Navigating around COVID-19, Rock Hall holds annual regatta

Under gray skies, a fleet of 35 boats started the 12-mile Down River Race from Chestertown to Rock Hall on Friday, Sept. 25, kicking off the annual Rock Hall Yacht Club regatta. All but six boats finished.

ROCK HALL — The traditional regatta season having passed as summer officially transitioned into fall, according to the calendar, the yacht club here, nonetheless, turned back the clock just enough to stage its annual Down River Race and one-design regatta.

There was ample air for the 12 nautical mile race from Chestertown to Rock Hall on Friday morning, Sept. 25, but Saturday’s regatta was abbreviated due to low wind and a storm that moved into the area around 2 p.m.

Rock Hall Yacht Club’s annual sailing festival was pushed back from mid-June to the last weekend of September due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The skippers meeting for the Down River Race was held the day before via a conference call, following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines related to social distancing.

Thirty-five boats registered ahead of time for the race, and they all were on the line for the 11 a.m. start Friday off the dock at Chester River Yacht and Country Club. All but six finished.

Bill Kast of Nazareth, Pa., in an A-Class Catamaran, was the first to finish on elapsed time. His name was added to the perpetual Usilton Cup, named for the late Ralph “Sonny” Usilton. A sailing enthusiast and member of Chester River and Rock Hall yacht clubs, Usilton was an editor of the Kent County News; he was killed in September 1974 while on the job.

Kast also had the fastest corrected time and as such was winner of the Collins Cup, named for William S. Collins, one of the yacht club founders.

Ralph Sponar at the tiller of a Windmill, with son Matt Sponar as crew, captured the Strong-Austin Trophy as the first RHYC skipper to finish.

Ralph Sponar also won the Chauvenet Award as the first Windmill to finish. He was seventh overall on elapsed time, and third on corrected time.

The H. Morris Paschall III Memorial Cup, which was presented for the first time in 2017, went to Peter Serwik sailing a Melges X Boat.

The perpetual silver is named for “Morrie” Paschall, the sailor from Piney Neck who is most readily identified with the rich history of the Down River Race. He won the race on many occasions in a Sunfish.

Upon Pascall’s death in January 2017, his family created a new award to be presented to the under-21 sailor who has the best finish in the Down River Race.

Serwik finished in the middle of the fleet, 17th on elapsed time.

The Down River Race kicked off Rock Hall’s annual one-design regatta. Due to the conditions on Saturday, the A-Cat and Hobie classes were able to get in only one race. The Windmill class completed two races.

Printed are the top five place-finishers in each class. Results can be found on the RHYC website,

Windmill: Allen Chauvenet and Roy Sherman of Rock Hall Yacht Club, first; John and Anne Dannenberger of RHYC, second; Pat and Janet Huntley of Erie (Pa.) Yacht Club, third; Matt and Allie Sponar of RHYC, fourth; and Ralph and Sandy Sponar of RHYC, fifth.

A-Cat Classic: Ed Mills of West River Sailing Club, first; Bobby Orr of WRSC, second; Michael Love of USACA, third; Chris Bolton of Potomac River Sailing Association, fourth; and John Keenan of Sandy Hook Bay Catamaran Club, fifth.

Hobie mixed: Jim Glanden of Fleet 54, first; Ron LaPorta of Fleet 443, second; Rich and Carol McVeigh of Severn Sailing Association, third; Paul Scholtyssek of Fleet 416, fourth; and Wolfgang Kornwebel and Benson Chiles Jr. of Fleet 250, fifth.

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