Under clear, starry skies out on the bay last Saturday, 138 teams ofsailors in eight handicap and five cruising one-design classes enjoyed the Shearwater Sailing Club's annual Twilight Race as they worked around the course in predominantly light, shifty air.
Sailors in the first six classes in the starting sequence, including all three IMS splits, PHRF A and B and the J/30 one-design class, spent their evening completing an 18.35-mile course.
The others, sailing in PHRF C and Nonspinnaker, MORC, Pearson 30s, Catalina 27s, Cal 25s and Tritons, used an abbreviated 14.05-mile version.
Both courses started at R'2' at the mouth of the Severn River and finished off the Naval Station at '15'.
The event featuredsome extremely close racing on the course, especially in some of thecruising one-design classes.
In J/30s, a 41-second range was between the first three finishers, with only a two-second margin between Tom Tatum on Sea Meant in second, and Bill Rutsch on BeBop in third.
Also very close, just before midnight in Catalina 27s, a total of only six seconds separated the finishes of third-placer Francis Wright on Cheshire Cat, Robert Fleischman on Sweet Mama and Mark Oursler on Merlin, resulting in some discussion about the actual finish order between fourth and fifth.
The class winner here, however, Bruce Johnson on Pussycat, had a cool three minutes between himself and second-place Cool Breeze, sailed by the Cool Breeze Syndicate.
Corrected times were also very tight in PHRF B, the event's largest class with 18 starters, where a total of 52 seconds separated first-placers John and Karen Yeigh on Fast Track from third-placer Larry Kumins on PollyWannaCracka.
"Actually, it was just a little luck," said John Yeigh. "We caught a better set of headers and lifts on the first beat,and we were first at the first mark, and had kind of a comfortable lead."
Yeigh and his team held the lead in this always tight and very competitive class until the end of the third leg, as they approached R'2' before heading up into the Severn River to the finish and were on the wrong side of a 50- to 60-degree wind shift to the right.
"Polly rounded R'2' and tacked immediately, and Goldfish overshot itand tacked about 50 yards past it," Yeigh said. "We overshot and tacked about 150 yards past it. We went almost all the way to Tolley Point. After that we never tacked to the finish. I guess the trick was that we went all the way to the very south shore of the Severn coming in, and when the shift came back about 30 or 40 degrees, we repassed Goldfish and PollyWannaCracka."
Goldfish came over the finish lineless than 30 seconds behind the Yeighs, with Polly just behind, for one of the closest handicap class finishes of the evening.
Win or lose, and even though the wind was light and uneven, everyone had to agree it was a beautiful evening for a sail.
It was the kind of night that has made the Twilight Race a popular event on so many local sailors' annual racing agenda and keeps them coming back even after awet and wild series of squalls like last year's.
Nancy Noyes is amember of the Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association and has been racing on the bay for about five years. Her Sailing column appears every Wednesday and Sunday in the Anne Arundel County Sun.