Saturday night’s prizegiving party at the Eastport Democratic Club heralded a fun-filled ending to a fantastic rally. But first, the fleet had to get there!
Despite a grim forecast, the weather gods held off – kind of – during Leg 3 of this year’s DelMarVa rally. There was wind and rain on Saturday as the last boats headed down the Bay after having stopped for the night at Chesapeake City in the C&D Canal, but at least it was from the right direction. And there was no lightning!
“Oh yeah we sailed!” exclaimed Jay from the Valiant 42 ‘Breezy’ after hitting the dock at Port Annapolis Marina and officially completing their DelMarVa loop. “We had one reef in the mainsail and the staysail up, and managed to make it down through the Bay Bridge in one tack from the canal. We sailed in nearly 30 knots apparent wind for over 3 hours. The boat loved it!”
Jay was soaked but grinning, still wearing his bib foulie pants while taking a breather in the pavilion at Port A and checking in with friends and family ashore. For ‘Breezy’ and the other handful of yachts that spent the night on the canal, the last leg was challenging, but after getting their sea legs offshore, it was also confidence inspiring.
“We pushed the boat hard coming down the Bay this morning,” said Charles from the Prout 38 catamaran ‘Rebekah May.’ “Mike Meer [head rigger at Port A] is going to pull the mast this week and re-rig the boat in preparation for the Caribbean 1500,” Charles continued, “so we figured we might as well break something now if ever!” he joked. They didn’t of course, and themselves sailed the length of the Bay in true ‘schooner weather,’ with full foulies and cloudy, low skies.
The fleet on Leg 3 was divided. With good weather on Legs 1 and 2, the rally was on schedule this year, something we couldn’t say of the past two years when storms and headwinds delayed the fleet right off the bat in Portsmouth after or during Leg 1. But in 2015, we arrived into Cape May on time, and had an ‘off’ day to give the fleet some breathing room and some options.
Eight boats decided to depart on Thursday from Cape May and enjoy a more leisurely cruise back to Annapolis over the following three days, avoiding another overnight passage in heavy shipping lanes. The rest of the fleet elected to stay in Cape May and enjoyed the classic American seaside town.
“I basically went bar hopping in Cape May!” said Graham, crewmember aboard ‘Tristan B,’ the big Southerly 57. “Being from Canada, you don’t really think a place like this truly exists,” he said of the quintessential New Jersey beach town. “I sat down next to a guy at the bar, and he actually looked over at me and said, in that thick New Jersey accent, ‘How you doin’! I loved it!”
Thursday evening, the crews got back together at the Lobster House, a Cape May establishment, who rolled out the red carpet for the sailors and opened up their private upstairs dining room for a high-end happy hour, complete with crab claws, lobster ‘sliders’ and bacon-wrapped scallops. The room overlooked the yacht basin marina and the old-timey marine railway, and the staff was dressed in classy ‘yachtie’ style, making for a fun-filled atmosphere. The restaurant even maintains a floating bar dockside on the schooner ‘American’, and a working fish market next door.
One boat, the Catalina 30 ‘Endeavor’ skippered by Aaron, joined the party at the Lobster House but didn’t make the start of Leg 3.
“Well,” said Aaron, “I’ve technically already completed the loop! I’m on my way back to Long Island Sound anyway, so I figured I’d just keep the boat here in Cape May and wait for good weather to sail home.”
Aaron and ‘Endeavor’ had sailed down from Connecticut a week before the rally start, stopping off in Cape May and even berthing at the Canyon Club Marina. So in reality, on his arrival back in Cape May with the DelMarVa fleet, he was in fact the first boat to make the circumnavigation of the peninsula. The rest of the fleet wished him fair winds at the evening happy hour at the Lobster House before departing early Friday morning for the final jaunt back to Annapolis.
The boats that sailed nonstop through the night on Leg 3 were in for a treat. The wind was flat calm, so it was a motorboat ride up the Delaware Bay. What started as a grey, rainy morning morphed into a sun-splashed afternoon and a moonlit night. Upon exiting the C&D Canal on the Chesapeake Bay side, the wind started filling in from the south, and slowly began backing around to the southeast. By dinnertime, most boats were sailing again, and despite the very narrow channels in that part of the Upper Bay, the fleet could lay the course as the wind shifted in their favor.
