• Prospector Dismasted In Annapolis To Newport Race

    Report by Bill Wagner

    Prospector, the Mills 68 that was chasing the Annapolis-to-Newport Race record, was dismasted in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

    Prospector was sailing upwind in 20-25 knots of wind and pounding into eight-foot seas in the Atlantic Ocean when the rig failed around 3 a.m.

    Annapolis resident Marty Roesch, one of four owners of the high-tech racing machine, said the headstay parted at the mast and the entire rig came down.

    “The tang for the forestay sheared off for reasons we don’t know yet,” Roesch said. “We were pounding upwind in heavy air and high seas. There was 20,000 pounds of load on the backstay. When the forestay failed the backstay pulled the rig down.”

    Roesch said the mast fell toward the stern and to leeward. Fortunately, all nine sailors on deck at the time were positioned to windward.

    “Everybody was on the rail while the trimmer and helmsman were also on the high side so no one was in danger,” Roesch said.

    Watch captain Paul McDowell called for all hands on deck and the entire 18-man crew set about sorting the situation. Roesch said the mainsail was too tangled up to be salvaged and had to be cut away. Also, the port side life lines were ripped away by the falling mast, spreaders and headstay.

    “When I got on deck everything was calm. There was a plan in place as to what needed to be done and everyone got to work,” said Roesch, who had been sleeping in the cabin. “It was not real dramatic on deck. Everything was handled in a seamanship way.”

    Prospector completed the 120-nautical mile Chesapeake Bay portion of the race in a phenomenal time of just over eight hours, rocketing downwind under various asymmetrical sails the whole way.

    Roesch said the navigator and tactician decided to sail east for approximately four hours in order to improve the sailing angle before heading toward Newport.

    “We had running conditions in the bay and made great time. We went around Chesapeake Light and headed offshore for a while and conditions were shaping up the way we had hoped,” Roesch said.

    “We picked up the shift we wanted and the wind was clocking around as we headed north. We were making great pace and accelerating. We were definitely on pace to have shot at record.”

    Roesch said Prospector was 30 nautical miles offshore and 70 miles north of the Chesapeake Light when the incident occurred. The Mills 68 was beating under reefed main with a No. 2 genoa and pounding hard into the steep waves.

    Roesch was told by the crew on deck at the time that they were about to crack off and set the fractional Code Zero asymmetrical spinnaker in order to sail a tight reach.

    “We had an earlier failure on the boat when the hydraulic pump for the boom vang blew. There is speculation that could have been contributing factor, but we really don’t know at this point,” Roesch said.

    Prospector motored back to Norfolk, Virginia to further assess the damage before the ownership group settled on the next course of action. A syndicate known as Shelter Island Transatlantic Partners consists of Roesch, McDowell, Larry Landry and Dr. David Siwicki.

    Landry told The Capital on Friday night the syndicate had ambitious plans for the 2019 season with Annapolis-Newport to be followed by the Transatlantic Race, which starts June 25 off Newport. Once across the Atlantic Ocean, the plan was to compete in the Fastnet Race and Rolex Middle Sea Race.

    “The Transatlantic Race is three weeks away. There is no way we can get the rig put in and tested in time to make the start,” Roesch said. “We’re going to figure out what is next for the program.”

    Prospector was known as Allegre and Caol Ila under previous owners and has an impressive track record while based in the Mediterranean Sea. Since purchasing the Mills 68, the Shelter Island Transatlantic Partners had set the course record for the 2017 Marblehead-to-Halifax Race.

    Had conditions cooperated, Prospector was quite capable of breaking the Annapolis-to-Newport Race record of 40 hours, 14 minutes and 36 seconds that was set in 2017 by the Volvo 70 Warrior.


    Update from the A2N Race Office - as of this moment we've had 7 boats retire from the race. Lumpy conditions didn't help those with sensitive stomachs so most turned around due to seasickness, some due to mechanical failure and Prospector lost their rig early this morning due to gear failure but everyone is safe and no injuries reported. We have spoken to all the boats and can't thank USCG Sector Hampton Roads enough for the countless hours they've spent to date helping to contact boats and communicate to the Race Office.
    Prospector shooting to break course record for Annapolis-to-Newport Race

    Prospector blasted off the starting line while being powered by a fractional asymmetrical spinnaker and staysail configuration.

    Part-owner Marty Roesch was at the helm as the Mills 68-footer rapidly pulled away from the rest of the 23-boat fleet that started the Annapolis-to-Newport Race on Saturday morning.

    Prospector, owned by a syndicate known as Shelter Island Transatlantic Partners, was passing Poplar Island just over a half hour after starting. Larry Landry, one of four owners, was hopeful of exiting the Chesapeake Bay by around 8 p.m. on Saturday.

    “This boat really has some giddy-up to her,” said Landry, noting the Mills 68 has reached speeds of 25 knots downwind.

    Indeed, Prospector was rocketing along at approximately 17 knots on a tight reach on Saturday and was soon out of sight of the large spectator fleet that gathered for the second Annapolis-to-Newport Race start.

    Conditions were similar to those that propelled the Friday starters down the bay – 10 to 14 knots out of the east-northeast with gusts in the upper teens.

    Shelter Island Transatlantic Partners initially got involved with grand prix offshore racing with the original Prospector, a Farr 60 built by Carroll Marine. That boat was formerly known as Carrera and set the Annapolis-to-Newport Race record in 2001. Annapolis professional Chris Larson skippered as Carrera completed the 475-nautical mile course in 42 hours, 58 minutes and 12 seconds.

