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Thomas Point Lighthouse Race - August 25, 2019

written by Andrew Dize  on  August 27  of  2019 and read by 108

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USA 828 Joe Van Gieson, Jeff Connolly and Mary Sophia Smith

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In Stuart Walker's final years of sailing, he instilled another institution on the Chesapeake Soling Fleet of creating a long distance race during the summer. Notwithstanding the 64 years of the Ice Bowl on New Year's Day (of which he won about 45 of them), he thought it would be novel to have us race 10 miles in the Chesapeake Bay summer heat in the dog days of August. Thomas Point Lighthouse is an iconic landmark in the upper Bay about 5 miles south of Severn Sailing. This year was the 4th running of the event. The prior races have been so-so in that as predictable for the Bay, winds were light to last year's non-existent velocity which required a tow home against the current. This years event however outshone them all with a wonderful and uncharacteristic 15-18 north-easterly breeze and 78 degrees. The course consists of starting at the SSA dock, honor Tolly Point shoal marker, round Thomas Point Light either way, honor the shoal marker returning, and finish at the SSA dock.

The start had each competitor trying to game an advantage to be on the long fetch to Tolly Point. Once the gun went off, Andy Dize USA 798 had an early lead in the harbor but had to take a short hitch to clear the Horn Point shoal marker. However, Howard Vickery USA 835 caught a favorable lift and was able to head up enough on port to clear the in-harbor shoal marker and take the lead. Following in close pursuit after USA 798 was our newest member Karin Olsen in USA 857 (showing GER 1 on her main – Thanks Roman!) and Joe Van Gieson in USA 828. Once the fleet reached Tolly Point, the spinnakers came out of their bags and were flying proudly. These positions kept constant for the next 3 miles to Thomas Point light with only one round up masterfully performed by USA 798 and a spectacular blowout of a 14-year-old spinnaker on USA 828. The USA 835 covered the 5 miles to Thomas Point light in 50 minutes after the start.

The rounding direction of Thomas Point is optional, and the primary reason is the number of fishing boats that usually hug the perimeter of the light. Not only do the number of fishing boats dictate the rounding, but their locations as this determines how close sailors can round the lighthouse. USA 835 reaching the lighthouse first had to avoid the first set of fishing boats by rounding wider than USA 798 and GER 1. USA 835 also had an issue bringing in both their spinnaker and spinnaker pole which allowed USA 798 with a clear path inside to start the beat back. As this dynamic was playing out, GER 1 was able to round even closer than USA 798 due to the movement of a few more fishing boats out for a leisurely afternoon. USA 828 was still respectably close given the spinnaker blowout.

With the positions set, heading back north in the 14-18 knot breeze and building 2-foot waves, the Soling design showed its real character in its ability to power through the waves and provide for a smooth yet sometimes wet ride. There were no position changes on this leg of the course. USA 798 rounded Tolly Point shoal marker with a 200-yard lead, with GER 1 and USA 835 next to round. USA 828 pulled up significantly and was only about 100 yards behind USA 835 at the marker. From Tolly Point to the finish, the course was a tight jib reach that had the boats still achieving hull speed with no changes in position. The 10-mile race took a total elapsed time of 1 hour and 45 minutes, which works out to an average of 5.7 mph. Stu would have been proud to see his legacy followed through on one of the best sailing days on the Bay this year. Kudos to Henry Thomas and his support staff for being our Race Committee and safety boat.

That evening, Howard and Mary Vickery hosted an after-race cookout at their community beach. Great food, drink, and comradery was enjoyed by all competitors (and Patricia Walker as well) as the sun set on the Severn River after another great day of sailing on the Bay. We are very lucky to have Karin Olsen join us and from our day on the water I can see is going to keep us on our toes in future events. We also will be gaining another fleet member, Will Turner, later this year. This will put the Chesapeake Soling Fleet up to 6 boats by the Fall Soling Bowl. Mark your calendars for this event, October 19-20. Plans for hosting (SSA has already approved dates) the North American Championship in April 2020 were also discussed.

2019 Thomas Point Lighthouse Race Finishes
1. USA 798 – Dize/Sturr/Myhre
2. USA 857 – Olsen/Hidalgo/Reich
3. USA 835 – Vickery/Greenwood/Lewton
4. USA 828 - Van Gieson/Connolly/Sophia Smith

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