The Annapolis to Newport (A2N) race is a challenging, salty, 475-mile race. Sailboats must traverse approximately 125 miles of the Chesapeake Bay, and then sail offshore from Chesapeake Light to Newport. With 82 competitors in eight classes, 2021 was the 38th running of the race, which was officially established in 1947 on a continuing basis to alternate with Newport-Bermuda Race years.
This year, A2N started on Friday, June 6, with faster boats starting on Saturday, June 7. Most boats arrived at the finish line off Castle Hill Lighthouse between Sunday and Tuesday. Those not sailing were able to follow the race on the Yellowbrick race tracker app. Competitors were able to follow other racers using apps that track automatic information systems (AIS), which broadcast such things as position and speed. In 2021, for the first time, there were three Round Bay Sailing Association (RBSA) boats that entered and finished A2N.
Skipper Mark Lister of Winsome Ride, a Bavaria Cruiser 46, took first in its class of eight boats in the PHRF Classic. Winsome Ride also took first to finish in class out of the Chesapeake Bay. Lister attributed success to good preparation, teamwork and some strategic decisions. According to Lister, the Chesapeake Bay was “more of a struggle, winds were light. At one point the wind was at 60 degrees and we put up the spinnaker. That helped us catch up” to others in the class. The ocean portion of the race was “completely different” from the bay, according to Lister. The ocean yielded “good conditions; seas were calm and there was steady wind. We trimmed all night and didn’t just set the spinnaker and go.” The win is especially notable given this was Winsome Ride’s first ocean race. Lister and his son, Kevin, prepared for over a year to ensure proper sails and equipment, and to learn weather and route optimization software.
A L’Assaut, a Dufour 40 in ORC5 class, didn’t have a podium finish but had an “awesome race” according to skipper Kurt Cerny. Cerny said that the weather couldn’t have been better – “scalding hot on the bay and cold on the ocean.” The bay portion of the race was frustrating; Cerny went left and the wind died. The boat floated for about four hours and had to anchor for about an hour (to avoid being pushed back by foul current). Cerny and crew watched as about seven boats caught up with them. Despite the bay vexation, the ocean portion was “perfect,” according to Cerny, with two and a half days of spinnaker flying. Captain and crew saw a lot of wildlife (a pod of dolphins stayed with the boat for a bit). Unfortunately, they also saw many mylar balloons. This was the first offshore race for A L’Assaut, and it proved to be a great experience and a good setup for future blue water races.
The third RBSA boat that sailed in the A2N race was Himmel, a Dehler 39, skippered by Don Snelgrove. Himmel also did not have a podium finish in its class, ORC 4, but given the old adage, “If there are two sailboats sailing, there is a race,” Himmel had line honors over the other two RBSA boats (finished first without handicaps taken into account). Snelgrove commented that the Chesapeake Bay is “always challenging with fluky winds and lots of boat traffic. Your decisions about whether to go left or right can make or break your entire race.”
The ocean breeze was “pretty consistent, almost dead downwind, so there were many gybes,” he added. “We were able to download a weather update every six hours and used that to make our decisions.” According to Snelgrove, the boat held up extremely well and the crew had good chemistry, given well-chosen assignments for positions of watch captain, tactician, foredeck and trimmer. All except one sailor on Himmel had offshore experience, but Greg, the new-to-blue-water sailor, proved more than capable as bowman. Given the ocean portion with 48 hours of spinnaker flying, the bow position was important! Himmel’s race in 2021 was different than the 2019 race given that the ocean portion in 2019 was 20 knots on the bow, not 15 knots from behind, so this race was a bit easier than the last one.
Despite or because of the challenges, the three RBSA skippers are interested in giving this another go the next time the race is run. There is a countdown clock on the A2N website. See www.annapolisnewportrace.com.