    That course record stood for 15 years until it was finally broken during the 2017 edition of Annapolis-to-Newport. Warrior, a Volvo 70 skippered by Stephen Murray Jr., completed the passage in 40 hours, 14 minutes and 36 seconds.

    Prospector’s four owners, which include Paul McDowell and Dr. David Siwicki in addition to Landry and Roesch, are hopeful of bettering Warrior’s mark.

    “This boat is most certainly capable of breaking the record,” Landry said on Friday night. “I think the forecast might put us in position to do so.”

    Weather Routing Incorporated, which is providing daily forecasts for A2N, shows the Saturday starters enjoying running and reaching conditions well into Sunday morning. Long-range forecasts call for the wind to shift east then east-southeast, which would produce downwind conditions in the Atlantic Ocean as well.

    “It appears to be a very favorable forecast, but you just never what the wind conditions will actually be,” said McDowell, adding that it sets up as “a rather unusual Annapolis-to-Newport in terms of sailing angles.”

    Landry and McDowell agreed it’s imperative that Prospector be able to head toward Newport upon entering the Atlantic Ocean. If the predicted easterly wind shift does not come through, the Mills 68 might have to head offshore for many hours in order to improve its sailing angle.

    “This race is going to hinge on when we get into the ocean and what we find out there. The timing of that shift in the ocean will be crucial,” Landry said. “We need to be able to turn left and go northeast in the ocean. So that right-hand shift is a critical variable for us.”

    Prospector is doing A2N with a primarily amateur crew with the four owners holding important roles. Landry is the tactician while McDowell and Roesch are aboard watch captains. Dr. Siwicki, one of the three original owners along with Landry and McDowell, works the pit.

    Roesch, an Annapolis resident who owns the J/111 Velocity, recently joined the partnership and is one of the primary helmsmen along with McDowell. Artie Means (navigator), Henry Little (runners), Dave Scott (main trimmer), Stuart MacNeil (headsail trimmer) and Quinn Tobin (pit) are the professionals onboard.

    “This is a very good all-around boat that performs well in all points of sail,” McDowell said. “It is very well-built and sails very nicely whether going upwind or downwind.”

    Saturday’s start featured entries in ORC 1A and 1B, PHRF 1 and ORR 1. Rikki, a Reichel-Pugh 42 owned by Boston resident Bruce Chafee, quickly established itself as the second-fastest boat behind Prospector.

    A group of five Farr 40-footers campaigned by Oakcliff Sailing and the Naval Academy Varsity Offshore Sailing Team raced in close quarters – separated by just a few hundred yards.

    Oakcliff, based in Oyster Bay, New York, is a high-performance training center for young sailors who have progressed beyond traditional training methods. Oakcliff has three Farr 40s (Black, Blue and Red) competing in the 37th biennial Annapolis-to-Newport Race.

    Meanwhile, Navy has entered its two Farr 40s, Ranger and Zephyr, with crews consisting entirely of midshipmen. Hayden Kuzemchak is skippering Ranger while fellow rising senior Zack Bauer is skippering Zephyr.

    “Of course, the number one goal is to win the race. However, we also want to improve our sailing skills and gain valuable offshore experience,” Kuzemchak said. “If we can accomplish both of those goals the Ranger crew is going to be very satisfied.”

    Bauer said the Navy teams want to beat each other, first and foremost. However, both Ranger and Zephyr are determined to finish in front of all three Oakcliff entries.

    “It’s definitely super-competitive between the two Navy crews and bragging rights are really at stake in this race because of how challenging it is,” Bauer said. “We’re looking to stay safe, be competitive within our class and definitely take it to Oakcliff.”

    Jim Praley, chairman of the Annapolis-to-Newport Race, participated in the Saturday start aboard the family-owned J/120 named Shinnecock. Jimmy Praley held the title of skipper and steered at the start while his father and namesake is serving as navigator.

    “We feel like we have a really robust fleet this year with a good mix of veteran competitors and newcomers to Annapolis-to-Newport,” Jim Praley said. “I think it’s going to be a great race with excellent conditions and a lot of people are going to walk away happy.”

    Praley, who just completed his second and last term as A2N chairman, was pleased to have 19 boats competing under the ORC rating rule that is being offered for the first time in A2N. Most of the 12 entries racing under the ORR rule are racer-cruiser designs.

    Host Annapolis Yacht Club devotes considerable resources during the two-year buildup to Annapolis-to-Newport and the Friday-Saturday starters were the culmination of many volunteer hours. Praley singled out Linda Ambrose, Regatta Manager for AYC, for special praise.

    “Linda is absolutely fabulous. You could not possibly pull off an event of this magnitude without someone like Linda, who is a true professional and so dedicated,” Praley said. “I cannot even imagine how many hours she puts into this race. I don’t know Linda’s husband very well, but he must be the most tolerant man in the world.”

    Upon conclusion of this year’s passage, all participating boats will be berthed at the Newport Yachting Center. There will be a hospitality tent on site with partners such as Helly Hansen (merchandise), Barbados Tourism Marketing (travel and leisure), Gosling’s (spirits) and Boston Beer all maintaining a presence.

    “I think it’s a real plus on a lot of levels to have all the boats at the same location; There’s a lot of camaraderie on the docks of the Newport Yachting Center as the sailors tell sea stories and either celebrate or commiserate as the case may be,” Praley said.

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