Fleet 50 Sailors Win 31st Annual Doc Gilbert Potomac Cup!!!

Congratulations to Frank Gallagher (sailing with Will Summers and Brian Lawrence) for winning the 31st Annual Doc Gilbert Potomac Cup Regatta!  This is the first time that both the Potomac Cup (for the overall regatta winner) and the Doc Gilbert Memorial Trophy (for top Fleet 50 finisher) have come back to Fleet 50 for some time!  It was a challenging weekend, with very light and variable breezes.  We did manage to complete three races, though, thanks to the diligent and persistent work of PRO Bruce Bingman and a very busy RC crew.  Beyond the RC, it was a true team effort to organize the regatta, as always, so make sure to thank a Fleet 50 member when you see them for the work that they did in organizing supplies, cooking, transporting things, or other behind-the-scenes work.  We couldn’t have done it without you, so many, many thanks!

Now, to the results and the racing details!  We were thrilled to have 20 boats at the regatta this year!  Thanks to the generous sponsorship from APS we were able to recognize a few individuals and teams beyond the racing awards for top 5 finishes.  Those special awards were as follows:

  • Most Improved (vis-a-vis 2014): Jim Dillard, beating 8 more boats this year than he did last year.  Great job!
  • Youngest Sailor: Ed Lane.  I understand Ed will be attending Christopher Newport University in the fall, so hopefully his APS gift certificate will help him upgrade some gear as he joins the team there!
  • Farthest Distance Traveled: Bill Mauk & crew (coming from FL and NJ, among other places) — it was great to have you join us for the regatta!
  • Top Female Skipper: Lisa-Marie Lane.  Way to go!!!
  • The “just out of the money” award (for 6th place): Jamie Brickell

Full regatta results can be found here and you can keep reading for a more detailed description of the on-the-water action!
Although we had beautiful sunshine and clear skies for the regatta weekend, we were  lacking a bit in the wind department.  PRO Bruce Bingman quipped at the competitors’ meeting on Saturday morning, “we wish we could average the wind from last year and this year!”  as he recalled the last race in 2014 as a squall came through that left 5 boats upside down in the river and lost of sailor soggy, but thankfully unharmed.  This year would prove to be much different!

We all headed out to the course on Saturday morning in a very light breeze with hopes that it would build to something more steady.  The weak weather system was trying to generate a light northerly breeze, but that was fighting the prevailing southerly in the area…so we were left with drifting conditions.  The RC postponed on the water for an hour or so, and then sent us off on a race as soon as a bit of N/NE breeze came in and held for a bit.  That breeze was fickle, though, and it had already petered out by the time most boats reached the windward mark.  We struggled back downwind and the RC shortened course to finish us at the gate.

I was sailing with John Van Voorhis on Shamrock (together with veteran crew Chandler Owen) and we all knew the benefit of finding clear air in these light conditions.  We were actually about 7 seconds late to the line at the start, but we were at the favored boat end and we were to windward of the pack such that we were able to keep clear air and momentum up to the windward mark and around it.  Downwind we did our best to keep the chute filled, but we also found that leading the pack comes with its own challenges…we were the first boat to jibe and the pack followed.  We were perhaps a bit early, such that we got blanketed a bit when we jibed back and lost the lead to finish a few boats back.  All the same, not a bad showing for the first time that Shamrock had left Washington Sailing Marina to sail in a traveling regatta!

Over the course of the weekend the same lessons — find clear air, and be mindful of the current — would prove to be very important.  We saw boats pushed into marks, boats unable to round marks, and we even experienced the anguish of miscalculation ourselves as we jibed into the finish of race 2 too late and, as a result, got pushed into the finish pin.  A 2nd place finish turned into a 6th place finish once we doused, cleared ourselves, did the turn, and refinished–ouch!  That 2nd race saw a slightly more steady breeze from the south, so getting to the shore (west) side going upwind to get out of the current was important just as getting a bit out into the river to catch the incoming tide on the downwind leg seemed important.

After those 2 light wind races on Saturday the RC sent us to shore so that we could enjoy some nice cold beer from Yuengling and a wonderful steak and fish BBQ put together by Lindsay Bach, our Fleet 50 chef extraordinaire, and his team of helpers.  We might not have had a lot of wind, but nobody left hungry or thirsty that night!  Even better, the spontaneous potluck breakfast that happened the next morning was equally amazing.  I emerged from my tent at 7am to find a full row of 4 picnic tables lined with camp stoves as various teams prepared bacon, eggs, pancakes, steak & eggs (using the BBQ leftovers) and other delicacies.  The camping and cookout aspect of this regatta is a wonderful thing…especially when we have no wind!

It was a good thing that we all had such a great breakfast Sunday morning since we would need that energy to combat the beating sun as we waited for the wind to fill on Sunday afternoon!  Unfortunately the same weather pattern had us in its grip on Sunday, such that many boats spent upwards of an hour trying to drift out to the race course.  Once we all made it there we were under anchor for a while while we sunbathed and, in some cases, went for a quick swim.

Eventually some bands of breeze did start to fill in from the E/ESE and the RC swung into action to set a course and get us off on a race.  The current was running out pretty hard on Sunday afternoon and, as we found out on the first start, it wasn’t just running due south.  It seemed to scoop in and then back out of the bay we were in, such that it pushed boats over the starting line (towards the east) a bit.  The first attempt at a start resulted in a general recall, but we were quickly into a starting sequence once again.  The boat end was favored at the start, but with the boat at the south end of the line and the current running out hard we opted for a pin end start for clear-ish air and for more ground to make our way across the current.  Everybody went partially sideways as we crabbed our way to the east in light breeze, crossing a southbound tide & current in the process.  In general boats that went left and fought the current first in order to then tack and come into the windward mark on port with the current fared better…but there were no guarantees in the light air conditions!  On Shamrock we did fairly well on the first beat, held our ground on the run, and — most importantly — found clear air on the second beat by taking the less-favored gate mark in order to avoid a pile of boats.  That move allowed us to pass a number of boats and finish 5th…just behind the Hurbans who sailed an excellent race and, with that point, managed to stay just ahead of us in the final standings (great job to Gary & Joan, sailing with Lindsay Esson!).

With a bit of breeze still hanging around the RC made a valiant attempt at getting us a 2nd race on Sunday.  Unfortunataly the breeze died as the fleet was very spread out (with some boats approaching the leeward gate while other boats were drifting downriver, unable to reach the windward mark) so they wisely abandoned the race and sent us to shore to enjoy some more cold beer and great food during the awards ceremony.

Once again, thank you to all the boats that traveled to the 31st Annual Doc Gilbert Potomac Cup Regatta and to all the volunteers who helped to make the regatta a success!

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