On Racing to Save the Bay

October 15, 2012

PRIDE went racing again in the annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race.

The crew did really well and helped bring PRIDE to her 2nd in Class AA finish, in race weather that favored the slim, light weight yacht designs, and truly hindered the heavy workboat designs.

Still, the two longest boats in this year’s fleet, with PRIDE being the heaviest, and the other some 40 displacement tons lighter and four whole feet narrower (VIRGINIA), managed to finish quite respectably closely behind the slim, light weight, fast designs of Class A.

Where are the bragging rights in the above outcome? I hesitate to say, for PRIDE it is again besting VIRGINIA, a significantly faster design than PRIDE. PRIDE and VIRGINIA are good friends with a lot of respect for each other. But sport is sport, and sail boat races are sport. So bragging is acceptable (within a respectful framework, of course.)

For VIRGINIA, I would venture to say that bragging rights include being so close to the Class A finishers. All of Class A are designs that are no earlier (older) than the early 1900’s , are moderate sized and built only for recreation (not for working with fish or cargo or pilot boat “on station” in any weather work. ) All of Class AA are workboat designs, reproductions or “spirit of” concepts of the 1800’s. They are heavier than a Class A of the same length. The larger vessels of Class AA are even heavier with their extra length.

So what is it like flogging a sailing boat against the wind down the Chesapeake Bay? For everyone it requires a lot of tacking. I am told VIRGINIA tacked 27 times. But she only had her three headsail jibs to tack and her fisherman sail to strike to the deck and reset on the other side. Her foresail is self tacking. PRIDE’s crew must tack all three headsails, like VIRGINIA, but also brace around the yards (this is the crew breaker!) and tack the loose footed foresail. The yards aboard PRIDE do not remain balanced in the center as they swing from side to side, they hit the shrouds and must be forced to continue to the needed upwind bracing angle, and the shift of the pivot point creates increasing resistance. The resistance requires up to five or six people grouped together to sweat the braces in on the lee side. If all hands are on deck, that leaves the remaining four to five crew members to tack the three jibs one at a time. If the wind is just a little bit stronger than light, we have to have all crew for the braces, jibs, and the foresail! So when is there time for sleep? Between tacks. Usually there is less than 15 minutes between tacks, but sometimes there is more than an hour. Two thirds of the crew are sent down to nap, while waiting to be called for the next tack.

Fortunately the wind shifted by dawn on Friday, and the third of the fleet that were near the half way point at the Potomac River got a chance to sail “free” of any tacking.  The crew could now get some real rest. The weather report suggested the following wind pattern would be quite fresh, but there was an error. Despite the forecast, the new wind did not come in for another six hours. The longer boats like PRIDE and VIRGINIA did not get a chance to take advantage of strong favorable breezes and use their long waterline lengths.  

Meanwhile the smaller Class B & C boats, and several of the shorter Class AA boats, were somewhat bound up near the start due to weak winds the first night. They did not get the new north winds until later the second day. When they did get it…it was a sleigh ride.

Everyone attended the after race party and award ceremony, where surprise, surprise, surprise, PRIDE was awarded the REBEL EDUCATIONAL TROPHY in recognition for her participation in the GCBSR Education Initiative, for her more than 20 years of representing the maritime story of the Chesapeake Bay, and for being a sort of “Train the Trainer” Program. So many crew come to PRIDE from other education afloat programs to get more sailing experience, then return to those same programs with a great deal of professional development under their belts from their time on PRIDE. Their “new” knowledge fits in so well aboard the educational program vessels they originally came from, and the net result is a stronger fleet filled with well-rounded sailors.

As our Ranger “solider” re-enactor friends of Fort McHenry might say…hazzah! PRIDE OF BALTIMORE!!!

Jan C. Miles, Captain
Acting Executive Director


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