Shooting for Records in Annapolis to Newport

Published on June 8th, 2019

(June 8, 2019) – Prospector blasted off the starting line while being powered by a fractional asymmetrical spinnaker and staysail configuration. Part-owner Marty Roesch was at the helm as the Mills 68-footer rapidly pulled away from the rest of the 23-boat fleet that started the 2019 Annapolis-to-Newport Race (A2N) this morning.

Prospector, owned by a syndicate known as Shelter Island Transatlantic Partners, was passing Poplar Island just over a half hour after starting. Larry Landry, one of four owners, was hopeful of exiting the Chesapeake Bay by around 8 p.m. this evening.

“This boat really has some giddy-up to her,” said Landry, noting the Mills 68 has reached speeds of 25 knots downwind. Indeed, Prospector was rocketing along at approximately 17 knots on a tight reach on Saturday and was soon out of sight of the large spectator fleet that gathered for the second Annapolis-to-Newport Race start.

Conditions were similar to those that propelled yesterday’s starters down the bay – 10 to 14 knots out of the east-northeast with gusts in the upper teens.

Shelter Island Transatlantic Partners initially got involved with grand prix offshore racing with the original Prospector, a Farr 60 built by Carroll Marine. That boat was formerly known as Carrera and set the Annapolis-to-Newport Race record in 2001. Annapolis professional Chris Larson skippered as Carrera completed the 475-nautical mile course in 42 hours, 58 minutes and 12 seconds.

That course record stood for 15 years until it was finally broken during the 2017 edition of Annapolis-to-Newport. Warrior, a Volvo 70 skippered by Stephen Murray Jr., completed the passage in 40 hours, 14 minutes and 36 seconds.

Prospector’s four owners, which include Paul McDowell and Dr. David Siwicki in addition to Landry and Roesch, are hopeful of bettering Warrior’s mark. “This boat is most certainly capable of breaking the record,” Landry said on Friday night. “I think the forecast might put us in position to do so.”

Weather Routing Incorporated, which is providing daily forecasts for A2N, shows today’s starters enjoying running and reaching conditions well into tomorrow morning. Long-range forecasts call for the wind to shift east then east-southeast, which would produce downwind conditions in the Atlantic Ocean as well.

“It appears to be a very favorable forecast, but you just never what the wind conditions will actually be,” said McDowell, adding that it sets up as “a rather unusual Annapolis-to-Newport in terms of sailing angles.”

Landry and McDowell agreed it’s imperative that Prospector be able to head toward Newport upon entering the Atlantic Ocean. If the predicted easterly wind shift does not come through, the Mills 68 might have to head offshore for many hours in order to improve its sailing angle.

“This race is going to hinge on when we get into the ocean and what we find out there. The timing of that shift in the ocean will be crucial,” Landry said. “We need to be able to turn left and go northeast in the ocean. So that right-hand shift is a critical variable for us.”

Prospector is doing A2N with a primarily amateur crew with the four owners holding important roles. Landry is the tactician while McDowell and Roesch are aboard watch captains. Dr. Siwicki, one of the three original owners along with Landry and McDowell, works the pit.

Roesch, an Annapolis resident who owns the J/111 Velocity, recently joined the partnership and is one of the primary helmsmen along with McDowell. Artie Means (navigator), Henry Little (runners), Dave Scott (main trimmer), Stuart MacNeil (headsail trimmer) and Quinn Tobin (pit) are the professionals onboard.

“This is a very good all-around boat that performs well in all points of sail,” McDowell said. “It is very well-built and sails very nicely whether going upwind or downwind.”

Today’s start featured entries in ORC 1A and 1B, PHRF 1 and ORR 1. Rikki, a Reichel-Pugh 42 owned by Boston resident Bruce Chafee, quickly established itself as the second-fastest boat behind Prospector.

A group of five Farr 40-footers campaigned by Oakcliff Sailing and the Naval Academy Varsity Offshore Sailing Team raced in close quarters – separated by just a few hundred yards.

Oakcliff, based in Oyster Bay, New York, is a high-performance training center for young sailors who have progressed beyond traditional training methods. Oakcliff has three Farr 40s (Black, Blue and Red) competing in the 37th biennial Annapolis-to-Newport Race.

Meanwhile, Navy has entered its two Farr 40s, Ranger and Zephyr, with crews consisting entirely of midshipmen. Hayden Kuzemchak is skippering Ranger while fellow rising senior Zack Bauer is skippering Zephyr.

“Of course, the number one goal is to win the race. However, we also want to improve our sailing skills and gain valuable offshore experience,” Kuzemchak said. “If we can accomplish both of those goals the Ranger crew is going to be very satisfied.”

Bauer said the Navy teams want to beat each other, first and foremost. However, both Ranger and Zephyr are determined to finish in front of all three Oakcliff entries.

“It’s definitely super-competitive between the two Navy crews and bragging rights are really at stake in this race because of how challenging it is,” Bauer said. “We’re looking to stay safe, be competitive within our class and definitely take it to Oakcliff.”

Jim Praley, chairman of the Annapolis-to-Newport Race, participated in the Saturday start aboard the family-owned J/120 named Shinnecock. Jimmy Praley held the title of skipper and steered at the start while his father and namesake is serving as navigator.

“We feel like we have a really robust fleet this year with a good mix of veteran competitors and newcomers to Annapolis-to-Newport,” Jim Praley said. “I think it’s going to be a great race with excellent conditions and a lot of people are going to walk away happy.”

Praley, who just completed his second and last term as A2N chairman, was pleased to have 19 boats competing under the ORC rating rule that is being offered for the first time in A2N. Most of the 12 entries racing under the ORR rule are racer-cruiser designs.

Host Annapolis Yacht Club devotes considerable resources during the two-year buildup to Annapolis-to-Newport and the Friday-Saturday starters were the culmination of many volunteer hours. Praley singled out Linda Ambrose, Regatta Manager for AYC, for special praise.

“Linda is absolutely fabulous. You could not possibly pull off an event of this magnitude without someone like Linda, who is a true professional and so dedicated,” Praley said. “I cannot even imagine how many hours she puts into this race. I don’t know Linda’s husband very well, but he must be the most tolerant man in the world.”

“I think it’s a real plus on a lot of levels to have all the boats at the same location; There’s a lot of camaraderie on the docks of the Newport Yachting Center as the sailors tell sea stories and either celebrate or commiserate as the case may be,” Praley said.

Note: Prospector has retired. Vessel reported dismasting to Race Office at 0313 on June 9, all crew are fine and they are motoring towards Norfolk, VA. USCG Hampton Roads is monitoring the situation. Update from the A2N Race Office: “As of this moment (1032, June 9) we’ve had 7 boats retire from the race. Lumpy conditions didn’t help those with sensitive stomachs so most turned around due to seasickness, some due to mechanical failure and Prospector lost their rig early this morning due to gear failure but everyone is safe and no injuries reported. We have spoken to all the boats and can’t thank USCG Sector Hampton Roads enough for the countless hours they’ve spent to date helping to contact boats and communicate to the Race Office.”

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Source: Bill Wagner

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