It’s Wednesday, August 31, 2016. We are on the Ohio Turnpike with Draco in tow when we receive the following text message: “I see you are racing Tropical Storm Hermine to Annapolis.” On Thursday, September 1, we arrive in Annapolis and spend the day launching, rigging and tuning Draco. Hurricane Hermine is still in Northern Florida.
On Friday, September 2, our crew, consisting of Brian Shenstone, Bob Orr, John McAllister (Detroit Cal 25 Fleet Champion), Paul Nuechterlein, and Peter Becker, take Draco out in a delightful 10 knot breeze for our shakedown sail. Hermine is off Charleston, S.C. and heading directly toward us. With uncertain weather conditions forecast, John advises us to “Race every race as if it were the last race in the series.”
The regatta schedule consists of three windward – leeward races each on Saturday and Sunday in conjunction with the Annapolis Labor Day Regatta, followed by two races for Cal 25’s only on Monday using government bouys as marks. Saturday dawns cloudy and windy. Hermine has stalled just offshore. The flags on the state capitol building are flying close to vertical. The wind is gusting into the 50’s. Three committee boats go out into the bay and return with a unanimous decision – no racing today. The Draco crew spends the day shopping, touring and bar-hopping.
By Sunday Hermine has moved farther offshore and the winds are in the 20+ range. The conditions are perfect for the defending national champions from Long Beach, Art and Scott Melendres. Using their crew weight and flatter sails, they are able to sail “One Time” higher and faster and score an impressive victory in race one. Draco finishes a distant second and the rest of the fleet end up a distant third through twelfth. We try a different genoa and close the gap on “One Time” in the second race, but end up second to them again. At the five-minute signal for race three, Paul Nuechterlein notices that the wind is dropping and calls for a switch to a lighter air genoa. The competition has no time to react. We cover ”One Time” at the start and leave them mired in bad air at the gun. They do not recover. We finish third to their ninth. “White Cap”, the Annapolis fleet champion, skippered by Tim Bloomfield wins race three and moves into second place two points behind us in the standings.
Conditions on Monday are good. We have a 15 knot breeze, a long-distance point to point race. The first leg is to windward and we have a good start. We are first or second going into each of the four government marks and maintaining cover over our nearest competition on the final beat when time runs out. No further races can be run and we realize John McAllister’s advice to the crew at the start of the regatta has proven prophetic. We sailed every race as if it were the last and the last race we sailed gave us the victory.
— Bob Orr