IN THE NATION'S
HOT AIR CAPITOL
LEFT: Wavelength24 "Cheap Shacht" (photo: Steve Hasse, DISC)
Up until last September, my bud (and occasional Dire Wolf trimmer) Carl used to race a Catalina27 at Herrington Harbor Sailing Association...that is, until Hurricane Isabel put a large hurt on the vessel while it was tied up at Herrington Harbor North. Needless to say, his slip was also no longer available.
So, when Carl was looking for a new boat, he had two choices to consider: what boat to buy and where to race? Carl opted for a smaller, performance-oriented boat and chose a place closer to his home in Northern VA to race. The venue is certainly unique.
Here's what Carl says about the racing in one of the more unusual Tuesday Night locations on the Bay.
NBAY: So, what's your first impression of the new location?
CARL: The venue is beautiful. It's a blast sailing at 6.4 knots on a close reach up to the sea wall in Alexandria and to see all the tourists pointing and applauding you when you tack away. But like Baltimore, you really need to watch out for shipping traffic as the tour boats (Spirit of Washington) and the dinner party boats (like the Dandy) can really mess you up as the channel is pretty narrow -- not much room for error.
NBAY: What's up with being so close to a major airport?
CARL: The planes are a bitch. The major annoyance is the noise, especially when taking off into a southerly. If the wind is from the northern quadrant and the planes are landing from the south, then you really need to be careful if you are in the flight path -- in the first race of the season, I was directly beneath a 737 on approach, screaming along at 6 knots on starboard tack, when the boat was headed in a bad way about 5 - 10 seconds after the plane had passed overhead.
NBAY: A little different from Herring Bay, huh?
CARL: I love the flat water! The flat water and the fast current are probably the biggest difference from Bay sailing. The constrained waters are also a big difference from the relative expanse of the Bay. However, the current and the tight confines of the Potomac place a premium on all aspects of tactics, strategy, and crisp boat handling. You're never on a tack for more than 1 -2 minutes (in moderate air) before you have to tack.
NBAY: What about a security presence? I mean, all this is going on a few miles from the Pentagon and the White House?
CARL: In general, there is a good Harbor Police and USCG presence on the water. During pre-race maneuvering in our practice race, the USCG stopped one of the sailboats and asked to board for an inspection. The skipper of the unfortunate boat asked for, and obtained permission, to defer the boarding until after the race. Seemed pretty idiotic that the Coasties would not know what was going on.
NBAY: How's the Fleet? What's it like?
CARL: . Turnout on Tuesday
nights is excellent with about 25 boats on the line, divided into a spin fleet
and one cruising canvas fleet. About 12 boats are currently sailing in the spin
fleet with the top 5 or 6 boats generally pretty competitive and capable of
winning on any given night. The fast boats include 2 Wavelength 24's, 2 or 3
S2 7.9's, a Kirby 25, a J-22, and a Capri 25. Even the lone Catalina 27 does
well occasionally. One of the S2 7.9's, Horizon, driven by Bob Fleck, is definitely
the boat to beat: it is well-sailed and the crew work is excellent. Bob travels
up and down the East Coast and Canada racing his boat in S2 one-design races
and does very well. The Wavelength 24's are the scratch boats at 162.
NBAY: How has the move effected your regular crew?
CARL: I think the general consensus of the crew is that they love the convenience and urban beauty of the venue. I've found that the crew is not as tense as they were after traveling 2 - 3 hours to the boat at HHSA last year. The gun goes off at 6:30 pm, races are generally 2.5 - 4 miles, mostly windward-leeward courses, and we are back in the slip at 8:30 pm or so.
NBAY: Problem is, down there there's no where to go post-race, huh?
CARL: Sailors generally congregate after the races either at the bar at Potowmack Landing restaurant or on our boats -- many sea stories "and there I was....," racing vignettes are generously exchanged, with the stories becoming wilder and the claims more difficult to comprehend as the night wears on and the beer takes hold.
NBAY: Situation normal, right? Well, it sounds like a hoot! Have a great season!
CARL: Take care!
ABOVE: DISC fleet turns back toward the Capitol just upstream from the "wood-ROW wilson" bridge. (pronunciation provided by NOAA weather radio)
BELOW: Carl's WaveLength24, with incoming off the starboard quarter........
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