A lot of factors seemed to conspire against last weekend's venerable Race to Queenstown and Queenstown Race Back.
It lost entries due to an overlap with the increasingly popular Hospice Cup event a bit farther down the bay on Saturday. The Triton class was completely absent after the events were accidentally omitted from their class calendar.
A major powerboat race off Sandy Point Park limited course possibilities and caused some minor conflicts with some of the sailboats racing in the Queenstown event, and then there was extremely light air on Sunday after a real howler on Saturday.
These factors helped produce a relatively low turnout, with a total of 34 starters each day.
Saturday's competition featured a 21.5-mile waltz back and forth across the bay before heading up into the Chester River to Queenstown, with the Magothy River Sailing Association as its host.
Sunday's light-air drifter was shortened to a merciful 7.5 miles after about four hours of sailing, presented by the Potapskut Sailing Association.
Both days provided some memorable sailing, and a lovely overnight anchorage was enjoyed on Saturday evening.
"On Saturday it blew like a gale," said Multihull class winner Jere Glover. "We had to reef down a good bit on the race back and forth across the bay. It was blowing a good 25 knots a good bit of the time, and it was pretty choppy."
Glover and his brother, Lloyd, sailing their Mayo-built Gemini 31-foot cruising catamaran also named Gemini, were the only team in the seven classes of starters to take first in both races. Although Glover said Saturday's race was "pretty straightforward," the race included some very unusual excitement.
The fleet started downwind in the middle of the bay northeast of Baltimore Light, heading first to the mark at the south end of the Swan Point Channel. Then it went back to the northwest to windward to a mark east of Belvedere Shoal before turning and running east toward Swan Point again in preparation for the final legs up into the Chester.
Although the MRSA Queenstown Race course area had been pre-approved by the Coast Guard, who also were working on the water to keep the sailboaters separated from the powerboat race out of Sandy Point, the powerboat course seemed to have been shifted, Glover explained.
"Probably the most exciting part of the race was when we tried to round the 'C' mark (Can 3 at the south end of the Swan Point Channel) and the Coast Guard turned us away," Glover said.
"The powerboats apparently moved their course so that we had an overlapping mark, and right after the Coast Guard made me turn back before we rounded the mark, all these powerboats came screaming by doing 40 or 50 knots. I'm the one they picked to yell at, but the whole fleet turned away, and nobody could round that mark."
In the brisk wind and heavy seas, Glover said, it was important to keep the speed of the swift multihulls down to a comfortable level for safety.
"I'd say we were doing about 9 knots at the most out in the bay," he explained, adding that after they turned up into the calmer waters of the Chester, they were able to open up and pick up additional speed.
"The multihulls have been doing that race for about 10 years now," Glover said. "It's a good race and a nice anchorage. Queenstown's a nice place to spend a fall evening, and one of the nicest parts is that the cruising multihulls, and the ones who don't want to race, come over and meet us at Queenstown."
This year, he said, their cruising counterparts provided "a veritable feast" for the multihull rendezvous, adding a special touch for the racers, who seldom stock their boats with such heavy luxuries, even for an overnight event.
"It's good because it gives the cruisers who join us something nice to do, and it certainly improved our quality of life," he said.
The next morning, they were faced with air so light that PSA Race Committee spokesman Jim Demerest said it was actually more the current than the wind that enabled the fleet to cross the starting line. Glover's success was due to his brother's great skill as a light-air sailor.
"On the way back," he said, "it was extra-light air. My brother just worried it around the course, worried it and worried it constantly, and we were actually able to keep up with the big trimarans, which is pretty unusual for us."
The race was shortened to finish near Love Point after the fleet leaders had spent four hours or more on a drifting contest from the start off Queenstown Harbor.
In truly fickle Chesapeake Bay tradition, however, the wind waited until the race was virtually over before appearing for the day.
"No more than 10 minutes after we finished," Glover said, "the wind came in nicely, and we zoomed home to Annapolis."
In addition to the Tritons, also missing on Sunday was the PHRF-A class. Of Saturday's three starters in that class, only two finished, and each lodged a protest against the other, which was to be resolved after a hearing on Friday night.