The Annapolis to Newport Race
The Annapolis-to-Newport race began in 1947, and has alternated each year with the Newport-Bermuda race. The race was run in various forms in earlier years, as far back as 1871. There were races from New London, CT to Gibson Island in the '20s and '30s, and a race in 1941 from New London to Hampton, VA. At that time, a Newport-to-Annapolis race was being promoted, but the Second World War put that thought on hold for a few years. The race was officially established in 1947, but until the mid-'50s it was the Newport-to-Annapolis race. There were many complaints from competitors about having to trudge slowly up the Chesapeake after a long race on the ocean, so the course was reversed.
The course runs south from Annapolis to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, east to the Chesapeake Light, and then northeast to Newport. Part of a boat's strategy will be to determine how to sail the last leg - close to shore, along the rhumb line to Newport (the rhumb line would be the course that follows a straight path, with one compass heading), or farther out to sea to catch better winds.
Thirty-six boats competed in 1947, and the water was smooth and the winds were light. In 1947, nylon sails were state-of-the-art technology, and the canvas duck normally used had been scarce during the war, so most boats boasted brand new sails for the trip. Also fairly new at that time were stainless steel rigging, and masthead rigs. Many boats sported inflatable rafts, once used only by the military, instead of wooden dinghies. Loran and radar were also becoming common at the time, but were forbidden during the race. In contrast, all boats in this year's race will carry GPS transponders which will transmit position, speed, fleet and class positions during the entire length of the course. This data will be accessible online at www.annapolisyc.org/newport05.
Today, just as in 1947, the race is handicapped to allow for differences in size, design and performance of the various boats. Many methods have been used over the years, and today the race has adopted the IRC rule, which was created six years ago by two offshore racing clubs in Europe. The adoption of the IRC rule simplifies measurements and prevents boats from becoming obsolete. The race will also use PHRF handicaps for boats that do not have an IRC rating. A boat will sail under only one of these handicap rules, and the results will be listed by IRC Fleet and PRHF Fleet. Because of these handicaps, the first boat to cross the finish line is not necessarily the winner. In 2003, the first-to-finish was the Donnybrook, which came in with a time of 75 hours, 48 minutes, a particularly slow time for a modern-day race. But the Y2K, which crossed the line 15 minutes later, won on corrected time from its PRHF rating. Also, classes with six or more entries will be able to use One-Design scoring.
Offshore racing has always been and continues to be an exhilarating, demanding, unpredictable and sometimes dangerous sport. In the last Annapolis-to-Newport race, in 2003, numerous intense storms hit the fleet, and the Donnybrook's mast was hit by lightning, knocking out most electrical systems onboard. Another storm kicked up six-foot waves, and one crew member broke a rib as the boat slammed into a particularly hard wave. Later in that same race, the Donnybrook was becalmed for nearly 12 hours, and even pushed backwards for nearly two miles by a strong current.
This year marks the 58th Annapolis to Newport race, and the fleet will set sail on June 10.
For more information, visit the Annapolis Yacht club web site at www.annapolisyc.org, where you can sign up for email updates about the race.