main-gaff-topsail to reduce weather helm, then the studdingsail for reason of strength of wind, then the topgallant for angle of heel followed by double reefing the main and taking in the jib-topsail, followed by taking in the rest of the mainsail. Right afterward the wind moderated some, so the crew reset the jib-topsail because, with the wind more on the beam, it was the better choice than resetting any of the mainsail. All the above took about an hour and a half.

We do not know if PRIDE was able to “save her time” on those vessels of her class she led across the finish line. What we do know is that PRIDE was the first in fleet to finish…HAIL PRIDE OF BALTIMORE II.

Jan C. Miles and the hard working, very proud crew of Pride of Baltimore II