Navy is host to nearly as many college regattas as MIT. By college standards it is considered open water, though not as much as it used to be. From 1985 until 1995 almost all college sailing was done well out in the harbor but since then, much of the racing is in the river. Even with the use of the river, there is perhaps no other site with as many different kinds of conditions. There is some current, mostly wind and pressure driven but somewhat tidal; there is flat water in the river, powerboat chop in the harbor and wind waves from the Bay. The wind can be steady or shifty. Annapolis is considered a light air venue but off-season (late fall through spring) strong weather systems can blow through.
The river runs straight down from the Northwest. When the wind is from the NW, the current can be driven hard by that wind and, when combined with an ebb tide, can run out up to and even over one knot. There is a small cove on the far shore across from the basin; never go there. The wind can be strong along the near shore, but don’t get too close. The NW wind is puffy and shifty like anywhere but there is the potential for a long beat as the nearest bridge is almost a mile up river.
If the wind is from the North or Northeast, expect huge variations and a tough day for the race committee; be patient.
The Southeast wind is steady and choppy. It provides the kind of days when you wish your dinghy had a compass. If it’s light you’ll need to power through the chop. If it’s windy, you still need power but you also need to get the bow above the waves or else your 420 will fill with water.
In a Southwest wind the course will likely be out of the river, in the harbor near the southeast facing seawall. The immediate seawall area has a nasty back chop, not a good place to find speed. The SW wind blows off Eastport. It is a warm wind with wide holes. Try to sail from puff to puff despite the puffs getting harder to find as you approach the weather mark.
There is a very weak current in by Spa Creek to the west. The strongest current is at the mouth of the river where the river is narrowest. That current stream spreads out a bit in the harbor but is still channeled somewhat to the north by the shoal on the south side of the harbor.
Since the immobile RC tends to sit in the middle of large modified triangles or trapezoids, the downwind legs are very long. In variable wind there are occasional opportunities to make big gains downwind if the fleet is not too spread out by the long beat. These gains are often down low depending upon how lifted the fleet is on the reach.
The 420s and FJs at Navy are heavier than the already heavy club boats at other venues. The rails are filled in and they have the biggest possible pads adding even more weight. You need to throw your body to get the boats to roll and flatten enough to shoot out of tacks and gybes. Think physical power rather than finesse when flattening from a tack. The boats are easy to rig but they start real early at Navy. If you arrive 15 minutes before reporting time you are really fifteen minutes late for preparing for the first race.