|Photo by Al Schreitmueller|
If you're tempted to brag about your cutting edge race boat here on the Chesapeake, you might want to meet Paul Parks and hear about his boat to give you some perspective. Park's SeaCart30 Sundog, a trailerable 30-foot carbon trimaran designed for inshore and offshore one-design racing, is intended to reach speeds up to 30 knots. At last month's inaugural Annapolis YC Coast Guard Foundation Race, in which Sundog sailed the 120-mile course, the crew of five (including Park's wife Kathy) saw 19 knots of boat speed as they ran up the Bay and finished first.
Raised in Cambridge, MD, Parks grew up sailing and racing on Hampton One Design (HOD) with his dad, a former Star sailor. Following his studies at Sailsbury University and a stint in the Army, he bought his own HOD and then, a Thistle "just to learn about spinnakers," he says.
His first boat was a Sparkman and Stephens designed Tartan 10, in which he did quite a bit of daysailing and raced Wednesday nights on the West River as well as in overnight races such as the Down the Bay Race, Solomons Invitational, and Governor's Cup. "One year, I kept a log and sailed 100 days," he says.
It was during his J/35 years that he met his wife Kathleen at the West River SC. "We campaigned it hard for a few years. We got it before it was an active class in the mid-80's. It was a lot of fun." Then, the parks had a Tripp 33 they didn't keep long, and next, a custom Farr 40. "It was quite a sailing machine," he says. They raced her all over the Bay and in the Annapolis to Newport Race and Block Island Race Week. Next in Park's go-fast mission came a Melges 24, a Melges 30, a Henderson 30, and a DynaFlyer 40, the prototype canting ballast twin foil sailboat. After sailing an Esse sport boat, Parks became interested in multihulls. Shortly after his retirement from the mortgage industry, at the end of 2010, he flew to Athens, Greece, to see SeaCart 30. She had him at hello.
In the new Sundog, Parks and his team's goal was to compete in the atlantic, Pacific and Great Lakes. Their first event was the Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race in February, in which they were first in class and second in fleet. Next came the Border Run in April from Newport Beach to San Diego, CA. They were second in class and corrected to first. The goal of completing the trifecta will be accomplished if the crew is victorious at the Chicago YC Race to Mackinac in July.
When asked if one boat was a big leap from the other, Parks says, "I'ts not just about the boats. It was a natural progression. The science of racing had changed materials, construction, sails, instruments, navigation, keel shapes. There has been a real evolution, and it's all improved. The one constant through all of the boats since the J/35 has been Kathleen. in fact, I was considering a daysailor, and she pushed me to SeaCart trimaran. She not only races in the boats but has often been important ground support."
With one exception, all of Parks's boats have been named Sundog, a term he found in a clipper ship's log for a phantom or mock sun, which appears when ice crystals in the atmosphere create a prism. It seems an apt name for a racing machine that's gone before you get a chance to get a good look. As for the current Sundog, Parks says, "it's a spectacular boat for only 30 feet. We still have a lot to learn . It's just fun to go sailing."
Spinsheet: Who are your standard crew members these days?
Kathy Parks, Tim Mangus, Dave Bechtold, George Saunders, and Will van Cleef.
What is your favorite place on the Chesapeake?
The West River. I like to watch the sun go down and the moon go up there.
What books have you read recently that you would recommend?
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, The Race by Tim Zimmerman, and Call me Ted by Ted Turner.
What are your non-sailing passions?
Backpacking. We've been to Yosemite, North Cascades, Glacier, Yellowstone, Olympic, and Big Bend National Parks and the Brooks Range in Alaska.
What sailing gear do you depend on?
Musto foul weather gear, Sperry STS 35 sailing shoes, and prescription Kaenon sunglasses.
What would be your advice to a young racing sailor?
Go sailing any chance you get as many different boats as you can. Each boat has different qualities, quirks, experiences and people. Go early and stay late to help. If you're somebody who does that, there's usually room for you.