Hobie 16 N. Americans – Navarre, FL

Day 1

We hit the water late because of no wind, so the whole day was sailed in 5-8k.  The 66 boats are split into 4 groups, and two of the groups start in each of 2 starts.  It is a rotation system that does not put 66 boats on a long starting line since Santa Rosa channel is small.  It would make it just too crowded.

The first race of the day was in “strong” breeze (strong for the day) on a course 2.  Winds would oscillate with puffs backing the breeze.  Committee kept a close eye on the thundercloud cells above, but no lightning ever got close.

J & Laura got a great start at the boat, went the right way, and scored the division’s best finish with a 10.  They nipped Jennifer & Kailey at the line.  Peter & Jo had a so-so start, came back from the grave from a horrible first leg to capture an 11.  Will & Josh were late for the start and never fully recovered.  It is a tough fleet, with all of the usual names (and a bunch of really good newbies) showing up to qualify for Worlds.

The 2nd race (also a ‘2’) had breeze on the first lap until it died away for the remaining 2 laps.  None of the NW teams prospered.  Will & Josh were fouled badly by another boat just before the start.  Peter & Jo never got up to the line at the boat and were buried in the 2nd rank.  The starts weren’t much better for J/Laura or Jennifer/Kailey.  The latter got fouled in the 2nd race which didn’t help matters either.

It is a crowded field, with half the fleet going upwind and half the fleet going downwind.  Forecast is for not much more wind…and probably less.  More later.

Day 2

Tuesday came without much change in the weather — still light breeze at about 5k.  But there was no 2-hour postponement like the previous day.  There are occasional puffs that come down the course, and there are definitely some windshifts.

Some sailors on the beach are complaining about the light air.  I mean, Hobies are meant to trapeze and fly a hull.  If you are going to organize a large regatta here at this time of year why not just do it in Sunfishes or Lasers?

The extra 2 hours of racing allowed the committee to get in 3 total races (6 starts) before the wind softened.  In the 1st start of the 2nd race there was a general recall, which was too bad because it was the best start of the regatta for the 2 NW teams in the start — Jennifer/Kailey and Peter/Jo.  The recall put the start under the ‘U’ flag, but no problem — everyone behaved.

Peter/Jo had the best day with a 3-5-5 to move up to 13th.  But the most exciting finish belonged to Will/Josh who led 2 of the 3 laps in the first race of the day.  They were eventually overhauled to capture a 5th.  That race, combined with their other 2 performances moved them well up in the standings to 42nd.

Jennifer/Kailey had a good day as well.  Finishing the day strong with a 13th moved them up into 37th.  With 40 boats advancing to the gold fleet after Wednesday’s racing, the two youth teams will be fighting for every point.

J/Laura struggled in the light stuff.  They have not yet found the pace we are used to from them.  But at 47th they are still in the hunt for the gold fleet.  A strong performance on Wed. Will most assuredly move them, and the other 3 NW teams into the gold fleet.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Day 3

Wednesday was the last day of the round robin.  Three of the NW teams were on the bubble — Jennifer/Kailey at 37th, Josh/Will at 42nd, and J/Laura at 47th.  With only 40 teams advancing to the gold fleet, the pressure was on.

The day started with better-than-average pressure — around 8k.  But a huge wind shift forced PRO Matt Bounds to reset the course.  Bu the time the sea breeze had filled in it was back to its tepid 6k.

The light winds made for some very crowded mark roundings, with as many as 8-10 boats coming into the gate at the same time.  Clear air was the order of the day.  And with a persistent veer, the teams favored the right side.  A few holes developed on the edges, and the middle was chopped up.  So picking the right lane in the right direction was paramount.

Peter/Jo suffered a DSQ in the first race which pushed them to 17th.  The bright spot was Jennifer/Kailey who had some of their own issues to overcome to move up to 36th and make the cut into gold.  Yeahhh!

will/Josh and J/Laura were not so fortunate and got pushed into silver fleet.  The cool thing about silver fleet is all of the previous scores are wiped out, and each boat starts with a clean slate.  This should help both teams.  Will/Josh have shown they can keep pace — they led 2 of the 3 laps in one race Tuesday before falling to 5th at the hands of the big guns.  J/Laura — who have been underperforming all week — have finally got the boat dialed in and showed good boat speed.

