The Vikings have finally discovered the Chesapeake. A hardy band of 34 kindred Norse spirits, after several epic fund-raising battles, has taken delivery of a 32-foot longship and expects to be plying the waters off Annapolis by mid-summer.
"Yes, I suppose you could describe us as a far-flung collection of eccentric medievalists," conceded Bruce Blackistone of Oakley Farm, Avenue, Md., pressed for a characterization of his organization, The Longship Co., Ltd.
Longship is made up for the most part of "young professionals" in foru states, he said, who have as their goal "recreation, maintenance and research regarding vessels of the Viking period."
The ship, a small example of the Knarr type of Viking merchant vessel, has a beam of just over eight feet, and sports a 224-square-foot squaresail and 12 14-foot oars.
She was built by Hans Pederson & Sons of Keyport, N.J., at a cost of about $8,000-cash garnered by appeals to the joy of "rowing against adverse winds and waves, freaking out Annapolis, making and consuming authentic provisions, amphibious landings on unsuspecting bathing beaches," and so on.
"Yes, she can sail to windward," explained Blackistone, warlord of the longship group (although when he filled out the IRS forms for his nonprofit company he used "president"). "She'll make some leeway, of course. No, there's no ballast. Yes, we'll try to be authentic as long as it doesn't mean being unsafe."
The idea is to put together a crew of from 10 to 18 and voyage to St. Michael's and beyond. This should be full stuff for longship members, who believe that trading voyages from Greenland to America were commonplace in such vessels between the years 1000 and 1300.
"What we'd like to do is join the Rhode River Boat Club and race her," said Blackistone, who in another life is a space management specialist for the Securities and Exchange Commission. "It'd be real interesting to see how she rates under the I.O.R. rule."
Membership information is available from Cecy Nucqer, care of Columbia Federal Savings, 1101 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20005.
The yachting Olympics may be a year away, but you couldn't tell it by Newport, R.I. this Memorial Day weekend. The Olympic committee is running a pretrials event, and has drawn the hottest shots into first battle in the six Olympic classes: Solings, Stars, Flying Dutchmen, 470s, Tornados and Finns.
The regatta is designed to help determine which sailors are worthy of financial support, and to get everyone, the race committee included, tuned up for the actual Olympic selection trial next May.
The chaps at Newport for this series-including at least nine from Washington and Annapolis-face a grueling year of racing. If there's an Olympic candidate in your office, don't expect to see much of him from now on.
The Potomac River Sailing Association's annual spring regatta concludes on the Potomac off Hains Point today. Anyone wondering what classes of sailboats are popular in Washington, or what the sailors are like, might drop by the sailing marina south of National Airport about 2 or 3 p.m. Any question is fair game, and the Albacore and EL Toro fleets especially welcome newcomers.
There isn't any America's Cup race this summer, so you might think the veterans of the 12-meter wars would be content to race their other stables of boats as before.
Ah, that is the difference between Ted Turner, Dennis Conner, Tom Blackhaller and the rest of us. They are going 6-meter racing this year.
"We've got a brand-new boat, and there are going to be six brand-new American 6-meters," said Gary Jobson, just about to head for Marblehead, Mass., to start practicing with Turner Robby Doyle and a crew made up exclusively from the Courageous America's Cup team.
"You ought to see these boats," Jobson said. "Everything is half the size of a 12-meter. They're about 34 feet long and the mast is half as big as a 12-meter's, and they're only 6 feet wide. they're really kind of funny looking."
Turner's 6 is owned by the Yellow Rose Syndicate of Fort Worth, and the plan is to sail her for two weeks in Marblehead, then to Texas for christening, then to the Pacific Northwest.
Waiting there are the 6-meter world championships in Seattle, for which 40 boats from 12 countries are expected. And then the America-Australia Challenge Cup in San Francisco for which only one boat per country will qualify.
Also waiting is Dennis Conner, Turner's arch rival for the helm of the U.S. entry in next America's Cup defense and Jobson figures on very challenging 6-meter racing, indeed.
It will be a tough one to make book on Turner and Jobson just published a tactics tome entitled "The Racing Edge." Conner has a book out,too.
It's called, "No Excuse to Lose."