The Storm Trysail Club's Annapolis Fall Regatta provided a preview of close inshore racing expected at Quantum Key West Race Week in the IRC, ORC and C&C 30 classes - photo Dan Phelps/SpinSheet

Annapolis, MD -- The road to Quantum Key West Race Week has started with last weekend's 3-day Annapolis Fall Regatta, organized by the Chesapeake Station of the Storm Trysail Club and co-hosted by Eastport YC and SpinSheet Magazine. After three days of conditions ranging from light to moderate breeze and on courses varying from windward-leewards to a short offshore tour of the Chesapeake Bay, this 2015 edition has produced winners after seven races in three scored classes: IRC, C&C 30's, and for the first time in the US, in ORC as well.

All three class winners are entered to compete in Key West, and many of the competitors in the Eastport YC's J/70 Fall Brawl also held this past weekend will also be heading to compete in Key West.

In the IRC Class, Austin & Gwen Fragomen's nearly-new Botin 44 Interlodge walked away with the class victory on a near-perfect scorecard marred only by a second place earned in Race 4 due to an OCS. On a tie-break, Andrew and Linda Weiss's Sydney 43 Christopher Dragon earned the runner-up prize in this 8-entry big-boat class.

As the fastest boat in the fleet, Interlodge needed only clean starts to quickly keep clear of the rest of her seven rivals, yet still steer clear of the shifty conditions and tricky currents found in the mid-Chesapeake. The Botin 44 design built at New England Boatworks was new this past June, although they have raced together as a team for years on the Fragomen's previous TP 52 of the same name.

"This regatta was fantastic for us as a training event for Key West," said team manager Kris Matthews, referring to their next inshore event at the 2016 edition of Quantum Key West Race Week held in mid-January. Even though the team had no direct rivals of her size and speed at this event, Mathews said "the sailing conditions were varied, which made us learn about shifting gears and staying alert on the course. In all it was great sailing."

Part of the gear-shifting was due not only to the conditions which ranged from a bright and sunny 10-16 knots on Friday to a cool and rainy 7-10 knots this morning, but also to the event's unique racing formats. Friday's 23-mile offshore race took the fleet from Annapolis across to the Eastern Shore, north upwind under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge halfway to the approaches to Baltimore Harbor, then back south to the Eastern Shore again before reaching back up the Severn River to a finish near the harbor in Annapolis. This race was scored as two races: times were taken at the northern-most mark for a 1.0 point-weighted race, while the elapsed times for the entire course were used to score a 1.5 point-weighted race.

Saturday and Sunday featured another five windward-leeward races on a course set south of Thomas Point Light, a location made necessary by the four other regattas being held in Annapolis over this weekend, including the 200+ entries in the Opti Atlantic Coast Championships.

While Interlodge is new this year, this was not the newest boat in the fleet: Jim Grundy's Baby Bella, a sleek, low-freeboard 41-footer designed by Harry Dunning, was just launched and making her competitive debut at this regatta. Also, the Judel/Vrolijk-designed and Hudson Marine-built HH 42 being sailed by Glenn Walters is relatively new as well, having just come from her US debut at the US Sailboat Show here in Annapolis. Being new, both boats were having teething pains, but at times showed great potential.

Using ORC scoring within the same class, Paul Milo's J/122 Orion from Annapolis took victory by a 5.5-point margin, with all bullets and two seconds in the no-discard series. Milo also plans to head south for Key West, but via some distance races as well, including the Ft Lauderdale-Key West Race, the Miami-Havana Race, as well as Quantum Key West Race Week.

Asked about his feelings on use of ORC for the first time, Milo commented "I think the system is great, it's based on measurements, its transparent, and it seems fair across the boat types. If we offered it more here in the Chesapeake I would definitely consider doing more racing here, particularly the distance races that we enjoy."

The closest boat-on-boat competition was in the C&C 30 one-designs, which attracted an impressive 9 entries from East Coast, West Coast and Midwest of the US, as well as the UK. And like the big boat class, this class was dominated by one team: Dan Cheresh's Extreme2 from Saugatuck, MI. With help from Morgan Reeser as tactician, Cheresh compiled a perfect scorecard except for a 3rd place earned in Race 4, and finished 6.5 points clear of Walt Thirion's Themis from Annapolis.

Cheresh was a past champion in the 1D35 Class over a decade ago, took a break from sailing, and is now back re-asserting his winning ways.

"This class is great, I love this boat," said Cheresh. "The competition is always tough, and there's more to learn all the time because the boat is so new to all of us. But we're having great fun with it, and I'm really happy to be back in the game."

Thirion also had high-praise for the C&C 30, a design from Mark Mills built at US Watercraft and just forming their first one-design racing this year.

"This boat is incredibly responsive: it rewards you when you get it right, and lets you know when you don't, so the we're always having to focus. This makes racing in this class great."

And in Fall Brawl action, Henry Filter's Wild Child finished second in a fleet of 31 J/70's after 7 races. Filter is entered to compete at Quantum Key West, where there are nearly as many entries on the scratch sheet now, but will likely climb higher as the event approaches the next entry deadline on December 18th.

"We're really pleased to offer this regatta again this year to bring competitive big-boat racing to the Chesapeake," said PRO Dick Neville. "This year we had had a good turnout, with two new designs come and race - Jim Grundy's new Dunning 41 Baby Bella and the new HH 42. We're always trying to innovate and make this event interesting, and I think we succeeded with that this year with our long course and the introduction of ORC scoring. Everyone had fun, and I thank our competitors for coming out to race, our Committee for all their efforts, and our sponsors at SpinSheet for all their support."

For more detailed results and information about the Storm Trysail Club's Annapolis Fall Regatta, visit the event website

For a gallery of photos from Dan Phelps/SpinSheet

For more information the classes racing and how to enter Quantum Key West Race Week