A total of eleven teams of eight sailors from across the country competed in Navy 44s for the U.S. Offshore Championship. After three races on Friday, the team of Midshipmen representing the U.S. Naval Academy held a commanding nine point lead over Sled SHELHORSE's team from Hampton Yacht Club, Va. For sure, experience in the Navy 44 boats was to the Navy crew's advantage but the other teams were scaling the learning curve quickly.
Day two on Saturday featured one buoy race followed by a 24 mile point to point race. Navy won the early heat and finished second in the distance race to John SEIGEL's crew representing the St. Francis Yacht Club who had showed excellent form in the building breeze. However, the Race Committee had amended the course by inserting a safe water mark to keep unfamiliar skippers clear of potential shoal water near the rhumb line of the final leg. And once ashore, a competitor pointed out to the Navy crew that it appeared Navy had passed this mark on the incorrect side. Although no protest was filed, Navy was uncertain they had honored the mark and decided to withdraw from the race converting their second place finish into a twelfth.
Additionally, a race four protest decision involving St. Francis Yacht Club awarded them average points for this race. After the dust settled Saturday night, Navy held a slim 3.25 point lead. St. Francis was second with 21.25 virtually tied with Hampton who had 22.
Conditions for the final day on Sunday were again ideal with a moderate west/northwest breeze coming out of the Severn River. At the start of race six, both Navy and St. Francis crossed the starting line early. Annapolis Yacht Club's skipper, John WHITE, seized the opportunity and played his local knowledge to perfection winning the race by a large margin. Navy made a strong comeback to finish fifth, one place ahead of Hampton while St. Francis had their worst race of the series and dropped from contention.
For the final race Navy retained a seemingly comfortable five point lead over both Hampton and Annapolis who had made a big move up the leaderboard. The Race Committee set a six leg course and the fleet started safely, generally evenly spread on the line. Hampton, Navy and Annapolis all sailed out to the left side of the first beat. Skipper Tom WHEATLEY and his Seal Beach Yacht Club crew played middle right to lead at the first mark. Navy rounded second followed by Annapolis and Hampton close behind.
Annapolis played the first run well passing Navy to move up to second. On the second beat, Annapolis went left while Navy and Hampton split right. Left paid big with Annapolis passing Seal Beach to lead at the second weather mark while Navy fell to fourth now also behind Hampton. Navy lost another boat on the second run and was now running fifth. With Annapolis up front, the regatta was truly up for grabs.
Up the third beat Navy sailed frantically to hang on to their fifth position while Annapolis could only hope another boat or two would get by the Midshipmen. At the final weather mark, Navy misjudged the layline, squandering a few lengths of gain and making for an exciting run to the finish. Navy managed to just get around the top mark and held off St. Francis by one length for a final race fifth place to secure the Championship.
Besides skipper Greg STORES, the U.S. Naval Academy team consisted of 1/C Jeff PARKER, 1/C Jon CASILIO, 1/C Colin CHANDLER, 2/C Leigh LOESEL, 2/C Jared WEBSTER, 2/C Nick GODDARD, 3/C Tim CLARKE and 4/C Mark PICINICH. Navy's U.S. Offshore Championship win follows their victory the previous weekend at the Intercollegiate McMillan Cup, also hosted at the Academy.