Maryland skipper sails TP52 to record run in Virginia Cruising Cup


Irie, a TP52 skippered by Greg Alden, smashed the course record for the Virginia Cruising Cup Race – a Chesapeake Bay classic that begins off Annapolis (MD) and finishes off Hampton (VA).

Starting on May 24, Irie covered the 120-nautical mile course in seven hours, two minutes and 32 seconds. That shattered the previous mark of 11 hours and 9 minutes that had been established in 1974 by Running Tide, a Sparkman and Stephens 60-footer owned by Al Van Metre.

“It’s always an honor to do historic things. We were fortunate to get ideal conditions while the boat and crew performed tremendously,” Alden said.

Conditions were ideal for a record run with winds ranging from 20-30 knots out of the northwest with gusts up to 36. Irie, which sailed downwind under asymmetrical spinnaker for most of the race, recorded an average speed of 17-plus knots.

Alden said Irie started with a jib top as headsail then switched to a Fractional A6 asymmetrical and staysail configuration after changing angles near Thomas Point. Irie reached speeds of 25 knots while roaring along under spinnaker for almost five hours before returning to a jib reach near the finish.

“We got the ride of our lives. It was an absolutely epic trip, the most fun I’ve ever had aboard a sailboat,” Alden said. “We were surfing down waves and burying the bow. We were just ripping along the whole way and everybody had a blast.”

Storm Trysail Club-Chesapeake Station started the race at R2 off Annapolis while the Hampton Yacht Club finished the fleet at R22 near the mouth of Hampton Roads. Irie crossed the finish line off Fort Monroe at 5:27 p.m. on Friday evening.

“We got to the dock in time for happy hour, which I never would have imagined,” Alden said.

Quantum Sail Design Group professional Scott Nixon served as tactician for Alden and helped organize the crew. Dr. Robert Razenbach, a renowned Naval architect and aerodynamicist, was aboard as navigator. Boat captain Pete Pendleton and fellow Annapolis professional Mike Beasley doubled as drivers and trimmers. Former North Sails pro Matt Beck also handled both roles while Teddy Haaland (bow), Chris Schasiepen (trimmer), Chris Conway (trimmer), Rob Lancaster (grinder) and Brian Karlisch (mast) completed the crew. Ron Nixon, Scott’s father and a longtime Hampton Yacht Club member, was along for the ride and received a nice welcome in his home port.

This was the 64th edition of the Virginia Cruising Cup Race, which is known as the “Down the Bay” by lower Chesapeake sailors and the “Hampton Race” by upper bay competitors. First held in 1934, the Virginia Cruising Cup Race reached its highest popularity during the 1970s when it annually attracted 130-150 entries.

Run every year from 1934 to 1999 except during the World War II years (1942-45). After a 10-year hiatus from 1999-2008, the venerable race was revived in 2009 and has increased in participation every year since. This year’s event drew 31 boats in five classes.

“An exciting record like that posted by Irie raises the profile of the Virginia Cruising Cup race and shows that top-tier boats are once again competing in this Chesapeake Bay classic,” said regatta chairman Chauncey Wu of the Hampton Yacht Club.

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