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Brian Stodd wins the Don Backe Memorial Regatta

Brian Stodd is currently unable to work due to serious health problems and was looking for something constructive to do with his time.

Stodd knew about the great work being done by Chesapeake Region Available Boating and decided he would like to volunteer with the organization. He recently visited the Adaptive Boating Center at Back Creek to offer his services.

Unbeknownst to Stodd, CRAB staffers Rebecca Gonser (vice president of development) and Shannon Rohrer (program manager) had signed him up to skipper the 27th annual Don Backe Memorial Regatta, held June 8.

Stodd made an impressive debut in the regatta named after the founder of Chesapeake Region Available Boating, taking victory in a competitive fleet of six boats. The lifelong Annapolis resident finished fourth in the opening race, but found the groove and posted a few seconds, followed by back-to-back bullets, for a total of 10 points.

That was one point better than runner-up Tim McGee and his strong team of former Naval Academy intercollegiate sailors.

Stodd grew up in downtown Annapolis and learned to sail as a member of the Annapolis Yacht Club junior program. He raced Lasers and Club 420s as a member of the St. Mary’s High sailing team, but had not piloted a boat in almost 20 years.

“It took one race to shake the dust off me, but after that I definitely felt like I was driving the ball well,” said Stodd, a 1996 graduate of St. Mary’s High. “I had a great team and Warren Richter did a fantastic job as a tactician. He showed us around the course perfectly. It was 100% a team effort.”

Captain Brian Dodd and his crew aboard Club Mac prepare to leave the dock.  Pictured from left to right are Dodd, William Dick, Tracy Richter and Warren Richter.  (Paul Bollinger/Chesapeake region accessible boating)
Captain Brian Stodd and his crew aboard Club Mac prepare to leave the dock. Pictured from left to right are Stodd, William Dick, Tracy Richter and Warren Richter. (Paul Bollinger/Chesapeake region accessible boating)

Stodd has remained involved in sailing over the years by serving as crew aboard big boats for both the AYC Wednesday Night Series and Thursday Night Racing out of J/World Annapolis. He has worked primarily in the marine industry over the years, most recently as a service manager for J. Gordon and Company, following a period as manager of Fawcett Boat Supplies.

Now Stodd is waiting for a kidney and pancreas transplant. He has type 1 diabetes and developed kidney failure in 2011 and underwent a successful transplant. However, that kidney failed last November, causing Stodd to undergo triple bypass heart surgery.

“All things considered, I’m feeling pretty good,” said Stodd, whose left leg was amputated. “It felt great to get out on the water and go sailing. It was a lot of fun and for a good cause.”

Stodd has learned a lot about Backe, who founded Chesapeake Region Available Boating in 1991 with the mission of bringing therapeutic sailing to people with physical and developmental disabilities. Backe, who served as president and CEO of CRAB for more than two decades, died in 2013 at the age of 77.

“It was a huge honor to win this regatta, which pays tribute to Don Backe. I learned a lot about Don and everything he did for people with disabilities,” said Stodd, who vowed to return next year to defend his championship.

Richter was the lucky charm in the Don Backe Memorial Regatta, calling winner tactics in three of the last five editions. He was joined by his wife Tracey and William Dick as crew for Stodd on board Club Mac.

The race was held on a winding course along Spa Creek and the Severn River with wind speeds ranging from 5-6 knots in port and as much as 15 knots outside. Skippers faced the challenge of guiding their boats through the mooring field while staying in phase.

“You have to navigate your way through traffic while experiencing pressure. It’s just a matter of looking for that next service,” Richter said. “Brian did fantastic steering work and was very focused. Every time I gave him input on a course or poll, he was stuck.”

Paul Van Cleve, Jon Slabaugh and Pam Corwin crew for McGee, a 1978 Naval Academy graduate and former captain of the intercollegiate dinghy team. It was a tight regatta with the top two boats tied on points going into the fifth and final race. It was essentially a match race with Stodd’s team covering McGee and crew well on their way to victory.

June has been Adaptive Boating Month in Maryland for the past six years, and Governor Wes Moore recently issued a formal proclamation praising Chesapeake Region Accessable Boating for its role in promoting water access.

“Maryland commends CRAB for its successful efforts and recognizes the critical importance of the Adaptive Boating Center to Annapolis and our state,” said Moore.

CRAB based its operations out of Sandy Point State Park’s marina for decades, with Backe and successor Paul Bollinger working hard to find a more permanent and proper facility. Years and years spent raising funds and obtaining grants finally came to fruition when CRAB moved into the Adaptive Boating Center in April 2023.

Don Backe Memorial Regatta

1, Club Mac, Brian Stodd, 4-2-2-1-1=10; 2, Lindy, Tim McGee, 1-1-3-4-2=11; 3, Lainie, Justin Disborough, 5-3-1-2-3=14