Providing the best of both worlds

Published on March 18th, 2019

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
I don’t know how long I’ve been banging this drum, but the fact remains that our sport has evolved to the point where it has become less attractive for some recreational racers. While perfectly aligned windward-leeward courses provide the greatest test of skill, and are ideal for high-level championships, not every weekend is a high-level championship.

For handicap racing, modern boats may point higher and are rigged better for the sausage circuit. The W/L course layout requires highly refined tactics on the legs and choreographed crew work at the turns. The elimination of reach legs denies the fastest point of sail, and the lack of diverse course selection become a mind-numbing repetitive exercise.

We can’t wonder why our sport is shrinking any longer, so it is encouraging that Annapolis Yacht Club is reacting to this reality during the 2019 season. For two of their signature events, AYC is altering the format by having a distance racing component for the larger one-design boats and handicap divisions.

“We want to make racing for the larger one-designs and the handicap classes a little more user-friendly than the typical short windward-leeward courses,” AYC Sailing Committee Chairman John White said.

For the AYC Annual Regatta, being held the weekend of July 27-28, the Saturday racing for the smaller one-design classes remains unchanged and will engage in the traditional short-course, windward-leeward racing.

Meanwhile, the bigger one design boats and ORC classes will now enjoy some variety, mixing windward-leeward action with a distance race around government marks on the Chesapeake Bay.

“We have decided to incorporate both styles of racing into the same day to make it a little more inviting,” White said. “We want the sailors to have the best of both worlds.”

Annapolis Yacht Club’s popular Fall Series will be altered in a similar fashion with the first weekend (Sept. 28-29) featuring strictly windward-leeward racing for the smaller one-design classes.

Keeping with the philosophical change, the bigger one-design boats and ORC classes on the second weekend of Fall Series will split into one day of windward-leeward competition and another day of distance racing around government marks.

Race committee officials will determine based off conditions which type of racing will be held on Saturday. Scoring for the distance race will be weighted in such a way as to ensure equity between the two days of competition.

“We have made a commitment to even the program between the windward-leeward and longer course racing,” White said.

Annapolis Yacht Club Vice Commodore Jonathan Bartlett said the format changes to the Annual Regatta and Fall Series were driven by competitors.

“I think it’s a good change because this is something the sailors want, which is more variety,” said Bartlett, a veteran professional with North Sails-Chesapeake. “We like the idea of not having just windward-leeward style racing. Skippers have gravitated back to doing government mark racing because it requires less crew.”

Bartlett said a mixture of windward-leeward and government mark courses also provides participants with different types of racing.

“You factor in broad reaching and tight reaching, which you don’t do in the windward-leeward format,” he said. “It also reduces the importance of precise crew work because there is more time to prepare for a maneuver. Sometimes that maneuver may only involve easing off 10 degrees.”

Cedric Lewis, co-owner of the J/105 Mirage, welcomed the addition of a distance race for both the AYC Annual Regatta and Fall Series.

“I am glad they are bringing back the distance race. It gets pretty monotonous just going around the buoys all the time. The distance racing around government marks requires other skills (navigation and tactics) that don’t normally get used around the buoys,” Lewis said.

“You have to be able to change gears to adapt to conditions and current relative to the race course. I like the variety of courses. It is a true test of sailing skills where the better teams usually prevail.”

On the AYC 2019 Regatta Calendar, Notices of Race will be posted for each in the coming weeks with online registration open at that time.

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