Wednesday night at the races

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Spinnakers, also known as chutes, are flying as the race on the Severn River begins.

If it’s Wednesday night in Annapolis, it’s time for sailboat racing on the Severn River.

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Boats compete in classes, depending on the size and style of boat.

Sailboat racing isn’t the usual spectator sport. There are no stands for watching. You can’t see the starting line. It’s difficult to see the finish line. You might not even see the boats actually start the race. They mill about until the signal that starts the race and like a well-choreographed dance, the boats twirl and head off in the same direction. Now that’s quite stunning to watch. But you have to pay attention.

What I can guarantee you will see are dozens of gorgeous boats, many with an enormous crew clambering over the decks. Look for the committee boat (a powerboat with the race officials aboard) to start and officiate the race. As the race proceeds, boats will suddenly turn downwind and the chutes (spinnakers) will fill the river with color. You might see who wins. If you care. There’s just something wonderful about relaxing by the water, watching the boats angle to cross the finish line first. A warm sun, a cool breeze, a great view.

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A novel way to watch the races.

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The schooners Woodwind have their own Wednesday night race — with lots of “crew” aboard.

What looks graceful from afar can be pretty hectic on board one of these racing yachts. I’ve had the experience to serve as ballast (no work, just weight) and was I amazed at how close the boats can get to one another as they round the markers and race for the finish line. Oh and there’s shouting and the occasional thud, too. (I didn’t see any of that from my vantage point on land, of course.)

There are plenty of ways to see the races. Finding a water view in Eastport is easier than finding a parking space. Hang out on the Spa Creek Bridge. Plenty of streets end with a view of the Severn River and Chesapeake Bay. Make friends with a member of the race sponsor, Annapolis Yacht Club, or the nearby Eastport Yacht Club to watch from their property. Get aboard the Schooner Woodwind, which goes out every Wednesday. Bring your boat (but stay out of the way ).

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Racing boats nearing the finish line pass by the sailboats docked at the Eastport Yacht Club.

Races begin about 6:30 p.m. spring through fall. Bring your binoculars and a camera. And plan to stay awhile at one of the Eastport watering holes. Rub elbows with the sailors. Have a beer or a crabcake. And just enjoy Wednesday night in Annapolis.

ⓒ Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman

 

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