Saturday was the Smith Point Race where we race from the mouth of the Piankatank about 25 miles north to the lighthouse at the southern side of where the Potomac flows into the Chesapeake Bay. The forecast wasn’t great and so the course was shortened taking us not quite as far north to the entrance of the Great Wicomico.

Nanuq and Excitation to weather just after the start.
Nanuq and Excitation to weather just after the start.

Out at the race course there was almost no wind at 11am so we were postponed a short while. Eventually enough filled and we were started in just a few knots as we made our way out of the Piankatank sailing upwind with the wind out of the ESE. As we went, most of other boats in PHRF-A, that all had overlapping sails, drifted ahead of us.

Light air ghosting along just north of Windmill Point.
Light air ghosting along just north of Windmill Point.

Once out of the Piankatank we headed north mostly under spinnaker and ghosted along past Windmill Point. Dennis drove the first part of this and I drove the later. Eventually, we were able to keep the chute flying better than the heavier boats and stayed inshore out of the current along the rhumb line and were able to get just ahead of the fleet at the turning mark as the wind started to pick up in the early evening.

Todd, Dennis and Rich sailing upwind with the fleet behind us after rounding the turning mark.
Todd, Dennis and Rich sailing upwind with the fleet behind us after rounding the turning mark.

Heading back home was close hauled on port tack. Holly drove most of this and did a good job sailing to some of upwind targets. We haven’t done a lot of upwind sailing on this boat, so we’re still working out the best angles and speeds and this leg gave us a good idea of what to expect. Still the larger boats that were just behind us and had more sail area were eventually able to run us down and waterline. We were happy in that it took them about 2 hours to do it just before sundown.

Holly and Dennis on the upwind just before dusk.
Holly and Dennis on the upwind just before dusk.

As we re-entered the Piankatank in the dark we were just a few minutes behind the other boats and weren’t able to correct over any of them leaving us in 5th place. It was still a fun day of racing and learned some new things about the boat. Namely how critical driving is to keeping a balanced sailplan.


With all the debris floating down the bay from the dam release a couple weeks ago, today’s Smith Point Race at Fishing Bay Yacht Club was moved up to be a morning start so that it could be sailed almost entirely during daylight instead of finishing late at night as it usually does.  I sailed aboard Mayo Tabb’s Farr 37 Excitation and we started out with a nice 8-10 knot breeze. After the first two short legs to get out of the river we put up a reaching chute and followed the J109 and J105 and Nanuq flying an asymmetrical spinnaker up the bay to Smith Point against the current.

Corryvreckan had a great first 2/3 of the leg leading the J109 Afterthought until Afterthought changed to a reaching kite and pulled back ahead.  Excitation was the 4th PRHF-A boat to round and rounded in a little over 3 hours which is very fast for this race.  On the trip back south it started closehauled and after about an hour Excitation was the first to put up a chute again.  This time we put up a big reaching spinnaker.  Nanuq put up their asymmetrical and as the wind died we were able to work around them heading south.

When we got even with Reedville we saw some storms start to pass over Deltaville and the Pianankatank. We took the chute down and put up a heavy #1.  We caught the backside of the storms and saw some gusts up to 20 and spent some time getting light rain. We reefed the main and went upwind very well in the conditions and worked our way around both Nanuq and Corryvreckan.

Back up the Piankatank for the finish we were 12 minutes ahead of Nanuq and a few minutes ahead of Corryvreckan for a 2nd place overall finished. It was fun racing with Bonnie, Mayo, Chad, Carrie, Dennis and Chris. The only casualty on the day was my GoPro camera that got hung up in a line and ripped from the stern pulpit and sent to the bottom of the bay.


Red dotted line shows our track starting about halfway up to Smith Point:

This year the Smith Point race was a bit of a slog with a 15-20 knot north wind.  I sailed on Mad Hatter and this year we didn’t make it to Smith Point light house until around 9:30.  But the spinnaker run all the way down the bay back to the Piankatank was quite nice.  Arriving at nearly 1am we were one of the last to finish, but still corrected over everyone else out there who sailed the long course.  Thanks again to Bob, Lisa and crew for having me along!


