When Laurent Givry decided to take up the sport of sailboat racing, he was very organized and methodical in his approach.
After doing extensive research, Givry purchased a Farr 400 high-performance racer then enlisted some of the top industry professionals to get the boat prepared.
Mike Beasley of Beasley Marine oversaw the commissioning with Jay Corcoran of Annapolis Rigging and Willy Keyworth of North Sails assisting with their areas of expertise. When the boat was launched, Givry brought veteran professional sailor Dee Smith aboard as tactician.
The Farr 400 arrived from Dubai in December and Givry’s crew has been learning to sail the boat, which he named Jeroboam, since March. “We’ve been practicing regularly and Dee is a very good teacher,” said Givry, whose racing debut came in the North Race Rally as part of the Annapolis National Offshore One-Design regatta.
Givry and his crew have proven quick studies, evidenced by their performance in the 68th Down the Bay Race. The Fairfax Station resident skippered Jeroboam to overall victory and captured the prestigious Virginia Cruising Cup that is presented annually by host Hampton Yacht Club.
“It was an amazing race and we were very, very happy with the result,” Givry said. “The team was highly motivated and pushed like crazy from start to finish. Dee was onboard running the boat and did a tremendous job. It is a tremendous accomplishment to win such a famous race. This is what I wanted to do when I got into sailboat racing.”
Organizers with The Storm Trysail Club-Chesapeake Station started the 2017 Down the Bay Rae on Friday morning in 20 knot winds out of the west-northwest. It was gusty for most of Friday with some competitors reporting readings in excess of 30 knots on the anemometer.
The Farr 400 is an all-carbon lightweight speedster and simply reveled in the downwind conditions that prevailed for most of this year’s Down the Bay Race. “This was the perfect race for Jeroboam,” said Bob Cantwell, owner of the XP44 Rival that was runner-up on corrected time. “We lost sight of the Farr 400 after about 40 miles.”
Smith said Jeroboam moved out on the fleet quickly while sailing under the A2 spinnaker during the early portion of the race. “I think the real advantage was having the only light boat in the fleet. We were able to plane away from people,” Smith said.
Jeroboam stayed in the main shipping channel for most of the trip down the Chesapeake Bay to take advantage of a strong ebb tide.
“We knew we were having a good one. We were seeing between 14 to 17 knots of speed quite often and the current was with us the whole way,” said Givry, who berths his boat at Jabin’s Yacht Yard in Annapolis.
Jeroboam hit a top speed of 20 knots while sailing in wind gusts of 33 knots when the only setback of the race occurred. “We blew out the backstay so we took down the spinnaker and did a quick check of the rig,” Givry said. “We lost about 20 minutes while sorting things out.”
Crew members fashioned a jury rig by bringing the spinnaker halyard around the top of the mast and hooking it up to the block and Jeroboam was back in business.
Smith made the call to have Jeroboam sail deeper angles while reaching under the asymmetrical while going for maximize speed. Crew members then put up the jib and tightened up whenever it was time round the various turning marks on the course.
Jeroboam completed the 120-nautical passage with an elapsed time of 11 hours, 9 minutes and 30 seconds. The Farr 400 took first place in PHRF A with a corrected time of 13:47:18, which was almost two hours better than Rival (15:36:55).
“It is definitely a great boat, very fast downwind. If you look at our average speed I think we were just shy of 11 knots for 120 miles,” Givry said. “It was a great team effort. I have great people onboard.”
Givry spent a lot of time on various boats while growing up in the south of France and served in the French Navy. He moved to the United States in 1991 and is the owner of Elite Wines, an importer and distributor of fine wine.
Cantwell and the crew of Rival had a great battle with Sitella,, another XP44 owned by Ian Hill of Chesapeake, Virginia. Sitella, which captured the Virginia Cruising Cup last year, crossed the finish line off Fort Monroe just 67 seconds after Rival.
“It was pretty much a straight-line drag race down to the lower bay. We did just one gybe in 116 miles,” said Cantwell, an Eastport Yacht Club member who resides in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “We had Sitella off our stern for the last four miles so got into covering mode.”