If all of the teams can sail clean the next 2 days look for advancement on all fronts.

Day 4

Day 4 is an important day.  It is the last full day of racing because racing usually shuts down on the last day so competitors have a chance to pack up boats.  So Thursday is the opportunity to make a move.

The big winners of the day in Div. 4 were J/Laura.  They had made some rigging adjustments on Wed. that improved performance.  And they delivered the mail on Thursday.

Racing in the silver fleet where the previous scores were wiped clean, J/Laura were able to post a 1-2 in their 27-boat fleet.  They sandwiched those scores around what will hopefully end up being a respectable throwout (12), to currently stand 4th in fleet.

Will/Josh also had a good day.  Currently sitting 10th in silver fleet, they are just 6 points out of 5th with 3 races expected tomorrow.

The two Div. 4 teams in gold fleet did not fare as well.  Peter/Jo rounded the last gate in the first two races of the day in 4th and 7th, only to fall to 17th and 12th respectively in the light airs.   That pushed them back one position to 18th overall.  Jennifer/Kailey overcame a disastrous middle race to hold on to 36th in the gold fleet.

We have figured out that the wind starts in the east.  Then as thundervlouds develop over land to the north of us, convection forces a seabreeze that eventually clocks to the SW.  The timing of that veer is the wild card.  Keeping an eye to the north helps, but is no guarantee.  With the wind clocking as much as 130 degrees over the course of a day, going the right way can pay (or lose) big dividends.  Case in point, Thursday’s racing was the toughest day us far.  Nine of the top 10 teams earned their throwout today.

Laura bragged that she was able to trap out for 30 seconds in the first race.  Jo has trapped out twice all week — both times for about 5-10 sec.  Forecast for the last day is as funky as we have seen it — starting north in the morning, then switching to W-SW in the afternoon.  The wind is supposed to build to 10-14 mph by 3 p.m., the cutoff time for starts.  So we may be packing our boats up in the best breeze of the day!  Sounds a bit like the Pacific NW.

Day 5

The final and penultimate day.  This is the day where positions are generally fixed, but gains are achievable.  With the silver fleet throwing out the scores of the first three days, it stood to reason that larger changes were available there than in the gold fleet.

Friday actually brought the best breeze of the entire week with 10k. There was even some use of one of those two thingies that dangle on each side of the boat. We heard some people call them trap handles. Whatever. In fact Peter purposely left his trapeze on the beach Thursday

Each Div. 4 team has had its day in the sun (no pun intended).  Unfortunately no one team was able to string together more than one day in e light, variable, and very difficul conditions.

For our team the day belonged to Will/Josh who followed a very respectable 8th in the first race (out of 27) with a photo finish 2nd in the second, and last, race of the day to finish 10th overall.  That performance fared  better than J/Laura who, after a stellar 1-2 yesterday were looking to throw their middle race and move up from 4th.  The gods had other ideas, and two lackluster performances pushed them to 7th overall.

in the gold fleet Peter/Jo continued to practice snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.  Two so-so finishes actually advanced them 2 spots to 16th overall. (Trophies went 15 deep.). Jennifer/Kailey ere caught over early in the first race of the day and used that as a throwout.  They recovered nicely in the last race with a 17 to move up two spots to 34th.

Takeaways

Jennifer/Kailey were probably the biggest winners.  Making gold fleet allowed them to mix it up with “the big boys and girls”, and gain some valuable experience. They will be able to take those lessons and use them for many years to come.

The light airs brought a lot of intense pressure on course.  Speed was king.  Boats were close together.  Mark roundings were crowded and tight.  Clear air was critical.

 

Todd is smiling right about now.

Skamokawa was one of, if not THE, favorite spot for Todd Christensen.  Hence the name “Todd Christensen Memorial Regatta”.  That guy would pull bunnies out of the hat year after year.  Light air.  Big air.  It didn’t matter.

