Leaving the dock, I knew we were in for a sailing treat, with temperatures in the mid-50′s and a forecast of rain all day. It wasn’t until just after crossing the starting line though, that a thick fog sat down on us, making it seem as if we were lone explorers on the water searching for the next shore (mark). Every now and then we caught a glimpse of the old Alexandria plant to orient ourselves and dodged the surprise arrival of river cruise boats. The wind was decent, competition good, but the unique weather challenges made it a race to remember. Chiripa, Chimera, We Few, and Rogue raced that day. Photo courtesy of Bryn Farrar & Chimera.
Firefly, captained by DISC member and 2014 Race Director Dave Easter, received Best in Show at the annual Parade of Lights. Congratulations to Dave and the Firefly crew for taking top honors in the nearly 40 boat fleet that turned out for the parade. Read more about it at the Old Town Alexandria Patch
As a veteran of all the new Potomac River Leg – Governor’s Cup races, I think I can safely declare that this is a terrific sail. Crewing on Bob and Johanna Soli’s Blue Boat, both years were delightfully similar. Balmy moderate winds that blew all night from the southeast. And a course short enough for smaller boats to finish before the dreaded daybreak calm.
Last year’s inaugural race was a fetch from the start at Dahlgren to the turning mark at the mouth of the Potomac with just a few tacks – which was ideal for our short handed crew. I recall steering through the night directly toward the newly rising full moon, which tracked perfectly with the changing breeze that lifted us directly to the turning mark off Pt. Lookout.
The 2013 version was a constant reach without a single tack that produced an average boat speed of 5.5kts for the 47mile race. This year was moonless, which was great for stargazing, with clearly visible Milky Way and constellations that we rarely get to see, plus plentiful meteors and luminescent jellyfish.
For the DISC newbies, Blue Boat is the red-hulled Cal 27 on B dock. In the few years that Bob and Johanna have sailed their boat, they earned a reputation as an adventuresome, affable and inventive pair. They initiated the Night Crawlers (now in modified form as the Happy Hour sail) and the Potomac Century race. And they won a surprising number of races for folks with little sailing experience before moving from North Dakota
Don’t let the rough shape of Blue Boat fool you. Under the right conditions she can be very competitive. In this case, the right conditions included participation by my Coupe de Vent shipmates, Tab Sommer and Tom Watson with the result being 2nd place in the Potomac Leg Spinnaker fleet.
I confess to being a big fan of down-river racing. Quantico, Masters of the Potomac, Dahlgren, even our own Mt Vernon Sprints. Get away from the traffic (water and air), channeling and wind shadows north of the Wilson bridge. As the DISC Gov Cup boats will confirm (Rogue, Split Decision and Moovin), it’s very different racing in the bigger waters further south and well worth the task of delivery. S2 Skippers, please note that there is a conveniently located launching ramp at the Dahlgren marina that Rob Gibb used for Rogue.
Have to give props to Rogue for a smoking fast sail. When Rogue finished, the only boat that had arrived before them was a high tech tri named Sundog. Rogue got their gun at 1:24am. Donnybrook rolled in an hour later (that laggard). So the first three boats at the St. Mary’s dock were a carbon 30’ trimaran, an 80-foot canting keel maxi sloop, and little Rogue.
Big-time, big water, long distance racing without leaving the Potomac. And it’s half the distance of Dark Star’s round trip to Annapolis. Bob and Johanna flew in from Alabama for the race and they did most of the delivery by themselves. C’mon DISC sailors – put it on your racing calendar for 2014. You can’t win if you don’t play – and the odds are way better than Lotto.
For Bob Soli, Three boats sailed the 100 KM Potomac Century Race this weekend, a 62 nautical mile dash downthe Potomac to Maryland Pt and back. Sailed in pursuit format, all PHRF corrections are added at the start, with staggered start times for the progressively faster boats. In theory, all boats should cross the finish at the same time. This race is nearly as long as the Maryland Governors Cup, (68 NM), and certainly much harder to complete than the classic Bay race. DARK STAR was sailed by Doug Savage, Allen Kruppa, Dave Metsdorf (CHIMERA) and Dan Gundred. We ran 2 hour watches and tried to relieve the helm every hour, which I am certain was key to our success.
RUNNETH OVER was the rabbit, and started racing at 5:30pm, followed by SHADOWFAX at 7:09pm, and DARK STAR at 7:50pm. The wind was SE at 7-10 at the start. Here is a synopsis of the race from DARK STAR.
Started the race, reached towards Ft. Washington, no other competitors in sight. 8 miles into the race we were off Mt. Vernon, ghosting along under the chute, watching the Wine Tasting on Washington’s front lawn. By 10pm, we were becalmed off Ft. Belvior, struggling in the tide to keep from going backwards. We thought we saw SHADOWFAX off Indian Head about 4 miles away, but couldn’t be certain. By Midnight, the wind filled in as we rounded Hallowing Pt, and we reached at 7 kts to Indian Head, and then slowed to 2 kts until Mattawoman Creek. We may have seen SHADOWFAX by the powerlines at this point.
From Quantico until Aquia Creek, (mile 27 of 62), we picked up speed and close reached at 5-7 kts down the center of the river until sunrise. I was happy to come back on deck in the predawn and find RUNNETH OVER passing us northbound, abeam of Aquia Creek. SHADOWFAX was in plain sight about 2 miles to windward of us, still headed for the turning mark. Arriving at the turning mark, (mile 31 of 62), RUNNETH OVER was again out of sight around the bend, but SHADOWFAX was within a mile, and a spinnaker battle ensued for the next 2 hours. After amping up the crew on coffee, Little Debbie Oatmeal sandwiches and Swedish Fish, the crew focused in and DARK STAR passed SHADOWFAX off Mallows Bay, (37 miles into the race), with RUNNETH OVER being hull down to the North in Occoquan Bay.
As DARK STAR pushed North, the wind began to drop and it started to rain. We had serious concerns about closing the distance with RUNNETH OVER in the remaining miles, particularly with a flood tide carrying both of us forward towards the finish. RUNNETH OVER is very fast in light air and Bill knows the river. By 11am, RUNNETH OVER disappeared around Hallowing Pt in light air, and we renewed our effort to close the gap in the remaining 12 miles of the course. The wind was now light and variable with a strong flood tide.
DARK STAR caught up with RUNNETH OVER under the evil bluff at Ft. Belvior, with about 8 miles of the course left to go from the 62 miles required. It was the same evil bluff that we had parked under for two hours the previous evening! As we crossed close aboard, we saluted Bill and RUNNETH OVER for their impressive effort and continued on to finish the race, about 20 hours after we started. We salute everyone who sailed and look forward to the race next year.