There is a saying that sailors like to repeat: When two boats are headed in the same direction at the same time in sight of each other, they race.
Some sailors take that more seriously than others. Yesterday evening, 161 boats lined up in the Annapolis Harbor for the 32nd annual Governor's Cup Yacht Race, expected to end today in St. Mary's City. Although there were 11 entry divisions, sailors and race officials agreed that most boats could be divided into just two categories: racers and cruisers.
The racers were boats like Donnybrook, a 73-foot sloop custom-built for speed with its carbon fiber body and lightweight sails. Its captain, James Muldoon, who lives in the District, set a record time at the race more than a decade ago: 6 hours and 9 minutes.
"Let me tell you, I don't think it's going to be broken," he boasted yesterday.
Maury Benbow of Yardley, Pa., however, said he probably would arrive in St. Mary's by this afternoon. His Hallberg-Rassy 43, named Smidge, is a heavy mid-size cruiser, designed for comfort on long sea voyages.
"We like the competition, of course," Benbow said yesterday. "Even if we don't win, we have fun."
Marc Apter, a spokesman for St. Mary's College, which sponsors the race along with the boating supply retailer West Marine, said nearly 100 of the boats in the race were entered in the cruising divisions -- about 10 more than last year. And the race's reputation for some of the best shore-side parties has helped fuel interest among more casual sailors.
But the racers took over yesterday when the first cannon went off about 6 p.m., signaling the start of the Governor's Cup. The cruisers went last, cannons booming as each division set sail.
Muldoon said he takes a sportsmanlike attitude toward the cruisers -- that is, unless they get in his way, he added, only half joking. He and his 18-member crew planned to be up throughout the night, working in three-hour shifts.
"It takes a lot of food and a lot of coffee," he said. "You've got to hang in it."
Paul Suzie of Timonium, Md., said the difference between racing and cruising "is like night and day." His boat, a Schock 35 named the SchockaRoo, is stripped bare of such creature comforts as air conditioning, a stove to cook hot meals and even cushions. But who needs cozy bedding when sleep comes only in half-hour snippets?
"Back when we used to cruise, we used to go out and didn't have a care in the world," Suzie said. But now that he races, he said, "I can't relax in my sailboat anymore."
Benbow has only six crew members. Growing up in North Carolina, he raced dinghies, but now he has moved on to the Smidge, which has two bathrooms and an enclosed cabin complete with drawers and shelves and fancy woodworking. Muldoon's boat, however, has only bunk beds tucked away in what could pass for a bomb shelter.
Tucker Thompson, a former professional sailor who runs the video production company filming the race, said that the Governor's Cup draws more cruisers than most races.
"Most races are not attractive to cruisers because they are just that: a race," he said.
But the Governor's Cup also draws a crowd of non-sailors for whom the race might seem secondary to partying. This afternoon, St. Mary's College will host the festivities as the boats dock on the banks of the nearby St. Mary's River. Live music is scheduled, along with booths selling food and alcohol.
Muldoon said racers and cruisers usually can put aside their differences once they are on shore. But his boat isn't named the Donnybrook -- which he defines as "an Irish free-for-all" -- for nothing. So, we have to ask, has there ever been a free-for-all on the Donnybrook?
"Maybe not on the Donnybrook, but maybe a few afterward," he said with a laugh. "Those cruisin' fellows, they get in the way!"
The Donnybrook crew waits as the boat hits a windless spot about 20 minutes into the race. The Sultana from Chestertown, Md., a replica of a ship from the 1600s that was used to collect taxes along the shore of the Chesapeake Bay, helps start one of the heats.