This year was a “big air” year, as most years are there.  The breeze started to fill in around 1100 with single-trap conditions, until by 1445 it was full on “nukin'”.  Jeff Janders, Sue Davies, and their over-qualified committee of race volunteers led by Bob Combie & Tim Dorwin — and ably assisted by Jeremy Groesz and Andrew Gross — put together some well timed and highly entertaining racing both days.   Saturday saw 4 races, the last being in survival type of conditions for most of the sailors.

Skamokawa is unique because it tests all of the sailors regardless of their skill level.  That testing makes better sailors of all.  So it was no surprise that most of the teams participating are seen regularly at the top of their respective class.  Kaia Bott was sailing here for the first time with dad, Jere, and expressed reservation about the conditions.  But she went out and overcame her fears and came away with the confidence of having tamed the beast.

One of the beauties about Skamokawa is its building breeze.  You can start out in easily manageable stuff.  When it builds past your limit you simply go to the beach and crack open a cold refreshment and watch the carnage.

There wasn’t much carnage to watch this year.  In the last race a few boats flipped at the rugged weather mark where the sea state had built to some pretty gnarly conditions in 20-22k.  But other than that there weren’t any tattered sails, broken boat parts, or anything to write home about.  Jennifer Olegario, sailing with J Rosenbach, was quick to point out a few of her big bruises, and she was not alone.  But all in all things were kept under control, thanks in large part to committee getting the boats on and off the water at the right times.

Sunday’s long distance race continues to be the main draw for this event.  And this year it did not disappoint…again.  Boats worked their way upwind in mostly single-trap conditions.  The downwind was similarly tepid…until you got close to Skamokawa.  Then the wind tunnel turned it up a notch and it was full on blast reaching through waves and spray flying everywhere.   The last two miles were worth the price of admission!  Epic.  The last little upwind beat in front of the beach made for great spectating, and was managed handily by all competitors even with the big breeze and waves.

In the 18s, John Hoag/Laura Sullivan were coming off of their Huntington Lake performances and made it look easy.  I am sure it wasn’t, but they made it look like lake sailing.  In the 17s Paul Carter showed total domination with straight bullets.  Kelly Havig put the screws to the always formidable Dave Wilder to claim second.  Dan Tarleton, always a force to be reckoned with, was off the pace.  But it was particularly entertaining watching the Groesz trio of Bill, Nick, and Val duking it out for bragging rights.  I wonder what the conversation must be like around the Thanksgiving table!

In the 16s John Ped/Alex LeBlond, who hadn’t sailed a Hobie since last summer, showed it is just like riding a bike.  They got quicker and quicker each race, easily beating Peter Nelson/Jo Seuk in the last race Saturday in big air to claim 2nd.  It was sooo much fun connecting with those two again.  Another youth team, Jennifer Hoag/Will Nelson, showed consistency to capture 3rd, while Tim Webb showed newbie 16 crew Jaedon Bott how to sail the big stuff in a 16 to capture 4th.  Mike Hensel brought his good looking 14 down and frolicked in the conditions for most of Saturday.

Della Hoag was tasked with feeding the hungry crowd Saturday night.  The tacos quickly extinguished the hunger pangs from the day’s sailing, and the homemade cole slaw and cookies were incredible.  The teams that traveled to CA are well aware of how fortunate we are in the Pacific NW for the love and effort that goes into these meals.  Thank you, Della.

What makes the Todd Christensen Memorial Regatta so special, besides the long distance race, is the effort extended by all to carry on the spirit championed by Todd.  Dean and Lucy Christensen, Todd’s parents, travel down every year to award the perpetual trophy to the winner.  Add to that the support shown by Stan & Joyce Butchart (who were racing Hobies while most of us were still in diapers) and you begin to feel a sense that there is something much bigger here than just some sailing.

This year the top 3 spots in the distance race were shared by the top 3 competitors from each class of 16, 17, and 18.  Peter/Jo ended up correcting out over John/Laura on Portsmouth handicapping.  After about 30 miles, John/Laura edged Paul by a mere 12 seconds!  Now that is competitive racing!

If you are worried that Skamokawa might produce too strong of a breeze for your skill level then you are well grounded.  It will!  But what you do is stay out there and race/sail until it is too much, then go in.  If your comfort level is 15k, then sail until it gets up to about 17k and then go in.  Don’t wait till it is 20k.  That is what helps you become a better sailor.

