Governor's Cup Sails Forward Successfully

On the first weekend of August, St. Mary’s College of Maryland welcomed students, faculty, staff, and guests from all over onto the banks of the waterfront in order to watch or complete the annual Governor’s Cup Yacht Race.

This year, a total of 155 registered boats, a ten-year high, participated in the race, which started in Annapolis on Friday, Aug. 5 and ended on the St. Mary’s River. The finish line ran between Church Point and the 17th century replica of the Maryland Dove, which sat out in the middle of the river starting Friday evening through the weekend.

In order to improve race participation for this 38th season, a Cruising class was implemented in order to allow those who did not wish to be particularly competitive to take part in the race. The informal classes had a start time from Annapolis of 3 P.M. while the competitive classes left exactly three hours later. This way most boats would still arrive at the finish line around the same time.

Live GPS tracking was displayed online for everyone on shore to track friends and family, or to keep up with the entire race. Those that waited on the banks of the St. Mary’s River enjoyed a weekend full of swimming, music, vendors, and sun.

“The race ran beautifully,” said Senior and Governor’s Cup intern Mark Snyder. “Really everything ran according to plan and even the weather cooperated.”

Every boat in the race was placed in separate groupings, and the rankings were split into their respective categories. Each of the seventeen divisions had its own champion, which was not decided by the time at which they crossed the finish line, but by their time based on their handicap.

One overall winner was also awarded the Joseph Waldschmidt Best in Fleet Trophy, while the Bickell Award was given to the skipper and crew that best improved their time from the previous year. Approximately twenty-eight boats competing did not finish the race.

Last year the Governor’s Cup was known for having lost $20,000 instead of gaining any revenue from the event. This year, some changes were made in order to save more money, which helped the event break even.

“We eliminated a dinner that cost the college about $9,000,” said Associate Vice President of Planning and Facilities Charles “Chip” Jackson. “More food vendors were brought in to replace the dinner. We also increased a number of fees: race registration was increased from $75 to $100 and we increased the cost for overnight housing.”

While rumors had been previously flying that the 2011 Governor’s Cup could be the last, due to monetary issues, Jackson is confident that St. Mary’s College will be keeping the annual race in future years and that fixing a few of the financial details for this year were crucial.

Whether participants in the 38th Annual Governor’s Cup Yacht Race spent their time sailing from the new Maryland capitol of Annapolis, or spent the weekend soaking up the sun, music, and fun at Maryland’s old capital of St. Mary’s City, all parties seemed pleased with the event.

“It was a lot of fun and was relaxing to come back down to school for a weekend in the summer,” said Sophomore Tira Valkanas. “I got to see friends that I haven’t seen in a while and it was awesome watching all of the boats sail in.”

Governor’s Cup To Hold Final Race?

In an effort to lower auxiliary expenses to promote the College’s academic mission, the College administration is considering modifications of the budget that may lead to the end of investment-heavy projects, including the annual Governor’s Cup Yacht Race, after 2011.

The Governor’s Cup, entering its 38th race this August, began in 1973 under the design of then-St. Mary’s sophomores Pete Sarelas, Russell Baker and Dale Rausch, ’71, with the help of former College president Renwick Jackson and the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association.

The race itself is a weekend-long event, with racers sailing from the state capital to St. Mary’s City, followed by an awards ceremony and after-race dinner and party event.

“The race starts at the outer edge of Annapolis Harbor [the modern capital],” said Adam Werblow, Director of the Waterfront and Principal Race Officer of the Governor’s Cup, “and boats race 70 miles to a finish off of Church Point, St. Mary’s City [the colonial capital].”

The St. Mary’s community has shown strong interest in the race since its inception, with as many as 400 ships during the races in the 1980s.

“Some [community members] are sponsors, some race, some come to welcome visiting sailors,” said Werblow. “[The Governor’s Cup] is one of the few events that brings a large number of people to our campus.”

Despite its previously high participation, the race only boasted 119 racers last year, and has increasingly generated less profit for the College annually.

Costing $72,000 last year but only gaining $54,000 in revenue, the $18,000 deficit was a noticeable portion of the school’s overall budget.

“With a long view forward in mind, there are actions we are taking now to help ensure our viability and to make us more attractive to those with the means to support our mission,” said President Joseph Urgo during a Board of Trustees meeting in December.

“Finances need to consider the academic mission,” said Associate Vice President of Planning and Facilities Charles “Chip” Jackson, “and $20,000 is a lot.”

The decline in the race’s participation is a growing trend in point-to-point distance races, as the long travel commitments and difficulty of the race make it a less attractive type of event.

“It’s a long, hard race,” said Jackson, “and those types of races are less and less popular in the sailing world.”

Current steps are being taken to modify the event for this year and future years in order to lower the cost to the College and raise revenue for the event.

Included in these changes are the possible cancellation of the after-race dinner and having a lower-scale after-party alongside the post-race events.

“People pay for the dinner, but it itself lost almost $10,000,” said Jackson. “Some sailors have mentioned that they wouldn’t mind losing the dinner.”

Losing the dinner would also increase the attention towards the other events occurring during the Governor’s Cup, including band performances and vendor tents.

“The goal is to be budget neutral,” said Jackson, “and we’re looking at ways to raise revenue and cut costs.”

Despite the financial struggles of the event, the Governor’s Cup is still scheduled for this August, with modifications in place to see if costs can be lowered. A trustee group of community members is currently meeting to aid in this endeavor.

“There has been very productive dialogue that will serve the College well,” said Jackson. “We look forward to informing the community.”

The administration is also looking at the River Concert Series, which was mostly budget-neutral last year with the help of successful fundraising, and Slackwater, an environmental awareness journal that lost its Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant this past year.