Offshore sailboat racers hungry to compete are ready for one of the East Coast’s biggest draws: the 475-nautical mile Annapolis to Newport (A2N) Race, hosted by the Annapolis Yacht Club.
Registration for the 38th biennial event opened on New Year’s Eve, and 38 boats are already signed up, following a year when most major offshore distance races were canceled around the world. The entrants so far hail from the length of the East Coast, Massachusetts to South Carolina, with one boat registered all the way from Germany.
Will Passano III entered his boat, Polaris, out of Gibson Island, just minutes after registration opened. The Sydney 47 was delivered from its previous owner just before Thanksgiving, and will make its maiden voyage in the spring Race to Oxford, co-organized by AYC and Tred Avon Yacht Club.
It’s Passano’s fifth A2N. He made his debut on his father’s boat in 1981. He looks forward to seeing how Polaris stacks up against the other big-boat competition.
“This race is a great way to get the boat to Newport, where we plan to spend the summer,” Passano says. Later in the season he’ll compete in the Marblehead to Halifax Race, Edgartown Race Week and the
Around the Island Race.
Jay Hansen, a former North Sails executive who lives in Jamestown, Rhode Island, was also quick to enter his Azuree 46.
“I absolutely love long distance racing and I’m very excited about doing Annapolis to Newport,” says Hansen.
He’s putting together a crew of five whose average age is 65. “All these guys have been friends for 40, 50, even 60 years. There is camaraderie aspect because it’s fun to go sailing with people you like,” said Hansen, 71. “I just want to sail the boat as well as possible.”
“I just think there are a lot of sailors who want to go racing,” said Jim Praley, Chairman of the 2021 Annapolis to Newport Race. “There’s a lot of pent-up frustration from not being able to get out on the water as much last year due to COVID.”
The 2021 A2N starts June 4th and 5th on the Chesapeake Bay. Right now, the social components of the race are still up in the air due to the unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The popular pre-start “All Hands Party” at AYC along with the traditional Annapolis to Newport Race Competitor’s Party and Trophy Presentation could be held if conditions improve. For now, organizers are operating as though the parties won’t be possible, so competitors’ entry fees have been cut in half, from about $1,400 to $700 per boat. Trophy presentations may be held virtually.
“The social side is nice, but we don’t need that in 2021. Let’s get COVID behind us,” Passano said. “I compliment the Race Committee for recognizing those concerns and dropping the fee accordingly.
Annapolis Yacht Club says if social gathering restrictions are lifted in Maryland and Rhode Island come June, the parties could be added to the schedule and sailors would be charged per person, outside of the entry fee.
In the meantime, boats can enter online and skippers will only need to make a socially distant visit to AYC to pick up their tracker before getting underway. The club’s A2N “What to Expect” seminar series will held on Zoom, beginning Saturday, Feb. 20 with Sails, Rigging and Electronics.
-Meg Walburn Viviano