SpinSheet October 2013

Page 24


The Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race by Beth Crabtree


he Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race (GCBSR), a 127-mile nautical journey down the Bay, brings together annually dozens of majestic schooners, boats which years ago were the back bone of commerce along the Bay, from Baltimore in the north, to Portsmouth, VA, in the south. In 1988, when the City of Baltimore launched the Pride of Baltimore II modeled on those earlier vessels, Captain Lane Briggs of the Tugantine Norfolk Rebel challenged the Baltimore flagship to a race from Baltimore to Norfolk, reviving an historic rivalry between schooners, captains and cities on the Bay. Over the years, more than 150 schooners have crossed the start line, and although most hail from Bay area, entrants come from around the country. And many come back year after year; forty schooners have raced five or more times. To get the scoop on the race, we turned to SpinSheet’s Mark Talbott who says, “I have been crew on Woodwind during the GCBSR five times over the past 10 years and have been invited back this year for a sixth. Aboard Woodwind, it is definitely a family affair. Owners Ken and Ellen Kaye and daughter Jen are all aboard, as well as a longtime family friend and official navigator, three to four regular crew 24 October 2013 SpinSheet

selected each year, and guest crew who have signed up for a cabin during the race.” Talbott continues, “There are several other boats entered from around the Bay including the late founder Lane Briggs’ “tugantine” the Norfolk Rebel, Maryland’s own Pride of Baltimore II, Virginia’s Virginia, as well as many schooners from all over the Bay and around the world. Many of them are privately owned, some are charter boats,

and others are used for goodwill and educational programs, run by organizations in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, New England, and other locales. “The race is usually thrilling; often a cool blast of air comes down from the north at the start, or at some time during the race, pushing the boats down the Bay at record speeds. Woodwind’s fastest ever speed of 16.5 knots was during the 2005 Schooner Race,” recalls Talbott. In 2007, the schooner Virginia

set a new time to beat of 11 hours, 18 minutes, and 53 seconds, beating the previous record of 12 hours, 57 minutes, and 51 seconds set by Imagine...! in 2005. “The years I have not raced I have been out photographing the start, which is always a magnificent sight,” says Talbott. “Often there’s a clear, crisp fall day with a nice breeze filling the canvas and tanbark of these beautiful and traditional vessels. Not a sight that you often see anymore, especially this many of ##Photo by Mark Talbott the boats all sailing in the same place.” Although the race began as a friendly challenge, today it promotes public awareness of the Bay’s maritime heritage and encourages preservation of the Bay. GCBSR is a Virginia nonprofit, with about 100 volunteers in each port who make the race and activities run smoothly. More than $150,000 has been raised and donated to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to support youth education programs. There’s much more to the GCBSR than big, beautiful boats racing down the length of the Bay. Festivities in Maryland and Virginia span five days and include opportunities for hands-on learning, touring the boats, mingling with captains and crew, and singing sea shanties. For more details: schoonersrace.org spinsheet.com

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