In many respects, Craig and Dotty Saunders represent both the past and future of Annapolis Yacht Club.
Craig Saunders is a second-generation club member, and his father was one of the most successful sailboat racers on the Chesapeake Bay during the 1970s and ’80s. Dave Saunders did very well with a family-based program aboard the well-known Beneteau One Ton named Air Mail.
Craig Saunders has followed in his father’s footsteps by bringing his two sons – 10-year-old Clive and 8-year-old David – out racing on the family’s Tripp 33 named Monkey Dust. Dotty is also a key part of the team, which is a regular winner in PHRF 2 class of Annapolis Yacht Club’s Wednesday Night Series.
Craig and Dotty remember the glory days of the Annapolis Yacht Club Annual Regatta when two days of competition was necessary to accommodate the large contingent of boats. They have a vested interest in ensuring one of the club’s signature events remains healthy for many years to come in hopes their children will continue the family tradition of racing.
Organizers have implemented several important steps designed to increase participation in the Annapolis Yacht Club Annual Regatta, being held June 11 on the Chesapeake Bay. One of the most notable developments has been the appointment of Craig and Dotty Saunders as the regatta’s event chairs.
“Because the Annual Regatta has so much history and tradition, it is important that we do everything possible to maintain its prominence on the local sailing calendar,” Craig Saunders said. “We’re hoping a few cosmetic changes and the addition of new classes will bolster the number of entries and make the regatta more enjoyable for all the sailors involved.”
Among the alterations to the AYC Annual Regatta are the introduction of cruising classes, the revival of PHRF classes, condensing competition to one day for all boats and celebrating at an awards party upon conclusion of racing.
Annapolis Yacht Club had previously announced the addition of Cruising Spinnaker, Cruising Non-Spinnaker, Short-handed Spinnaker and Short-handed Non-Spinnaker for all its events. Those four classes will first be offered starts for the AYC 80th Annual Regatta, which will feature distance courses around government marks for all handicap entries.
Mark Murphy will serve as principal race officer for the new classes and said he has several course options available depending on wind and weather conditions.
“We are seeking to introduce racing to the cruising sailor so we need to make sure things are not too complicated,” Murphy said. “This is one big experiment and we need to be flexible and responsive to the sailors.”
Another significant change involves reducing the regatta to one day in order to promote camaraderie and sense of unity among the entire fleet. A key reason for having all classes compete on Saturday involves a post-regatta prize-giving party that is new this year.
In years past, the AYC Annual Regatta awards were handed out at a later date. Now all the sailors will gather for a fun party at the Annapolis Yacht Club Sailing Center for food, drinks and a proper trophy presentation.
Paul Parks, chairman of the Annapolis Yacht Club’s newly-created Sailing Committee, believes those two alterations should make the Annual Regatta more appealing for fledgling racers.
“We think a one-day event is critical for the cruiser. We discussed this issue at length among the committee, and were in agreement that a known course going out and a good party afterward is a winning combination,” Parks said.
At its peak in the 1990s, the AYC Annual Regatta predominantly featured handicap racing. Over the past decade or so, one-design competition has become more popular and those classes have come to dominate the regatta. Participating in PHRF classes has decreased to the point the handicap component of the event has not been held for five years.
“Everyone talks nostalgically about what we did in the past. A lot of folks were quite happy about how things used to be,” Murphy said. “Perhaps things have gone too far in terms of the one-design and windward-leeward trends. Maybe we need to get back to the way it was done before. We just want to encourage folks to come out and enjoy a day of sailing while testing themselves against other boats on a challenging course.”
Dotty Saunders has been quite busy promoting the revamped AYC Annual Regatta, trying hard to reach out to the types of sailors whose boats would fit well into the new classes. On April 2, Annapolis Yacht Club hosted a PHRF Workshop for skippers interested in participating in the cruiser-racer and short-handed classes now being offered. A handful of skippers were able to obtain a PHRF certificate as part of the Workshop, which simplified and accelerated the process.
On May 12, Annapolis Yacht Club hosted a special PHRF Happy Hour for members and non-members to network with other potential racers, discuss the state of participation on the Chesapeake Bay and swap stories of past sailing adventures.
“We want the non-traditional racers to know that we are taking steps to make the Annual Regatta easier and more enjoyable. Our overriding goal is to increase participation and improve satisfaction,” Dotty Saunders said.
Annapolis Yacht Club Past Commodore Karl von Schwarz is among those intrigued by the changes and eager to give the distance racing a shot. He has entered the AYC Annual Regatta for the first time in a decade and will probably race his J/30 Huron in PHRF spinnaker, possibly as a double-handed entry.
“I applaud the Sailing Committee and the Annual Regatta organizers for addressing some of the issues that have kept sailors like me away for a while,” von Schwarz said.
One really important point the co-chairs are attempting to get across is that you do not need to be an Annapolis Yacht Club member to enter the Annual Regatta. “That is a myth we are trying to dispel. The Annual, like all AYC regattas, is open to anyone,” Dotty Saunders said.
Notice of Race and other important documents for the AYC Annual Regatta are posted and provide complete details about classes offered, costs and how to register: http://www.yachtscoring.com/emenu.cfm?eID=2802