October 2, 2010

Rendezvous Recap

The Alerion Express 28 Chesapeake Bay Fleet held its annual rendezvous on Saturday, September 25. Seven Alerions, nine owners and guests gathered at Mears Yacht Haven in Oxford for an afternoon of casual racing followed by a reception and dinner. They were joined by representatives of Pearson Composites, builder of the Alerion line of sailboats and sponsor of this year's rendezvous.

Two boats from the area, Frolic (Paul and Susan Rohrkemper) and Miss Judie (Don and Judie Goodliffe), were joined by five boats from the western shore, Patriot (Casey and Renee Brennan), Resilient (Bob Spann and Beth Whiteley), Skimmer (Jack and Marti Detweiler), Starry Night (Bob and Deirdre Bradway) and Summer Solstice (Mike and Madonna Chernesky). Guests Michael Sandusky, Director of Sales for Alerion Express, sailed on Frolic, Linda Goodliffe and Ken and Pat Goldmann joined the crew of Miss Judie and Tom Chernesky raced with his brother on Summer Solstice.

At the captain's meeting at Mears before the first race, Sam Strong, owner of the committee boat Strength, described the triangular 2.2 mile course. The winds were light and southerly at the time which dictated a clockwise circuit of the marks. A cold front was forecast to pass through during the afternoon with the prospect of stronger winds, shifting to westerly. In that event, we could sail the same triangle in a counterclockwise direction.

It was not to be. Despite the early fall date, that day's weather was typical Chesapeake Bay in mid-summer -- 89º hot and sunny, winds 7 to 10 knots southerly and fading as the afternoon wore on. Six boats arrived at the starting line eager to race, however. (Casey left Patriot at the dock to crew on Resilient.) Frolic was first across the line but Skimmer crossed ahead on the first meeting and was first to round the windward mark. As the fleet sailed wing on wing with a following current to the next mark, crews quickly figured out it was going to be a long, hot, slow day. The apparent wind was near zero. Miss Judie used her double Judie pole technique to sail slightly by the lee. Closer to the western shore, she was able to reach up to the downwind mark at the end of the leg and so claim the lead. The short final leg was a close reach to the finish; Miss Judie held on with Frolic and Skimmer close behind.

The southerly wind freshened a bit at the start of the second race. Resilient timed the start perfectly and was clean away while several starboard tack boats discovered that the current had also strengthened and was setting them away from the line. Starry Night sailed a tactically perfect windward leg, avoiding all the crossings of the fleet close in to the Oxford shore, and reached the mark comfortably in first place just as the wind faded away. The light wind and adverse current made for a challenging mark rounding in the glassy seas. The second downwind run was even hotter than the first. Starry Night led the fleet down the final leg and finished with the last of the wind. In second place, Frolic was two boat lengths from the finish when the wind died completely and the current took command, carrying her and eventually the rest of the fleet past the committee boat without having crossed the line. The race was abandoned, an unsatisfying end to the regatta.

The overall winner was Bob and Dierdre's Starry Night with a fourth place finish in the first race and the only boat to finish in the second race. The rest of the fleet took a DNF in the second race, giving Miss Judie a second place finish overall and Frolic was third.

Back at the marina there was time for quick showers to cool down and rehydrate before gathering at the gazebo dock at Mears for some light refreshments and to rehash the racing and drifting action. The crews were joined by Jim and Marcia Luke, owners of Rampant, and David Gantz and Cate Fagan, owners of Orion, who had driven over from Annapolis. After airing the usual excuses, rationalizations and "but for"s that are part of any sail in the company of others, the party moved to the deck of the Masthead Restaurant.

Pat Burke, CEO of Pearson Composites, and Scott Bryant, Vice President for the Alerion and True North lines, were waiting there to present Alerion Express hats and tee shirts to all of their dinner guests. As Pat noted in his remarks, everyone who participated was a winner that day, including the factory team that sponsored the rendezvous. We were all treated to a glorious sunset as we sat down to enjoy the meal. After dinner, Bob Bradway volunteered to organize the 2011 rendezvous at his home port of Herrington Harbor South on the second or third weekend in June. Plan to join us next year and put your AE28's name on the perpetual trophy.  

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