Annapolis Yacht Club announces the creation of ORC Performance Cruising Division
Jim Praley has served as chairman of the Annapolis to Newport Race for nearly a decade.
Praley’s tenure began in advance of the 2017 edition of the offshore classic and has coincided with a significant change in the makeup of the fleet.
Once solely the domain of hardcore offshore racing machines, Annapolis to Newport now welcomes a significant number of what would be considered performance cruising sailboats.
Among the entries in the 2023 Annapolis to Newport Race were such designs as a J/110, Frers 45, Beneteau First 44.7, Outbound 44, and a Hinckley 48. Their inclusion was the result of a successful campaign launched by host Annapolis Yacht Club to develop a more diverse fleet that included boats that might not previously have entered A2N.
As he prepares to oversee his fifth Annapolis to Newport Race, Praley is proud of the makeover that has introduced the renowned event to a different breed of boat owner.
“We have put considerable time and effort into making Annapolis to Newport more accessible and convincing sailors it’s not as daunting an undertaking as some might think,” Praley said. “It’s been rewarding to see more and more cruiser-racers participate. We have attracted a lot of first-time entrants since starting this initiative, and the owners have enjoyed the challenge of completing an offshore passage.”
Annapolis Yacht Club is currently preparing for the 2025 edition of the Annapolis to Newport Race, which will begin on June 6 and 7 on the Chesapeake Bay. Organizers will post the Notice of Race on June 6, 2024, with online entry open at that time.
Prospective participants will find the Notice of Race and the entry form on a brand-new Annapolis to Newport Race website that will debut this coming spring. As always, there will be discounted fees based on the date of entry.
In an ongoing effort to make Annapolis to Newport more appealing to owners of cruiser-racer designs, organizers are making a change. Qualifying boats may elect to be grouped within the new ORC Performance Cruiser Division, resulting in a more inviting approach as compared to events that cater solely to single-purpose race boats.
Participation in the Performance Cruiser Division comes with a few specific rules such as sail and professional crew limitations.
John White, chairman of the Annapolis Yacht Club Sailing Committee, said the Performance Cruiser Division will be split into as many classes as entries dictate. ORC Double-handed will again be included on the scratch sheet as a stand-alone class.
“The ORC rule does an outstanding job of handicapping the wide array of boats allowing what had been the Racer/Cruiser and Cruiser classes to sail in one division,” White said. “Having multiple classes within the Performance Cruiser Division should result in tighter rating bands and therefore better racing.”
Dick Neville, co-chairman of the Annapolis Yacht Club Race Committee, said the Performance Cruiser Division is geared toward owners of boats that are not “outfitted in full race mode.” Some skippers may sail with fewer crew or a smaller inventory of sails. Heavier cruising sailboats with air conditioning, refrigerators, and well-appointed staterooms are treated fairly by the ORC rule.
“We were hearing that owners were finding it difficult to decide whether they wanted to compete in Racer-Cruiser or Cruiser,” Neville said. “There is no need to make such a distinction. With Performance Cruiser, AYC has created a classification that suits all these boats and owners better.”
In 2023, the Annapolis to Newport scratch sheet had all entries competing under the ORC rating rule. However, Annapolis Yacht Club organizers will continue to offer starts under the PHRF rating rule to gauge interest.
This will be the 40th biennial Annapolis to Newport Race, a 475-nautical mile passage that starts on the Chesapeake Bay and finishes at the mouth of the Narragansett River. All the elements that have kept skippers coming back to A2N remain in place.
Annapolis Yacht Club will once again conduct the popular “What to Expect” seminar series covering such topics as safety equipment, weather routing, sail plan choices, and provisioning.
On Thursday evening prior to the start, Annapolis Yacht Club will host the Competitor’s Send-off Party. As usual, the A2N Hospitality Committee will be available to assist participating sailors both in Annapolis and Newport.
Another successful innovation introduced by Annapolis Yacht Club organizers has been separate starts based on handicap ratings. Smaller, slower boats will start on Friday, June 6, while larger, faster boats will start on Saturday, June 7. This format has succeeded in getting the entire fleet into Newport in close proximity and led to increased attendance at the fabulous prize-giving ceremony, which will once again be held at Waite’s Wharf.
For the sixth time, Newport Yachting Center will serve as race headquarters on the finishing end, and the facility will offer discounted slip fees to all A2N boats. Dockage fees for competitors will be announced in early 2025.
“Annapolis to Newport is a classic ocean race and we’re thrilled that it continues to thrive. As host, Annapolis Yacht Clubs puts considerable time and effort into making this a top-notch, first-class event,” Praley said. “A2N is one of the country’s most unique distance races as it features three parts — transiting and exiting the Chesapeake Bay, the ocean leg to Block Island, and the final sprint to Newport.”
Photo Credits to: Will Keyworth Photography contact: https://willkeyworth.smugmug.com/