And the distance race?  It really is a piece of cake.  You could have sailed 28 of the 30 miles in conditions found anywhere.  The cool part is that it doesn’t start nukin’ till you get to Skamokawa and then you are already sailing downwind so you just head to the beach and call it a day.  It really is all quite manageable.

Many thanks to John Hoag and Team Shrek for organizing this year’s event, and Jere Bott for making some great looking trophies.  Kudos to Della, Bob, Tim, Jeremy, Andrew, Jeff, Sue, and all of the volunteers (including the ones I missed!).  Tons of fun.  Pictures to follow.

Hobie 16 Women/Youth & 18 NAC recap – Huntington Lake

Hobie Division 4 traveled south in droves last week to participate in two weeks of sailing events with national implications.  The teams had to travel past a Yosemite Park that was on fire, and arrived at the high mountain lake shrouded in smoke.

The first week featured the North American Championships in Hobie 16s for both Women and Youth.  The division was represented in the women’s event with Laura Sullivan sailing with Val Pioszak.  In the youth event Jennifer Hoag teamed up with Josh Markovich.

The sailing was tough as the sailors had to contend not only with the puffy conditions of Lake Huntington, but also the visibility and health issues involved with heavy smoke.  On top of that each fleet was populated by some noted ‘names’.

Pre-event favorites did not disappoint as Chris Bradshaw and Nancy Kornblum held off Dafna Brown & Teri McKenna for the win.  Laura and Val exceeded their own expectations by finishing 4th in their first ever event.

In the youth event returning 2-time champion Kat Porter, sailing with a very seasoned and competent Grace Modderman, got a little heat from Luke Froeb/Julian Skerrett.  But the female duo were able to easily sail away with the event.  Jennifer and Josh showed great strength in several races.  But inconsistency eventually pushed them to 7th.

The following week featured the 18s and 20s, and by this time the smoke had started to clear.  Josh flew home while Laura teamed up with Ethan Salkind, Val sailed with Ken Marshack, and Jennifer crewed for John — all on the 18s.  They were joined by 5 more teams of Paul Evenden/Sarah Isaak, Doug Weston/Kelly Smith (sailing on a new-to-them boat), J Rosenbach/Tim Webb, Will Schwenger/Angie McLaughlin, and Will/Peter Nelson.

The division’s Hobie 18 strength was on full display as Div. 4 sailors captured the top 4 spots, and 6 of the top 8.  It was cool to note that the top 2 teams had youth aboard (Will & Jennifer).   The tacking and gybing up and down the skinny lake was intense, and the short distance from the gate to finish emanated cries of victory and anguish from many a sailor.  The wind never got over 13k, so carnage was at a minimum.

After the intense competition on the water it was time to unwind on shore.  It was particularly fun sitting around an open campfire with your pals from the PNW.  Della organized a Thursday potluck that far exceeded the organized parties — both in food and entertainment.  Other impromptu gatherings were mixed in at the pub, parties, and campgrounds.

Photos to follow.

Musings of a N. American Hobie Champion

For 30 years I have chased “the golden road to Hobie stardom”.  I remember my very first nationals.  I laid awake at night pretending I was giving a victory speech at the awards ceremony after winning the whole thing.  That was 30 years ago.  I am currently on version 7,568 of that speech.

So when that epic moment arrived after winning the H-18 NACs at Huntington Lake last week it became ironic that I had nothing to say. Actually I was too nervous to say anything.  But the longing to make that speech continues unabated.  So humor me while I put it into words.

 

First off, this win is dedicated to my good friend, Jerry Valeske, who had a wicked fast boat, and only began to find out how fast just before his premature passing leading the fleet at the weather mark.  The practice race at Huntington was on the 2nd anniversary of his departure and was not forgotten.  Thanks, Jerry.

