What is becoming a home away from home for me, the Fishing Bay Yacht Club, hosted another spectacular Master's event, the Chesapeake Bay Masters Championships. This regatta was the highlight of the year for me (and I had a big year). It had the perfect combination of organization, venue, facilities, conditions, and most importantly the sailors who attend. It hit all the notes perfectly.
The Fall is the absolute best time for racing on the Chesapeake Bay. You don't have to deal with the cold water temperatures of the spring or the summer doldrums and summer storms. The fall is when the frontal winds reappear mixing with the warm water to provide shifty and challenging racing.
The regatta is superbly run by Jon Deutsch and a small group of volunteers. It is a low-key affair but Jon's attention to detail is greatly appreciated. One of the highlights of the two day regatta is Saturday's dinner cooked by Laser Masters sailor and French gourmet chef Alain Vincey (who doesn't sail so he can prepare the dinner). The clubhouse is a modern structure with the the dominant features of the ground floor being a sitting area in front of a fire place and a well-appointed kitchen capable of catering large events and a large covered porch for dining. The second story is a beautiful "trophy" room and bar area with high ceilings. About half the competitors camp on the club grounds and others stay at bed and breakfasts.
The majority of the sailors who attend are from the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding area; there are always a small band of sailors who come down from Newport, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Delaware. As with all Masters regattas it is a true reunion and celebration. What was particularly special was seeing a group of nine sailors who came from Solomon's Island, Maryland. This is a newly formed laser fleet that is well organized and focused on growing. They had apprentice sailors all the way up to grand masters with varying ranges of abilities and experience. Their enthusiasm and spirit was what this regatta is all about. I hope this is a trend that catches on in other areas around the country and others realize how much fun it can be getting wet in a dinghy.
After running the first race in "epic" 25-32 knots conditions (with a lot of resulting carnage), the race committee decided to move the course in near the club and close to shore. It was really shifty, puffy, short course intercollegiate-style racing. The following situation happened at one of the windward marks that perfectly defines Master's sailing. I rounded the weather mark ahead of the second and third place boats who were neck and neck. As I past them on their approach to the mark, they were having a full-blown, animated discussion about the shifts on the leg and how they played the windward leg. I'm sure it went on even after they rounded the mark. This is something you see a lot in Master's sailing and for that matter in junior sailing. It's all about the joy of racing.