I had announced in advance that it was going to be a beautiful day for sailboat racing - but when the southerly came up to 18 ( It was predicted to be up to 35 in a few more hours) and the jibsheet broke ten minutes before the start, when I recognized how much of the spinnaker run up the river was actually going to be a reach (and I had brought only the runner) and neither of my crew had been near a Soling for three years (or more), I had my doubts.
But as we started under spinnaker I realized that the rest of the six-boat fleet (Mike Minton having failed to appear because of his mother´s illness) was having at least as much trouble as I. By the time we got to the bridge - there were only three boats in the race - Henry, down to leeward, in the lead, we second and Andy a few boats lengths back and to leeward. Tom Price had had to re-start, Bruce had dropped out with a broken outhaul and Eric was having spinnaker wraps. Although we opened up a little space on Andy and occasionally - in the now 20+ knot gusts - surged up on Henry, we could not catch him.
He stole a march on us as we approached Sherwood by hugging the western shore (I felt sure he was going to slam into the Sherwood Shoal, but he missed) and he had 75 yds on us as we entered Round Bay.
Half way across to the set mark, we jibed, he jibed and after we had gained a bit, we jibed back, he jibed and when we crossed his stern surged down his stern wave and took his wind. On the next leg which turned out to be a beat to the Long Point mark, he had trouble getting his jib up so we pulled away and tacked to be inside of the shift at Long Point. Andy followed our lead and took over second.
I had decided that if I couldn´t lay the end of the island, - and I couldn´t - I´d round counter-clockwise. Andy followed, lost a little going to close to the island´s blanket on its north side and we both met Tom Price and Henry coming around the Maynadier Creek mark - rounding clockwise!
We pulled away from Andy a bit as we got some gusts along the southern shore of the island and could see - as we cleared the island tip - Tom and Henry, still behind the island in relatively little wind - while we, holding offshore, were back into the 20 knot gusts.
As we surged down the run under spinnaker from the Long Point mark to the drifted-downwind orange cylinder, we opened up on Andy. And as we started up the long beat home, could see that we were moving away. We doubled our lead when he tried a long port tack across the Bay. (The wind is gradually shifting left, backing, from the Bay to the River, so in a southerly, it pays to hold left all the way down the Bay). Tom, who held left all the way into the eastern shore (dangerously close, I thought) gained a quarter mile and was ahead of Andy as they entered the river.
I had thought of easing the lowers and increasing the jibstay sag as we came out from rounding the island - but as we re-entered river and 25 knot gusts began to slam us - I was sure glad we had left everything trimmed for the gale. Several times we rounded up and then were blasted over til the gunwhale was in the water. For awhile I thought the boats astern were catching us, but after we passed Pines on Severn it became obvious that we were we pulling farther ahead and we won by almost five minutes.
Tom looked to be 75-100 yds ahead of Andy and Henry, an equal distance astern of Andy. Eric filled that most important position, last. Henry was awarded the Sam Merrick Trophy for "outstanding performance under spinnaker".
1. USA 839 - Stu Walker (his 32nd win), St John Martin, Stuart Martin
2. USA 788 - Tom Price, Murray Leigh -
3. USA 798 - Andy Dize, MarySophia Smith, Joe Hidalgo
4. USA 799 - Henry Thomas, Todd Johnson, John Miller
5. USA 828 - Eric Van Gieson - -
6. USA 852 - Bruce Breiding, Lloyd Sirci,