SOLOMONS, MD. -- Eighty-eight sailboats from seven states and the Soviet Union turned up for Audi/Yachting Race Week that ended here Friday and demonstrated for the second straight year that world-class racing can prosper on Chesapeake Bay, even in the dog days of August.
When organizers two years ago announced plans to add a regatta here to three others they stage across the nation, detractors warned of dead calms and blistering heat common to the Bay in high summer. But racing proceeded without problem all five days last year, and again this year the winds were up.
Tuesday and Thursday proved the best of it, with the breeze howling in as high as 20 knots and holding steady in double figures all day Thursday. But even on light air days, winds held between five and nine knots, adequate for racing.
Indeed, light wind often separates the good sailors from lesser ones, according to one local yachtsman. "Anybody can sail in heavy air," said Scott Dunn, who sails aboard Red October, a J-33. "If you make a mistake in light air it can cost you the race."
Its inclusion in the Audi/Yachting national circuit put tiny Solomons in prestigious sailing company. Other stops are Key West, Fla., Block Island, R.I., and Whidbey Island, Wash.
Mike Marqua, the state's director of sports promotion, and Oliver S. Moore III, publishing director of Yachting Magazine, worked together to bring the event here. Moore and his wife Christine were taking a sailing cruise south a few years ago when they stopped at Solomons Island. Moore "fell in love" with the place, he said.
He contacted Marqua, who was seeking a major yachting event for the Bay. After consideration of several other possibilities, including Annapolis, the Bay's traditional yachting headquarters, Solomons was picked.
Moore said he pushed for Solomons because it was "off the beaten path and I wanted the race to be an adventure. It also had the right combination, with local support and adequate facilities to harbor the boats, and feed, house and entertain the people with restaurants, hotels and shops in the area."
"Solomons Island is a secret place to the sailing community," said Marqua. "Annapolis already has enough events and didn't necessarily need another."
The only problem left was weather. Solomons actually has provided better sailing conditions and stiffer competition than the Block Island event, according to H. Seward Lawlor of Hampton, Va., skipper of the 43-foot sloop, Serendipity.
"The wind has been better here," Lawlor said. "It was fluky and light at Block. The competition is very, very good here. I've been to three regattas this year and this is the best one on the East Coast."