Tim McGee uses familiar formula for success in winning Don Backe Memorial Regatta


JUN 27, 2021 AT 10:18 AM

Winning skipper Tim McGee and his team from the Don Backe Memorial Regatta.
Winning skipper Tim McGee and his team from the Don Backe Memorial Regatta. (courtesy of Paul Bollinger/Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating)

Tim McGee made history last August when he and a crew of former Naval Academy sailors captured the 14th annual CRAB Cup. It marked the first time one of Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating’s Beneteau First 22A sloops were overall winner of the pursuit race.

McGee stuck with the same formula for success when competing in the 22nd annual Don Backe Memorial Regatta. The 1978 Naval Academy graduate, who was captain of the intercollegiate dinghy team as a senior and earned All-American honors, once again had Paul Van Cleve and Pam Corwin aboard as crew.ADVERTISING

“Why would I change what worked so well before?” said McGee, who is believed to be the first former Navy sailor to reach the rank of admiral.

Van Cleve called tactics and trimmed the jib, while Corwin trimmed the main as McGee won three of five races in posting a low score of eight points. That was six better than runner-up Kevin Detwiler, winner of Race 4.

“Paul calls the laylines and tacks and Pam is trimming the main at all times,” McGee said. “They know how to keep the boat moving and make my job easy.

Van Cleve is a 1979 graduate of the Naval Academy and former All-American. The Pasadena resident was the Finn class world champion in 1983. Corwin (Class of 1983) was also an All-American sailor at Navy.

Annapolis Yacht Club member Cedric Lewis, co-owner of the J/105 Mirage, was also aboard as crew and came away impressed by the Naval Academy contingent.

“Tim and Paul had a pretty good idea of where they wanted to start and what they wanted to do, so my job was to make suggestions, keep the boat out of trouble, and calm everyone down at times,” Lewis said. “They’re all outstanding sailors who are very competitive and got a little amped up at times.”

Annapolis Yacht Club provided race committee support and set the start-finish line near the Spa Creek Bridge. McGee said a tight starting box put the six-boat fleet in close quarters and he credited getting off the line in good shape as crucial.

Racing got underway in 5 to 10 winds, which held steady for the three races held in the morning. The breeze lightened considerably in the afternoon and organizers were fortunate to complete two more races in deteriorating conditions.

Lewis regularly sails through the mooring traffic on Spa Creek when finishing races during the Wednesday Night Series and that experience proved helpful as the day wore on. McGee said all five races were basically decided by the time the fleet reached the weather mark of the triangle course as there was not much changing of places.

“Cedric was great, and we did make better decisions than some of the other boats on the windward leg going out of the harbor,” McGee said. “Most of the time, we rounded the weather mark first then opened up the lead.”

McGee, who also won the Warrior Regatta earlier this spring, will have a difference crew for the CRAB Cup in August. Younger brother Patrick McGee and Lightning sailor Walt Laird will be aboard since Van Cleve and Corwin are going on a bicycle trip that week.

Paul Bollinger, executive director of Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating, hosted members of the organization’s board of directors along with other special guests aboard the Impossible Dream. That universally accessible catamaran is dedicated to raising awareness to barrier-free design and inspire people with disabilities, wounded soldiers and disadvantage youth to pursue independence and quality of life through sailing.

“It was a really great regatta and Annapolis Yacht Club ran airtight races. They were johnny-on-the-spot with setting a fair course,” said McGee, 66, who lost function on the right side of his body after suffering a stroke five years ago.

22nd annual Don Backe Memorial Regatta

1, Tim McGee (Pam Corwin, Paul Van Cleve, Cedric Lewis, 1-3-1-2-1=8; 2, Kevin Detwiler (Scott Gitchell, Maude Laurence), 3-4-4-1-2=14; 3, Jay Streit (Jon Slabaugh, Dee Perry), 2-1-2-6-5=16

Bill Wagner 

Bill Wagner has worked for Capital Gazette Newspapers for 30 years. He served as beat writer for Navy athletics and general assignment sports reporter. He is also the sailing editor.