CHESTERTOWN — The Sultana, captained by Michael Fiorentino, won the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race for the second year in a row and the third time in four years.
“We have amazing community support and an extremely dedicated crew, volunteer base, and staff that make this all possible,” Fiorentino said in a prepared statement.
Due to high winds, the race was pushed back one day to Friday, Oct. 18.
The start was scheduled for two hours earlier than previous years to allow for more daylight hours during the race. Instead a massive “bomb cyclone” whipped into the area with winds in excess of 40 knots during the gusts and sustained winds in the high 20s. The decision was made to delay the race until dawn the next day when the winds were forecast to settle down, according to the event’s website.
Most of the schooners pushed off the dock in Baltimore at 3 a.m. to get down to the start, a latitudinal line through the Whitehall Bay No. 1 buoy.
The start was gorgeous, with the sun just peeking over the horizon and winds around 15 to 20 knots, blowing the fleet down-Bay at a fine clip. As forecast, the winds continued to calm throughout the day until there was but a ghost of a breeze by sunset.
Fortunately, the traditional course from Baltimore to Norfolk, Va. had been shortened. The finish line was Cove Point for B and C classes, and Smith Point for A and AA classes.
Sultana and Pride of Baltimore II are co-winners in AA.
According to the event’s website, there was confusion among the race committee regarding the application of placement penalties from previous years.
Applying previous year’s placement penalty, Pride of Baltimore II won.
Without the 10% penalty from a 2018 first-place finish, Sultana would have won.
“Acknowledging their error, and with clear changes in place to ensure this sort of error does not occur again, the GCBSR race committee has awarded two first-place finishes in the 2019 AA fleet,” the website states.
There were 19 schooners in the race: six in the largest AA class; five in A class; and four each in B and C classes.
The Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race was founded to promote public awareness of the Chesapeake Bay’s maritime heritage and encourage the preservation and improvement of the Bay’s natural resources. Proceeds of the race are donated to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
To date, more than $172,600 has been donated to support the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Oyster Recovery Project, the Portsmouth Riverkeepers and others, according to a news release.
The race begins in Baltimore and, traditionally, ends 118 nautical miles down the Chesapeake Bay in Norfolk, Va. Entry is open to all schooner-rigged vessels. The race and all race week activities are run by volunteers and donations keep the race going.