In the face of competition from the U.S. Sailboat Show, the bigger Annapolis Yacht Club Fall Series to the south, Cadillac Columbus Cup warm-up activities and other attractions, this year's Region II Fall Series fleet was a little skimpy.
Only about 20 boats in all showed up for two days of racing off the mouth of the Magothy River.
But if attendance was somewhat disappointing, brisk October breezes beneath clear skies made the sailing challenging and exhilarating for those who came out to test themselves against the heavy air and each other.
For Saturday's 13.34-mile near-Olympic triangle course, managed by the Magothy River Sailing Association, and a shorter government-mark course Sunday, managed by the Cape St. Claire Yacht Club, the PHRF-C class was the healthiest, with six starters on both days.
Winner of both races and the series in this class were brothers Craig and Grant Decker on their Elite 32 Sure Cure.
"We have a loyal, experienced crew I sail with all the time," helmsman Craig Decker said. "That's really important, and they're really good."
The brothers have been campaigning their late father's boat on their own for about a year, he explained, adding that both of them have been sailing locally virtually all of their lives.
"On Saturday it was blowing around 20 to 25 (knots per hour)," Decker said. "The course they laid out was somewhat of an Olympic course, two laps around. In our class we all had a good start, and then the whole group went left and we went right, and when we crossed again we came out about 250 yards ahead. After that, I guess one important thing was we had no equipment failures."
Decker added that in Saturday's heavy air, archrival Bill Paul on Rebecca was short-handed in the crew department and held off using his spinnaker on the first long spinnaker leg. That gave the Sure Cure team an advantage until the second lap of the course, when Paul risked setting the chute and nearly caught up.
"Bill's a really good sailor and a good friend, and I've learned a lot from him this year," Decker said. "In wind like that the fleet kind of creeps up on you on the long downwind legs."
Despite his light-crew handicap, Paul salvaged third in the race, only two minutes behind second-place David Lee on Leeway and about 3 minutes corrected time behind the Decker brothers.
"Sunday was the same kind of thing, with a lot of spinnaker work, but the wind was a little lighter," Decker said. "There was a pretty good breeze, but we started with the light No. 1, pushing it pretty hard."
Their gamble with the large sail at top-end conditions paid off, and the team was once again first with David Gendell on Bang just over two minutes behind and Paul and the Rebecca team in third, 47 seconds behind Gendell.
"Both days were equally exciting, with the heavy air on Saturday and strapping in and pushing it to the limits on Sunday," Decker said.
John Sherwood on Witch's Flower nailed both races in the PHRF-B class, while Jack Hayes on Winsome in the Triton class also turned in paired aces.
And after taking first Saturday by 12 seconds over Allen Keiser on Albar II, Mike Miernicki on Mischief won his PHRF-Non-spinnaker series when he was second Sunday by 24 seconds behind John Clark on Elusive.
* Venture capitalist Bill Steitz of Pittsburgh and Annapolis, known to local sailors as the skipper of his Baltic 43 Dancer and owner of Flyer Syndicate, which campaigns the Annapolis-based Ultimate 30 Maryland Flyer, was on hand at the U.S. Sailboat Show.
He announced he had acquired Concordia Yacht Builders of South Dartmouth, Mass., one of the nation's oldest and most illustrious builders of high-quality custom sailing yachts, dating back to the 1930s.
Steitz, president of Sauer Industries, will take an active role heading up the new management team at Concordia, which includes the seller, Brodie MacGregor, who has owned the firm since 1981; vice president for operations Donald Watson, Concordia's former chief boat builder; and Stephen Barker, the new vice president for sales and marketing and formerly president of Baltic Yachts East.
Internationally noted sailor and Maryland Flyer Skipper Mike Hobson of Annapolis also has joined the firm, now known as Concordia Custom Yachts, as technical director. He will provide custom sales support.
Concordia primarily has been known for beautiful and durable classic sailing yachts, including a series of yawls, which have achieved the status of icons to their owners and other admirers of classic yachts.
The company's focus has been shifting over the past decade to provide boats that are proven competitors under the IMS rule as well as comfortable and capable offshore cruisers. The new line includes a 53-foot Sparkman & Stephens design as well as 46- and 65-foot designs from the European firm of Judel/Vrolijk.