Conditions were near perfect this weekend as the Potomac River Sailing Association hosted the 2016 President’s Cup, the longest running one-design sailboat race on the Potomac River, held since 1926. This historic event attracted a wide range of competitors across seven different classes of sailboat, ranging from small wooden sailing dinghies up to 19-foot high performance racing sloops. This year 52 boats and over 100 sailors took part in the regatta.
“You may not know it standing in downtown Washington DC, but the capitol area is home to a thriving sailing community,” said PRSA Commodore Aaron Boesenecker. “We have a wide array of local talent, and are located close to a number of major sailing centers like Annapolis that naturally attract competitors to the area. The President’s Cup is our signature event, and has taken place for 90 years. There is a lot of history behind it, and several of our racers have been competing in President’s Cup Regattas each year since the 1960s and 1970s. Fortunately, this weekend the river and the weather came together to give us a two days of great sailing.”
Sailing was held on two courses located in the Potomac River. The larger sailboats raced on an upper course located in an area just north of Reagan Airport and south of Haines Point, while the smaller boats sailed off the power plant just north of downtown Alexandria. Races are held on along a set of buoys, referred to as “marks” which designate the area a boat must sail to complete a course. The first one to complete the course wins, and each class of sailboat will go around the course separately and be scored as they finish. Over 30 people had a fantastic view of the racing on Saturday aboard the spectator cruise on American Spirit, thanks to DC Sail.
Competition was close throughout Saturday and Sunday, as boats jostled for prime position on the starting line and strived to find the areas with the most wind as they made their way across the courses. Though the races can last over an hour, in many cases the margin of victory came down to a matter of inches between boats.
“Sailing with PRSA has been fantastic,” said Dan Dunham, Fleet Captain for the Laser Class and a competitor in this weekend’s races. “When I first moved to the area, I had no idea that there was such an active group of sailors on the Potomac. This truly is a volunteer-run organization, and the people involved are why it is so rewarding to take part in events like the President’s Cup. The focus is on more than just winning races, it is also about helping teach others and build the skills of everyone who comes out with us to sail.”
PRSA was founded in 1935 to provide a focal point for small boat sailing on the Potomac. The group holds more than 40 days of one-design racing every year: more than 150 races, with roughly 2,500 dinghy starts, plus weekday evening races, clinics, training seminars, and various other fleet-sponsored activities. The Potomac River Sailing Association sails out of the Washington Sailing Marina, and encourages new members interested in joining and taking part in racing to contact or click here.