Following the fun we had with our new at Dun Laoghaire Regatta we wanted to race Checkmate XVI in a one-design fleet, so took the decision to ship her to the United States where the class is developing quickly writes Nigel Biggs. With the help of our friends at Hyland Shipping, the boat was shipped to the port of Baltimore and then transported by road to Annapolis where she arrived safely at Bert Jabin’s Yacht Yard on the shores of the stunning Chesapeake Bay.
The guys and girls at Jabin’s were extremely helpful and Checkmate was soon rigged, afloat and awaiting the arrival of the crew which included young Irish sailors Cian Guilfoyle (recent All Ireland winner) and Adam Hyland together with Dublin resident Jimmy Houston and myself (Nigel Biggs) from the Royal Irish Yacht Club.
We arrived a day early, hoping to get some practice in before the racing began, only to find that most of the boats had the same idea so we had a full day of straight line tuning in a steady southerly breeze of around 10 knots, with a couple of short practice races thrown in at the end. It soon became apparent that the boats were extremely evenly matched and that results would be decided by good starts and going the right way, proper one-design racing.
The first race of the Annapolis Fall Regatta was to be 24 miles around the Chesapeake Bay, which included a scoring gate and a points weighting for the second part of the race. Just in case it wasn’t going to be tricky enough finding our way around, the course description referred to passing “through one of the 3 highest spans of the William Preston Lane Jr Memorial Bridge”. Try working out which of the 20 or more spans are the highest from sea level. Add in 15 knots of breeze, lots of commercial ships (both moving and anchored) a downwind start and we felt we had a bit on but at least the sun was shining!
An average start saw us hoist the spinnaker and head off across Chesapeake Bay in cloud of spray, in hot pursuit of the leaders. With everyone struggling to lay the first mark spinnakers were dropped early and we rounded in 2nd . The next leg was an 8 mile beat, against the tide, under the bridge. Maintaining our position in the leading bunch things were looking good until quarter of a mile from the windward mark (and scoring gate) when we found our own little hole and watched the rest of the leading group sail around us, just as happens in Dublin Bay although this fact didn’t help us feel any better about it. We continued around the course in a gradually decreasing breeze, only managing to pick off one boat before the finish where we crossed 5th. A frustrating start but as we kept reminding ourselves, better than being at home in the rain.
The evening’s entertainment included a party launch trip around the bay (courtesy of one of the competing boats owners) which was enjoyed by all, followed by food at a local bar. After a few beers we had soon forgotten our disappointments of the race course and set about doing what we do best, making new friends.
Day 2 began with a shifty 10 knot northerly breeze and warm sunshine, tricky conditions for the 3 planned windward/leeward races. After our early (ish…) night we were keen to make up for the previous days results and started well with a 3rd in the first race of the day. Scoring 4,4 in the next 2 races we returned to the dock in 4th position overall, within reach of 3rd and reasonably satisfied with our days work. Conscious of the fact we were representing the Royal Irish, we considered it our duty to befriend more locals in our new favourite watering the hole, McGarveys Irish Bar, where we sank a few pints and failed miserably to follow the rules of the American Football match being shown on the TV screens. Being fellow athletes, we decided another early night was required, or maybe the time difference was having an effect.
The finally day dawned with more breeze, rain and a lumpy sea so we felt right at home! Unfortunately our early night didn’t seem to have the desired effect and we only managed 5,7 in the days two races, leaving us in 4th overall. On the long motor back to the boatyard the skies cleared and the sun came out, making de-rigging the boat far more pleasant that it would otherwise have been. We attended the prize-giving at the lovely Eastport Yacht Club and after a couple of beers with our new American friends (who’s names really do include Chuck, Randy and Clay) we took the short journey back to Baltimore airport for the return flight home.
We had a fantastic time in our first C&C 30 One-Design event, learnt a huge amount, made new friends (mainly) and are very much looking forward to the next event at Key West in January. Checkmate XVI is now packed up on her trailer ready for the 1200 mile road trip to get her there whilst we are all back at work struggling with jet lag.
I would like to thank everyone who sailed on the boat and all those who helped us along the way and made us feel so welcome, particular thanks going to Clay Deutsch and his team on Just A Friend together with all the staff at Jabin’s Yacht Yard and North Sails whose support was invaluable.