WBOC Races Aboard Skipjack Helen Virginia In Deal Island Race - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

WBOC Races Aboard Skipjack Helen Virginia In Deal Island Race

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(Photo: WBOC) (Photo: WBOC)

DEAL ISLAND, Md.-  A Chesapeake Bay skipjack fleet that used to consist of around 800 boats has now dwindled down to just about 25 or so.  The bulk of those remaining skipjacks were on Deal Island on Labor Day, celebrating their heritage.  What better way to do that, than through an old-fashioned race?

It's a sight that used to be common along the Chesapeake Bay: skipjack after skipjack tied up in a harbor, waiting to be sailed.  Deal Island Race Director Stoney Whitelock has sailed there for 54 out of the 56 races.  He says the sight of all these boats always feels like home to him.

"Well we've got a great amount of boats this year.  We've got about half of the fleet that's left in the world right here in this harbor this morning.  We've got 13 boats and there's only about 25 existing," said Whitelock.

Before setting off, we go looking for the Helen Virginia.  She's last year's champion, raced by a team entirely made up of women.  It's also the boat WBOC chose to sponsor this year.  The crew says it looks like it's going to be a challenging race.

"We have absolutely no wind right now," said crew member Sarah Gleason.  "We'll see what happens out on the water.  Without wind, every boat is going to struggle with getting the right amount of power."

On shore, spectators say they are ready to see the race, as boats slowly make their way out into the bay.

"As long as the weather holds up, it's nice.  It won't really matter about the speed, it will still look good," said Sean Richardson of Salisbury.

The sight of 13 skipjacks, sails unfurled, gliding across the water is something truly special.  Despite the beautiful weather, the wind was borderline nonexistent.  That makes for hard work for the crew.

A race that was originally supposed to be a full circuit, wound up being a race to see who could make it to the first buoy!  To make it there, it took a lot of tacking, a lot of jibing, and a lot of hard work by April and Carrie on the jib sail.

Katarina Ennerfelt, captain of the Helen Virginia, says the wind wasn't the only thing working against them.

"It was no wind and then we had the tide turning and we had to go against the tide, so in a couple of instances we were going backwards," said Ennerfelt.

At one point, it took 45 minutes to come about, but once we did, the wind was finally in our sails.  We sailed past three other boats, not bad considering we had been in last place just minutes prior.  But that third boat, the Ida May, stuck with us to the end, providing quite the challenge to the Helen Virginia crew.  In the end, we crossed the line, hot on the heels of the City of Crisfield.

Katarina says despite the lack of wind and slow speeds, the event is a big success, providing an economic boost to the small island, and preserving the history of the skipjack fleet.

"We wanted to make as much noise as possible to make everyone aware that the skipjacks are here, they are alive, they are our heritage, and they can be saved," said Ennerfelt.

At the end of the almost four hour long race, here are your finalists.  In first you have the Virginia W, second the Fannie Daugherty, third was the City of Crisfield.

The Helen Virginia came in fourth.

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