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Even before the start, the Sippy Cup racers were challenged by Mother Nature to overcome debris from flooding and heavy localized thunderstorms.  Ultimately, the desire to go sailing won out.  While sailing our Columbia 31 Grace around the Bay earlier in the week, we noted that the quantity of debris wasn't a concern, but unseen, a few massive logs could pose a serious threat.  We were waiting for reports from racers sailing down to Annapolis on Thursday to make a call, but on Wednesday received news that the Governor's Cup had been cancelled.  To reduce the risks of our racers encountering unseen logs, we made the decision to move the race start to just before dawn on Saturday, off Rock Hall.   

Shortly before 5am on the morning of August 4th, intermingled with those of deadrises and fishing boats, the running lights of 14 sailboats could be seen venturing out of Swan Creek and Rock Hall Harbor.  Rendezvous was at 5:30am near the southern tip of Swan Point Bar, and we were all motoring into a SW 15-20 knot breeze and 2-3’ chop.  On Grace, Suzanne squatted on the bow, spot-lighting for crab floats and debris – it was a wet, wild ride, made easier by being in good company.  We knew we were approaching the Catalina 27 Child of the Wind when we heard the barking of Etta James, the boat’s Jack Russell.  With the conditions, it took longer than expected to get on-site, so Suzanne made announcements as Dobbs motored us toward the start between green “3” and red “4” of the Swan Point shipping channel.  We ended up postponing the starts until 6:20 and 6:35 in order to get everyone there.  Even with dark clouds, gusty squalls, and light rain, the racers looked enthusiastic and ready for a great sail.  We managed two good starts, and the race was on!  The wind direction, speed, and flood tide combined to make the trip up the Bay a reaching drag race of constant trimming for best speed. 

It’s fun sailing amongst similarly-rated boats crewed by sailors who are competitive and also easy-going.  The day turned out to offer amazing sky and light conditions for photographs, including both the rich purple-blue of passing squalls and brilliant sunlight reflecting white clouds and sails.  

All boats stayed relatively close together throughout the race, which started on a port tack beam reach, became a broad reach, and 28 miles later finished close-hauled as the wind veered.  Through binoculars, we watched as the Big Gulp fleet finished, a few miles ahead at red “2” of the North East River, just north of Turkey Point.  It was an exciting close finish without correcting for handicaps, and even more exciting to score later.  While the Cal 39 Allegra finished 20 minutes ahead of the rest of the fleet, she had to give most of them 20-22 minutes in corrected time.  This put Hances Point Yacht Club’s own Ariel II, sailed by John Diffley and crew, 4 minutes ahead and winners of the Big Gulp trophy.  (Photo credits of the finish - Joe Volpe) 

Grace led the Sippy Cup fleet with Long-Winded, Winsome, and Juan Fine Day right on our heels.  Over time, the 21’ San Juan fell astern, though doing very well for herself – she’s the smallest boat to have ever raced in the Sippy Cup.  Long-Winded was the surprise – with a crew new to racing, they stuck to us like glue for the entire race, ultimately finishing 5 minutes behind on corrected time.  Winsome finished 6 minutes after them, and then the rest of the fleet crossed the line over the next hour.  Long-Winded and Buff-A-Duck had a side bet going that the loser would wash the winner’s boat, decked out in a Goodwill dress of the winner’s choice.  We hope there will be photos!

Racing complete, the racers retired to Hances Point Yacht Club for camaraderie, dinner, and music.  Dobbs used the club’s pontoon launch to ferry sailors in the mooring field, anchorage, and nearby marinas to and from shore throughout the evening.  The club’s power mysteriously went out at 5pm, so the party happened in daylight and then candlelight.  HPYC’s dedicated volunteers went straight to work setting up boat generators to keep water flowing to the amenities and power to the band’s equipment.  Somehow, even the porch lights were included.  The food was delicious, the music a perfect complement to the setting sun, and we saw smiles all around.  Magical events like this don’t happen on their own – it takes the racers who come out to play, the organizers and volunteers who support them, and the community who celebrates their success.  We are grateful to have had all of these for the last 10 years.  (Photo credits of the party - Carrie Gordon)

Big Gulp

1  Ariel II, Pearson 30, J. Diffley

2  L’Esprit Libre, Lippincott 30, R. Hill

3  Allegra, Cal 39, B. Mastropieri

4  Solstice, Islander 36, C. Mazza

5  Il Mio Sogno, Beneteau OC 323, W. Brown

6 Alibi, Beneteau 31, B. Cantarera

Sippy Cup

1  Grace, Columbia 31, R. Fryberger

2  Long-Winded, Catalina 25, J. Long

3  Winsome, Columbia 31, E. Wommack

4  Child of the Wind, Catalina 27, B. Sloan

5  Juan Fine Day, San Juan 21, P. Harsh

6  Southern Cross, Precision 23, P. Weihermuller