As the sun rose over the Patuxent River finish line Saturday morning, the Eastport Yacht Club's Race Committee was already calling this year's 12th annual Solomons Island race one of the fastest ever.
The 55-mile race, which drew 176 starters, began on the Severn River Friday evening, went down the bay to round Hooper Island Light before heading up the Patuxent to the finish at Solomons. The bulk of the fleet had finished the course by the time the wind went light at about 7 a.m. Saturday, although a couple of stragglers were still heading in near 9.
The 12- to 18-knot-plus southerly breeze gradually shifted westward during the night, so for most of the sailors it was on the nose the whole way, and foredeck crews had little more to do all night but block the waves splashing over the bow as they sat on the rail.
First at the finish line was, as expected, Jim Muldoon's Santa Cruz 70 Donnybrook, which blasted in at the head of the fleet at 1:33 a.m. with an elapsed time of 6:38.
The second team across the finish line was more of a surprise, given the extensive windward work on the course and a start time nearly an hour behind Donnybrook. Racing newcomer William Mathers and crew on his huge custom catamaran Shearwater roared in to take the Multihull gun at 2:25 a.m. on an elapsed time of 6:35, the best in the race.
Ratings once more put Donnybrook last after corrections, however, giving the IMS I victory to Allen Davies' Frers 54 Now. In the multihulls, Michael Beaver's Condor 40 trimaran Leading Lady slipped into first ahead of Shearwater after correction.
For several years now, EYC has offered the option to J/29 sailors to sail in either the J/29 one-design division, the MORC class, or both, and this year six of the 29s chose to compete in both classes at once.
Leading the six into the finish and earning a double gun for crossing the line first in both J/29s and MORC were Annapolis sailor Steve Olinger and his crew aboard Tops Optional.
Tops' win in the '29s was solid, by about 3 1/2 minutes, but handicap corrections dropped the boat to fourth behind Barry Moss' S2 9.1 Fast Company, David Gendell's S2 7.9 Bang, and fellow J/29 sailors Fredrik Salvesen and Cedric Lewis on Mirage.
MORC is a measurement-based rule that can rate similar boats differently based on specific characteristics of the individual boats. In this case, it gave a distinct edge to Mirage over Tops, which sports a stock rating rather than a measured one.
"It was a good race," Olinger said. "The key for our success was staying near the rhumb line, but more importantly staying west of everyone else. What we planned to do, and what we did, was stay just to the west of the rhumb line, because the wind was forecast to rotate west. That proved to be very successful."
Despite giving up the MORC first place on correction, Olinger said he and his crew were ecstatic to get both guns.
"It was a wet, rough ride, and everybody on the boat stuck it out on the rail, did their jobs, and never came down, which was real gutsy," Olinger said.
Surviving the handicapping process with wire-to-wire wins -- and their classes' respective guns -- were Solomons' own Bob Waldschmitt and the crew on his Swan 42 Tigress in PHRF A-1, PHRF A-2 topper Tom French and the crew on his Olson 30 Moonlighting, Jack Yaissle and the crew on Aspire at the head of PHRF B, and IMS II winner Steve Kaminer and the crew on his Tripp 36 Predator.
Aces in the cruising one-design classes included Charlie Scott, Charlie Smith and their crew on Houdini in J/30s, Ed Paglee and his Andiamo crew in Pearson 30s, and Bill Chambers and team on Wild Thang in J/35s.
Chambers is a longtime Alberg 30 sailor who moved into J/22s last year and added Wild Thang, an older used '35, to his stable earlier this year. He relished his victory in his new class over former national J/35 champion Will Keyworth on Moonbeam, but was quick to praise Keyworth's performance.
"Willie sailed an outstanding race, and he really deserved to win," Chambers said. "He called it just exactly right."
Ironically, Keyworth had lent Chambers his own delivery main for the race because the sail that came with Chambers' boat was seriously misshapen because of Mylar shrinkage.
"It was a significantly better main than the one which came with the boat, and I'm sure it helped us," Chambers said.
"Moonbeam and Wild Thang were crossing tacks all the way down the bay," Chambers said. "Every time we'd come together we'd all yell 'Wild Thang!' from both boats. We both held toward the Western Shore waiting for the wind shift to come in and lift us. Will got left before we did and had a nice lead, and then at Hooper Island he tacked and crossed us by a length."
After that, Chambers said, "It was a three-boat parade around Hooper until, within about a half a mile of the finish, we got lifted up. Reid Beigel was working the main constantly, and he kept the boat moving, gave us the boat speed to get across in front."