Rival and Sitella got into a major tacking duel down the stretch and Cantwell got a bit concerned when the latter boat took a hitch into the shallows near Fort Monroe. The XP44 draws seven feet and the depth finder was showing a six-foot shoal just to the south.
“It was an upwind finish and we laid the pin end of the line and that was probably the difference,” Cantwell said.
Entourage, a Corsair F-27 trimaran owned by Ben Carver, captured line honors with an elapsed time of 10 hours, 35 minutes and 31 seconds. OrgaZmatron, a Corsair F-31 skippered by Josh Colwell, came across 23 ½ minutes later. Colwell figured out the next day that the main hatch seal on his boat’s float had failed, causing it to take on a thousand pounds of extra weight in water and explaining why the F-27 passed the F-31 toward the end of the race.
Both multihulls started last and Cutter admitted the crews “took perverse pleasure” in close reaching through the entire fleet at 17 knots of speed, passing Jeroboam about a half hour in. Carver said it was “sailing on the edge” as the trimaran was seriously loaded up with the “weather shrouds screaming in the wind and the lee bow submerging on each wave.”
“I didn’t think my heart could handle 10 hours of that level of stress,” said Carver, who finally put in one reef then another. After stuffing all three bows in gusts of 25 knots, the skipper decided it was too dangerous to sail with the spinnaker.
Danger Paws, a Melges 24 owned by Neil and Lis Biondi Ford, took first place in PHRF B with a corrected time of 19:58:10. It was a tight battle as runner-up Nanuq, a Sabre 426 skippered by Glenn Doncaster, was just 41 seconds astern after handicaps were figured in.
“We had an absolutely fantastic ride for the first 100 miles or so. We were seeing a sustained 13-15 knots of boat speed,” Neil Ford said. “It was blowing the dog’s off the chain for sure. We’re lucky the wind was coming from aft of the beam. The Melges 24 is real powerful in those types of conditions.”
Ford previously did Down the Bay with a J/24 named Rocket J, capturing class honors in 2012 and finishing second in 2013. The Hampton, Virginia resident took delivery of the Melges 24 in February is still figuring out how to maximize its performance.
Danger Paws saw top speeds of 16 knots under spinnaker reach and Ford said the crew was struggling to keep the boat stable. Unfortunately, the wind died and the current turned against the Melges 24 near the channel maker off Yorktown.
Ford took Danger Paws into the beach off Grand View to avoid getting swept out by the current in the light air, sailing about 50 yards from shore on approach to the finish.
“We were up with the big boys right up until the end and were thinking really good thoughts,” Ford said. “Unfortunately, the wind shut off and the bigger boats sailed right past us, which was frustrating. It took us 10 hours to cover the last 10 miles.”
Diablo, an Andrews 28 skippered by Greg Cutter, was winner of the Double-handed Division. This was the 12th Down the Bay Race for Cutter and his first class victory.
“It was a pretty exciting race. The wind just built and built. We were across the Potomac River by five in the afternoon, which is the fastest I’ve ever done that,” the Old Dominion University professor said.
Cutter was instrumental in getting a double-handed class offered by Down the Bay organizers and it debuted last year. Dave Godwin, who met Cutter when both were members of the C&C Yachts association, served as crew aboard Diablo.
This was an ideal race for the Andrews 28, which excels in heavy air when it can plane and light air as well.
“We were able to get the boat on a plane during the downwind run in strong breeze,” Cutter said. “I’d guess the wind died around midnight when we were near Stringray Point off the Rappahannock River and we went into ghosting move. Fortunately, after 35 years of sailing on the Chesapeake Bay, I’ve gotten pretty good in light air. This boat is also good in those conditions so we were able to keep it moving the whole time.”
This year’s race attracted five double-handed entries and Cutter is encouraged about the future of the class for Down the Bay.
Restless, an Irwin 38 owned by Jay Thompson of Virginia Beach, was the lone finisher in PHRF Non-Spinnaker Division. For complete results and additional information about the 68th Down the Bay Race, visit https://yachtscoring.com/emenu.cfm?eID=3037