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Kathy Parks and Dick Neville on the AYC's 2020 Double-Handed Distance Race

by David Schmidt 6 Oct 2020 01:45 PDT October 3-4, 2020
2019 Annapolis Y.C. Double Handed Distance Race © Alan R Schreitmueller

While there's virtually nothing positive that can be said of the coronavirus pandemic, it did help spark interest in socially distanced sailing and doublehanded racing. The Annapolis Yacht Club (AYC) was one step ahead of this curve as they created their Double Handed Distance Race in 2019, which was well-received and well-attended.

Not surprisingly, the race's 2020 edition (October 3-4) is drawing even more attention, both due to the good word about the event's 2019 edition percolating through the sailing community, and from two-person teams looking to get in some great fall racing after a summer that wasn't exactly as action-packed as all racing sailors would have liked.

The regatta will use government marks to create a race that—according to the NOR—is intended to take 24 hours to complete. Racing is set to unfurl between the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Point Lookout, and racers will need to pass Horn Point Light HP, the Annapolis Harbor Entrance Light 4, the Naval Anchorage Light A, the Annapolis Harbor Channel Light 1AH and the Thomas Point Shoal Light on the channel side.

While there's no time limit, boats that finish racing more than 12 hours after the first boat completes the course and crosses the finishing line will be scored DNF.

I checked in with Kathy Parks, Event Chair, and Dick Neville, Principal Race Officer, of the Annapolis Yacht Club's 2020 Double-Handed Distance Race, via email, to learn more about this exciting two-person race.

Starting a doublehanded race in 2019, a year before the pandemic, is an amazingly fortuitous turn of events given how popular and practical doublehanded sailing is in 2020—can you tell us about the impetus for starting it?

Gary Jobson spoke at an Annapolis Yacht Club winter seminar in January 2019 and [he] mentioned that World Sailing and the Olympic Committee were planning a Mixed Double Handed Offshore event in Paris 2024.

My husband, Paul Parks immediately saw that it was something AYC should begin to support. He contacted the AYC Sailing Committee who put together a small team to come up with a plan. Thus the 2019 event was organized.

Understanding that this is only year two, what's the race's culture shaping up to be/feel?

We noticed last year that the teams enjoyed introducing themselves and meeting the other competitors. Both years we have a mix of elite sailors with strong programs to compete for Paris 2024 and really good local racers who are attracted to the challenge of double handed racing. So, there's an extra excitement about racing alongside an Olympian or America's Cup racer.

This year with COVID we were initially afraid we were going to have to cancel but [we] soon realized that the doublehanded format works well with social distancing. Our race committee has established clear COVID protocols, which we have been using for the past few months. This year, our meet-and-greets and awards will all be handled virtually, but we are already having success introducing the teams via social media.

So far this year we have at least three married couples, a brother and a sister and a father and son team.

How many boats are you expecting on the starting line?

Last year we had 17 teams and this year we have 38.

Will competitors sail the same course this year?

No, we have developed new courses. We took the feedback from last year and are incorporating suggestions to make the race better. Six potential courses will be published soon and the final decision will be announced the morning of the race.

What are the course's tactical challenges and opportunities?

The legs will be long enough to incorporate strategy and passing lanes but short enough to ensure both upwind and downwind work, no matter what the wind does. Navigation, currents, mark rounding's will all be factors.

What kind of weather is common this time of year? Also, what are typically the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

Typically, October in Annapolis is great for sailing. I would be more worried about possible hurricanes than light air.

How important do you think local knowledge will be in this event? Also, any course secrets you wish to share?

Local knowledge is important but somehow the great sailors seem to figure it all out! This year's courses go north of the Bay Bridge as well as south of Annapolis.

Can you tell us about any efforts that you and the other regatta organizers have made to try to lower the regatta's environmental footprint or otherwise green-up the event?

In 2018, AYC appointed an Environmental Committee to review everything we do at the club - racing, docks and waterfront, restaurants, and our facilities—with the goals of improving our environmental footprint and engaging members in environmental activities.

We used Sailors for the Sea's 25 Best Practices to assess our status in regards to clean regattas, and have now used it each year to monitor progress and set priorities. We have had success on a number of environmental fronts, including storm water runoff prevention, event management, food and beverage handling, and waste reduction, with member volunteers serving as Recycling Ambassadors at major regattas.

Member volunteers also do creek-clean-ups, and we've expanded our oyster programming with shell recycling from our restaurants and growing hundreds of cages of oyster spat to clean the Bay. Also, Maryland's Department of Natural Resources recently restored our pre-construction designation as a Clean Marina, certifying our practices and policies for preventing pollution.

[Also,] this regatta uses Government Marks, which limits the need for multiple committee boats.

Anything else that you'd like to add, for the record?

We surveyed our competitors after last year's race and got great feedback. There were helpful suggestions about the course and the safety checklists. Most importantly, they were enthusiastic and all 17 teams (some with different co-skippers) are racing again this year.

Our sponsors loved the concept last year and are with us again in 2020. We were very active in social media and the world was watching on YB (the tracker which followed the race). There were 1,252 visits to YB from seven countries last year. We hope to get the word out so even more people around the world can "watch" the race in 2020!

Eight owners of J/105's in Fleet 3, the home of the largest Cruising One Design Fleet on the Chesapeake Bay, are loaning their boats to teams to compete in this race.

The United States Naval Academy has registered three mixed-gender teams to compete in the J/105 One Design class. [The] Navy is designing a training program around participating in our race for their [midshipmen] since collegiate sailing has been cancelled for the fall.

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