Local Team Wins National Hospice Regatta
Chuck Sheets and his crew of Dave Lauser, Jr., Rick Prothero and David Boonstoppel have won the National Hospice Regatta Championship series held April 29 through May 1, 2016 in Galveston, Texas.
Two days of racing were needed to qualify for the final series held on the third day in the Gold fleet made up of the top six teams. Teams for the first two days of racing were assigned boats in a random drawing, and separated into two fleets of boats (Blue and White). The HdG team found themselves racing the Blue fleet boats for the first day, where the boats were quite tired after years of use by the local Sea Scouts. However, the competition within their fleet was tight and the conditions at the edge with winds 15 to 23 knots over the five races. Team HdG started fast, with a first place finish for the initial race. But Race Two kept them humble after the spin halyard shackle broke free at the masthead, the chocks for the mast at the deck were lost and two mark roundings that touched the mark added some circles to the course that all resulted in a fifth place finish. Rick Prothero drew the short straw and free-climbed up the mast to retrieve the halyard in the brief time between races, allowing the team to stay out on the race course, and climb back to two second place and a final first place finish for the five-race day. That positioned them in second place for their fleet, three points behind the team from Annapolis.
Day Two of racing has our intrepid sailors now in the more reliable and better matched White Fleet boats. Conditions were great with 80 degree weather and 12 to 15 knots of wind, and the RC got in four more races for both fleets. The HdGYC team took first place in two of these races, enough to pull them within one point of the Annapolis team. A close crossing of a starboard tack boat (that apparently wasn’t used to the usual tight J24-style encounters) resulted in a foul being called and turns taken to drop the team from the lead into a third place race finish. Otherwise, HdG could have moved into first within their fleet. Meanwhile, in the other fleet of randomly assigned competitors, the racing had become very predictable, with the Long Island Sound Connecticut team winning 8 of 9 races over the first two days, and the Nashville, TN team taking second place in the majority of those races.
So the final day of racing on Sunday, May 1st , pits the top six team over both fleets into the Gold Fleet racing, and the Silver Fleet doing their consolation races. The odds seemed long for Team HdG, as they qualified as the fourth boat in the Gold Fleet, but the conditions gave them reason for hope. It was the typical Chesapeake Bay kind of a day, with light winds (5 to 6, gusts to 8) and shifty. The five race “winner take all” series started strong for HdG with two first place finishes, and the two hot boats from the alternate fleet falling into the bottom half of the Gold Fleet. Annapolis had third place finishes for both races, and seemed to be doing a Jeb Bush-like fade from their favored seed position. Race Three kept HdG in the running with a third to Nashville’s first. The course for Race Four was set with a tight spin reaching leg, and set up a battle for HdG to roll the lead boat upwind, but that tactic put them on the outside of a pin-wheel mark rounding and pushed them back to a fifth place finish. They got a good start for the last race to post a second place finish, for a total of 12 points. It seemed that the Annapolis team was not a contender as their finishes for the last three races were 5, 6 and 6, but the other team scores weren’t known until the 4PM awards ceremony. The tension mounted as the Gold Fleet points were announced – – Charlotte Harbor, FL 28 Annapolis, MD 23 pts – Long Island Sound CN 18 pts – and the Lake Norman, NC 13 pts for third place. But only one point separated them from the 12 points earned by team HdG, so a second place finish seemed likely. But the Nashville, TN team had also earned 12 points, and the tie-breaker rules awarded Havre de Grace First Place, based on their two first place finishes, and just one first place for Nashville. Amazing! Just three days earlier, Chuck Sheets, DDS, saw his last patient before retirement, hung up his white lab coat and caught the plane to Houston, TX to do some sailing.
The National Hospice Regatta perpetual trophy will be kept in Havre de Grace until next year’s event. The trophy is in honor of Virginia Brown, who started the first hospice regatta at Annapolis in 1999 and went on to found the National Hospice Regatta Alliance which held the first national event in 2000.
The 2016 Havre de Grace Yacht Club Bob Hooper House Hospice Regatta will sail on Saturday, June 4th and the results will determine which local sailors are eligible to attend the national race next spring. Tough act to follow, though, isn’t it?