It's that time of year again, time for tulips and dogwood, time for basking in the new spring sunshine, and time for Wednesday night racing.
Up on the Magothy, the series started a few days ago, and in Annapolis it kicks off on Wednesday.
About this time of year, just about everybody understands that there's no point looking for a sailor in his or her office after 3:30 or 4 p.m. on a Wednesday, through the end of August, at least.
One of the nicest things about Wednesday night racing generally is the fact that it's intended to be low-key, and the courses are relatively short so you can finish before the sun goes down.
That means that novices, friends, family members and folks you don't normally have the chance to race with can come along to share the fun. One local sailor we know even brings along his business associates and customers from time to time and he's not even in the marine trades.
Another nice aspect is that, at least in Annapolis and Galesville, it's close to shore and visible to spectators. Visitors and locals alike have been known to thrill to the spectacle of more than 100 boats rushing up Spa Creek to the finish line of Annapolis Yacht Club's Wednesday Night Series, especially in a spinnaker finish. The throngs lining the Eastport and Annapolis sides of the creek are testament to that.
The Magothy River course is a little less accessible for spectators, but at least up there, the sailors brag, there's never -- been a race called off for lack of wind, because there's almost always a nice thermal created in the mouth of the river, no matter how dead it is in other spots on the bay.
Biggest and probably best known of the weeknight races is the (( Annapolis Yacht Club's Wednesday Night Series, a venerable institution dating back at least 40 years and the first of its kind in the region.
It routinely draws upward of 125 boats ranging from the biggest high-tech IMS warhorses to Rainbows. This series traditionally offers starts for about a dozen classes including IMS, MORC, PHRF, Alberg 30, Cal 25, J/30, J/22, Pearson 30 and Rainbow.
The starting sequence goes on for nearly an hour in the Severn River near the mouth of Spa Creek, where shore-bound spectators can watch the action from the Naval Academy or Eastport, and brings racing home to the city with a finish line up in Spa Creek in front of the club and the adjacent Eastport Bridge.
Sometimes conclusions are very exciting, no matter whether the perspective is shoreside or in the midst of the fray.
AYC's series, an invitational event for club members and members of Severn Sailing Association and the Naval Academy Sailing Squadron, begins Wednesday, with registration and the skippers' meeting set for 5 p.m. at the club. The first starting sequence begins at 6:15.
The AYC Wednesday Night Series is constructed in two separately scored halves, with the First Half running through June, and the Second Half opening after a break for the Fourth of July and running through August.
The younger and smaller but no less vigorous Wednesday night series jointly run by the Magothy River Sailing Association, the Cape St. Claire Yacht Club, the Gibson Island Yacht Squadron, and the Potapskut Sailing Association, began setting its courses in the lower Magothy this past week.
The non-stop series is divided into five mini-series of four weeks each, capped off by a wrap-up short series in the fall, for six classes of racers. Starts are provided for PHRF, MORC and PHRF Nonspinnaker, and entrants in this invitational series must be members of one of the sponsor clubs. Entry fee is $50 for all 22 races.
Another small but lively series for Wednesday-night sailors is the Pirate's Cove Race Club event, which also has just geared up in Galesville.
Using courses set on the Rhode and West Rivers, this series is for PHRF and PHRF Nonspinnaker and each race starts and finishes near its namesake restaurant. It also includes a lively finale after the finish, complete with videos of the racing.
For north county sailors who keep their boats on one of the many creeks off the Patapsco, the Rock Creek Racing Association's Wednesday night series is a convenient and fun option.
Starts are offered for PHRF and Nonspinnaker, as well as a unique cruising class for people with non-race-ready boats and/or little experience racing that was added just last year.
The 20-race series takes place on courses that start near White Rocks and finish at the entrance of Rock Creek. The series is limited to RCRA members, but membership is easy and inexpensive ($25 annually), and the series fee is $20.
Race Committee Chairman Frank Courtright, phone (410) 730-2301, or Secretary/Treasurer David Copley, (410) 255-9081, can help interested north county sailors get started in joining the weeknight racing fun.
If big boats and/or Wednesday nights aren't your cup of tea, there are other weeknight series to be enjoyed, too.
A Thursday night J/24 and J/22 series operates out of J/World in Eastport (call Jahn Tihansky,  280-2038 for information), and Severn Sailing Association runs club racing on Tuesdays for Snipes, Lasers and any other one-design classes interested in starting.
Weeknight racing is a good way to get one's feet wet, to power up for weekend competition, train new crew and to take more advantage of our location on the Chesapeake Bay. Besides, it's just plain fun.