“You guys were right on our heels all night!” said Kristin of the Swan 391 ‘Upward Wing.’ We on ‘Isbjorn’, a Swan 48 and a big sister ship to ‘Upward Wing’ were indeed trying to catch the smaller boat as we sailed fast down the Bay, but never managed it. We raced past ‘Second Wind’, a Hunter 38, and finally passed the Beneteau 45 ‘Callinectes’ in the moonlight, but ran out of water before we could catch ‘Upward Wing.’
“We tucked into back creek under full canvas and dropped sails approaching our slip,” continued Kristin, proud of holding us off in the night. “Started the iron genny in time to just back in stern-to. From the Canal to tied up in our spot, one tack and no forward gear. Righteous!”
For their efforts that night, and for sailing the entire rally double-handed (and without an autopilot), ‘Upward Wing’ deservedly was recognized at last evenings prizegiving and received the ‘Sailor’s Award’ for 2015.
The prizegiving kicked off at 6pm last night at the Eastport Democratic Club, and despite the awful weather all but one boat joined in on the fun. By then it was raining cats and dogs, and anyone who had thought of arriving by dinghy, quickly changed their minds and took a taxi instead. ‘Resolute’ and her crew had to be back in Pennsylvania, but sent their greetings to the rest of the fleet.
The stories flowed last night almost as quickly as the beer, wine and dark & stormies from the well-stocked bar.
“I love this kind of thing!” exclaimed Fred from ‘Asolare.’ “We race a lot, but you never get to discuss strategy and sea stories so much in that crowd like you do here. This is just great getting to hear about everyone else’s stories and how they handled things at sea.”
A lot of the talk of course centered on the nasty frontal passage and heavy thunderstorms the fleet encounter on the offshore leg up to Cape May. Despite some anxiety in the moment, every boat to a person came away with a positive experience and nobody suffered any major damage to boats or crew.
“The DelMarVa is about introducing you to new experiences on your boats and inspiring you to go further afield than you have in the past,” said rally manager Andy Schell, who alongside his wife Mia Karlsson, hosted last night’s prizegiving. “We never would have sent you out in that weather if we’d known what was going to happen,” he continued, “but in reality, if you want to go ocean sailing, at some point you’ll need to have that experience and see how you can handle it. And we’re very proud of all of you for handling it so well.”
Instead of scaring folks away, the feeling at the prizegiving last night was the opposite, that overcoming a tense situation in fact emboldened crews even more to want to keep stretching their wings, so to speak, and go further afield in their boats.
“Would we have done this loop by ourselves? Maybe.” said Peter from ‘Upward Wing.’ “But no way would we have done it this year, and no way we’d have done it nonstop. Those three legs were the best three days of sailing we’ve ever had, and we’re already thinking of moving up our plans to join the Caribbean 1500 to sooner than we’d thought.”
Though it’s a non-competitive event, awards were given anyway last night, in categories like ‘Best Dressed,’ ‘Sailor’s Award,’ ‘Overcoming Adversity,’ and the Weems & Plath ‘Navigator’s Award,’ for best-kept logbook. The prize presentation was a mix of storytelling and recognition, and raucous applause erupted as crews were brought up to the front to receive their token gifts.
Despite having 8pm set as the closing time for the event, crews lingered in the Democratic Club until nearly 10, and it felt like folks were sad to see the event come to a close. Alas, all good things have to end, but we’ll surely see the sailors down the line and hopefully on the water. Until next year!
Complete List of Prizes & Recognition
Prize: Boat/Crew Name: Award
In Abstentia: Endeavor & Resolute: Big Thanks!
Isbjorn Crew: Thanks to Dennis Schell, Rodney Carroll, Darlene & Tom Herrington: Isbjorn Crew Shirts
Starting Line Honors: Breezy: Mention
Best At-Sea Celebration: Breezy: Annapolis Chart Coasters
Best Dressed: Discovery: Skipjack Bottle Opener
Sailors Award: Upward Wing: Skipjack Bottle Opener
Chef Award: Two Fish: Fawcett Mugs
Overcoming Adversity: Day Dreamer, Margalo, Son of Somerled: ‘Advanced Bluewater Sailing’ Book
Kids Awards: Ian on Sea Dreams; Belinda, Camille & Fitz on Callinectes; Van, Siroon, Noone & Mane on Margalo: Beach toys
Best Bruise: Son of Somerled: Med Kit
Weems & Plath Navigators Award: Second Wind: Deluxe Engraved Plotting Toolkit