A hard fought race in Gloucester

September 7, 2009

Pride II Motoring South in Cape Cod Bay
Wind South Southeast Force 1, Seas calm

The crew is sore and stiff after a hard fought Third Place finish at the Gloucester Schooner Race yesterday. Ahead of us were the Schooners American Eagle, sailed by Captain and owner John Foss to a record-setting 8thFirst Place finish, and our Chesapeake Bay rival, Virginia, under the command of Captain Andy Reay-Ellers, who finished Second.

Hard-fought hardly does justice to the contest. The course is designed to be a “round the buoys” affair, and this year the legs were only 2.5 nautical miles long. And the breeze was a generous 10-15 knots, gusting to 25. With that combination of short legs and high winds, the three vessels at the front of the pack were coming through stays every twenty minutes or so. Hard work on any large schooner, but exhaustive with Pride II’s rig, where nothing is self-tacking. If the contest were measured in caloric output rather than elapsed time, the crew of Pride II could have one by a factor of two to one.

Tiresome, but exhilarating! A bit bogged down at the start as we were still cracking on sail, Pride IImade huge gains on the first leg, charging along at 9. 5 knots with all sail, including the t’gallant and weather stuns’l set, marching through a fleet of vessels reefed down for the weather and closing to within 200′ of Virginia by the first mark. Then the arduous process of tacking. Haul the braces sharp, sharper, sharper to close-hauled. Sweat in the heads’l sheets. Quick to the Fores’l, get it across and trimmed. When we were back up to speed, Virginia and America Eagle were far out in front again.

Every leg the crew, led by the Mates Michael Fiorentino and Matt Oates, kept constantly at the trim. And every leg we would close with the competition, but agonizingly watch their simpler rigs come through stays and accelerate away, leaving us to close the gap again. By the second to last mark, Pride II was close enough that when Virginiatacked to Port to round the mark, we had maneuver smartly to avoid putting our head rig through their mains’l at 8.5 knots. The 31 passengers gasped at the close quarters, but the crew kept their professional cool as we passed our jibboom 4′ astern of their mainboom.

Technically, this was a foul. Virginia stood on past the mark and tacked directly in front of us. A protest could have been filed, resulting in Virginia being disqualified or having to make an exonerating maneuver, but to what end? Possibly, Pride II would move ahead in the standings, but the camaraderie of the Gloucester Race, and between the two vessels, would have taken a big step backwards. Not a good trade off.

But the crew can be proud of the way they sailed, working smoothly and incessantly through all 15 nautical miles of course, all to the approval and amazement of the passengers who signed on for an adventure and got first row seats for some mighty fine sailing!

Signed,
Jamie Trost, Captain aboard Pride of Baltimore II


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