It's not just a ride on the Bay for competitive sailboaters.
By Stephen Sobek
Associated Press Writer
From the Montgomery Journal
SOLOMONS - The three sailors leaned out, their feet dangling over the boat's edge, with only a thin cable between them and the ocean water rushing by below.
"Tacking! Ready about!" someone yelled, and they dove head-first to the other side of the 30-foot sailboat. The boat, leaning 45 degrees to the right, then rolled over on its left side. Only the weight of the sailors - affectionately called "rail meat" by their colleagues - kept the boat from splashing sideways into the water.
Sailboat racing isn't exactly what landlubbers expect. Far from a quiet, languid version of powerboat racing - where boats reach high speeds but operators remain sedentary behind the wheel - competitive sailboating requires an aggressive team of sailors raising and lowering sails and getting the boat in place to harness the maximum wind.
"It's physical. It's outdoors. It's also intellectual. I think it combines a lot of different elements," said Dennis Kirouac, a crew member for two years on the boat Ubiquitous.
Kirouac, skipper/owner Jim Stansbury of Germantown and the other five crew members aboard the Ubiquitous all have day jobs. But on weekends they become main sail and spinnaker trimmers, navigators and helmsmen. The job requires reading more than a compass. Before a recent regatta in Solomons, Stansbury and the Ubiquitous crew received eight pages of instructions on the races in which they would participate. "God! It's like studying for an exam," Stansbury said.
It takes one to three hours, depending on the wind, for the boats to complete a race, usually around buoys in oval or triangle shapes. Boats race only with other boats in their "class," those with similar sails and lengths. On almost any summer weekend, hundreds of the sleek racers can be seen slashing through the water on the Chesapeake Bay.
Ubiquitous is a J/92, a vessel designed to serve as both a racing and a pleasure boat. Competitors need to have an aggressive streak, said Stansbury, a navy computer worker. During the second race on the first day of a recent regatta, for instance, the Ubiquitous positioned itself to take the wind from another boat. The move was rude, but not illegal. "You can't be real timid out here," Stansbury said. "We cost them a place," added Kirouac. "They want to string us up."
With the race over, the sailors prepared to return to their jobs. The wind would have to wait until the next weekend. "This is recreation," Kirouac said. "You can try to take it a little bit seriously, but I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't enjoy it. Everyone wants everyone out here to win. I think it's a sport where in general people care about each other."