Hurrah, hurrah, it's the first of . . . well, anyway, the annual madness of Wednesday night racing is starting up again in a week or two.
Granddaddy of them all, the Annapolis Yacht Club's Wednesday Night Series starts up April 29, while up on the Magothy the Wednesday Night Series co-sponsored by the Magothy River Sailing Association, theCape St. Claire Yacht Club, the Gibson Island Yacht Squadron, and the Potapskut Sailing Association gets under way earlier, on April 22.
The AYC series, which began more than 30 years ago, is by far thelargest of all of the weeknight regattas and routinely draws upward of 100 boats to the close confines of a starting area in the Severn River off the Naval Station.
Starts this year in the AYC series will include two IMS and two PHRF splits, a MORC division, and one-design classes for J/30s, J/24s, J/22s, Pearson 30s, Alberg 30s, Cal 25s and Rainbows, which sail in the old Race class.
PHRF and IMS class splits will be announced at the skippers' meeting following registration, at approximately 5 p.m. the day of the first race, at AYC.
The series is scored in two separate halves, and this year the First Half will run eight weeks from April 29 to June 17.
Following a two-week layoff, the series resumes with its Second Half on July 8, and runs another eight weeks until Aug. 26.
Courses generally are located within the Severn River itself, although the biggest, fastest boats can be sent out to Hacketts Point Bar before turning back.
Experienced series sailors often remark that each day's race is really twocontests in one. This is because the final leg up Spa Creek -- a fluky place lined with wind shadows and spotted with holes in the wind as well as obstacles, such as boats at the anchorage -- to the finish line is often quite difficult, and major upsets can occur in this relatively short distance.
A key innovation added to the series a couple of years ago is the two-hour time limit within which the first boat in a given class must cross the finish line, or the race is automatically abandoned.
Because of its popularity, the AYC Wednesday Night Series is an invitational event, with entry limited to members ofAYC, Severn Sailing Association or the Naval Academy Sailing Squadron. Without this restriction, things would get out of hand, because there are already so many boats and classes that the starting sequence normally runs about an hour.
As it is, one of the biggest challenges for racers and committee members alike is when the wind and current cooperate with the course selections, and virtually all of the fleet converges on the relatively narrow Spa Creek finish line in front of the club -- and only a few yards from the Eastport Bridge -- at once.
It is precisely that Spa Creek finish that has made this venerable series such a major part of Annapolis life, because the spectacleof all of the boats racing up the creek, accompanied by booming cannons, is some of the most visible and exciting sailing of the year forspectators and a major social event in town.
Up on the Magothy, the Wednesday Night Series is open to all members of MRSA, CSCYC, GIYSand PSA and invited guests.
The series is divided into five four-week blocks, with RC duty rotating through the host clubs, running through Sept. 2, with a final two-week segment to cap it off on Sept. 9and 16.
Starts are for PHRF A (up to 118), PHRF B (118-157), PHRFC1 (158-192), PHRF C2 (193 and above), PHRF Nonspinnaker and J/22s in the first five segments, with special divisions in the sixth including Spinnaker 1 (up to 157 PHRF), Spinnaker 2 (158 PHRF and up), Nonspinnaker, Women Skippers and a special Corinthian Class for those notqualifying for a trophy in the first five series.
In addition, the spinnaker-class boat and the nonspinnaker team with the best overall performances through the first five series will earn the Magothy Cup, presented by the Magothy Marina. All yachts winning trophies in any of the first five series automatically are qualified to enter the special Top Gun Series in the fall to try to claim ultimate bragging rights for the year.
Magothy River Wednesday- nighters boast that no race ever has had to be abandoned for lack of wind at their beautiful racing area inside the mouth of the river.
Other Wednesday night series abound in the area, from the Rock Creek Racing Association'sversion on the Patapsco at the northern end of the county, to the Pirate's Cove series on the West and Rhode rivers in Galesville.
Round Bay plays host to a relatively informal dinghy series on Wednesdays, while Severn Sailing Association in Eastport features dinghy racing on Tuesday evenings.
J/22 and J/24 racing is another weeknight highlight, on Thursdays this time, in a racing area off of Chesapeake Harbour on the bay near Annapolis.
This series will begin with a skippers' meeting/reception at North Sails at 326 First St. in Eastport at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 30. Racing starts the following week.
Friday is the day for the Eastport Yacht Club's Beer Can Series, so named because each evening's prize is a case of beer, which generally is shared with crew, friends and competitors at the trophy party after each race.
Similar in format, courses and -- for now, at least -- finish area to the AYC series, the EYC Beer Can Series is a nonspinnaker series open to any and all comers of any experience level.
Participation has picked up to the point where the fleet, which sails using the PHRF handicapping system, has been split into two starts with bigger, faster boats going first.
This three-part series of five races will begin on May 1 and run into September.