Smith Point Race - Course AThis year for the Smith Point Race at Fishing Bay Yacht Club I sailed on an Olson 911S called Mad Hatter owned by Bob and Lisa Fleck.  We sailed in the PHRF-B fleet with close competition form a Tarten 40 and a Tarten 10.  The Smith Point Race is a 57nm race starting in the mouth of the Piankatank River heading east across the Chesapeake Bay then North to the the Smith Point Light house at the entrance of the Potomac River and then back to the Piankatank leaving Stingray Point to starboard.

8/24/2013 Smith Point Race - Bob & Lisa Fleck on Mad Hatter.

We started out at 2pm with the race expected to take about 10-12 hours.  The forecast was for an east wind 12-18 all afternoon/evening with an outgoing tide starting shortly after the start.

On the leg across the bay we were close reaching and we stayed above everyone else in the fleet.  When the wind went a little south, this helped give us leverage to round in second – behind only Chilcoot from the A-fleet.  On the reach up the bay we were quickly run down by the J-105 Corryvreckan.  The short choppy and confused waves made the going a little tough. Towards the end of the leg to Smith point we had the chute up reaching and all of the bouncing around kept collapsing the chute.  We arrived at Smith Point just at sun down.

8/24/2013 Smith Point Race

The way back in the dark was almost upwind and the wind slowly eased from 16 to about 12.  Halfway back I helmed and we did a sail change up to the No 1.  When we got to the Piankatank we turned west, put the chute up and finished the race as the 3rd boat over the line and 1st overall on corrected time by 10 minutes.  Results.

8/24/2013 Smith Point Race - Smith Point Light

We took Wavelength out on Saturday for the Smith Point Race at Fishing Bay Yacht Club with a short 5-person crew of Steve U, John H, John W, Rick and myself. We were sailing against 2 other PHRF-A boats and started the 42nm course at 2pm just south of Stingray Point on the Piankatank.  The race started as a beat and the wind eased from 15-18 down to 10-12 by 5:30 and down to about 6 at 8pm.

For the final 5 miles to Smith Point we went east expecting the wind to go right.  We found a nice lane of wind and even overstood while the boats inshore to the west were left becalmed.  We rounded Smith Point around 8:30 and just as we rounded and were setting up for a broad reach under spinnaker, the wind went even further east and we ditched our plans for the spinnaker under what would now be a close reach.  I drove the 2nd half of the way back and we finished around 12:30am, beating a faster J105 to the line and ending up just 13 1/2 minutes behind the winning J109 on corrected time.

Final Results | Photos | 2011 Smith Point Race

Saturday I sailed in Fishing Bay Yacht Club’s Smith Point Race aboard the Farr 37 Excitation.  It was a 57 mile race out of the Piankatank River, east across the bay and then north near the mouth of the Potomac River and then back to the entrance to Jackson Creek.

It took about 13 hours to sail.  The first 2 1/2 hours were in little to no wind.  From the start most of the fleet continue on starboard towards the mouth of the Rappahannock before tacking towards our mark.  We spent our time in the light wind sailing on port along shore and out of the current.  We picked the layline pretty well from over 10 miles out and were first around the mark.  Being the furthest south and the first to catch the sea breeze certainly helped.

Aboard Excitation
Aboard Excitation

We led for a little while longer, but soon the faster J109, Afterthought, passed us heading downwind as we sailed North up the bay to Smith Point.  It was this leg where the sun set and the wind increased into the mid-teens.  After rounding  Smith Point around 11pm we slogged upwind for another 3 1/2 hours to the finish.

Afterthought passing us downwind as the sun set.

That was the longest offshore race I’ve ever sailed and doing most of the driving upwind was a good experience.  In the end we finished 2nd – only a minute and 43 seconds out of 1st place. We had a good crew, ate well, and we all enjoyed the trip.  Thanks Mayo Tabb for taking me along!