Victory brings humility, and humility fosters gratitude.  Many, many thanks to:

  1. My son Will.  He started sailing the H-18 three days before the event and now has a combined 7 days under his championship belt.  The competition tested him mercilessly and he rose to the occasion.  At 21 years of age if he is not the youngest H-18 champion then he is darn close.  #proudpapa
  2. Laura Sullivan.  She suggested the idea of Will and I racing together at the event, and sweetened the offer with a loaner boat.  Laura — you had no idea the lifelong memories and life changing impact you had with your gracious offer.  I owe you BIG time. #grateful
  3. John Hoag.  Johnny and I share a similar passion for competitive sailing.  John showed me how to be Corinthian; and in the process elevate.  I am deeply indebted to him for that gift.  Thank you for your caring friendship, and sharing our passion together.  I enjoy it immensely and continually seek to be around you.  #classact
  4. Ken Marshack & Ethan Salkind for showing me grace in defeat.  The hard part about winning is sharing in the losses with friends.  Ken & Ethan gave me examples to emulate.  Gentlemen, I respect you even more now, and humbly thank you.  #grace
  5. Will & Angie, our camping partners.  They were supportive and understanding through all of my ups and downs.  #newclosefriends
  6. The entire Div. 4 team, Chris Bradshaw, and Jim Sohn for their support, understanding and camaraderie.  Their support gave me the strength to continue on. #hobiefamily
  7. Becky Ashburn, PRO, and her team of personnel for putting on a very entertaining and competitive 4 days of racing.  Everything was handled professionally and cordially. #noproblem
  8. Jim Doty. Jim was not at the event, but I could tell he wanted to be.  I had fun needling him with email updates and getting him fired up.  At the same time he kept me fired up and focused.  #longdistancebuddy

 

Any one of 4-5 boats could have won this event.  The fact that we were able to pull it off involved a fair amount of luck.  Good sailors put themselves in positions to receive good luck.  We are grateful that the good Lord decided to shine on us this time.

There are many sailors I know who are better sailors than Will and I but have not yet won a championship.  I hope this championship serves as hope and motivation for them to continue the chase.  As Adam Borcherding reminded us at the women/youth event “Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn once in awhile.”  We found ours.

NW Area Championships & Youth Clinic — Lake Quinault never fails!

NW Area Championships

What a venue!  PNW sailors were treated to another epic weekend at Lake Quinault the weekend of July 14-15.  Hot weather inland brought the Quinault doctor in on time Saturday with first race off around 11:30.  Pro PRO Charley Rathkopf ran 6 races in medium breeze that delighted all 30 boats and the 2 Miracle 20s and Wagz’ 16 who showed but didn’t race.

Many of the racers were looking for another 2-3k from the 10-13k, but the flat waters made for super comfortable conditions.  Just as the wind would start to build it would let off, teasing the sailors but keeping carnage to a minimum.  T-shirts and shorts were the order for the day, with several of the ubiquitous wetsuits reminding us this is still the Northwest.

The 18s were the most competitive class, with an epic duel going on between Ken Marshack/Valerie Pioszak versus Ethan Salkind/Laura Sullivan.  In the end it was Ken/Valerie who prevailed, but only by 2 points.  Earning honorable mention was John Hoag/Paul Carter who, besides debuting John’s new (to him) 18 managed to also win two of the 9 races.

In the 17s Kelly Havig went into Saturday night feeling pretty good having won half of the day’s 6 races.  But she faltered in the light airs Sunday and gave the lead over to Dave Wilder who showed consistency pays with only 2 bullets but no worse than a 3rd.  Scot Chapman showed great strength in the breeze, good enough to edge past Dan Tarleton by one point.  It didn’t help Dan’s cause to fall asleep on the tramp for race 8 and miss the start despite winning 2 of the 3 races Sunday.

In the 16 fleet Peter Nelson/Joe Seuk sailed away with a strong performance, while Jennifer Hoag/Jaedon Bott nailed down silver.  This youth team will be attending both the 16 Youth nationals, as well as the open North Americans later in the season.  Good luck, girls!  This was Jaedon’s first regatta in the 16 fleet.  Not a bad start!

Tim Player/Ross Bretherton carried 3rd place into Saturday night.  But a strong finish from Jeff Janders/Sue Davies pushed Tim & Ross back to 4th.  Jeff was a hallmark on the leaderboard during the 80s and early 90s, so it was good to see him back on the water with a bone in his teeth!  And thanks for bringing the chase boat, Jeff!

Big, big kudos to Al Jones for organizing the best regatta in the division for the umpteenth time.  J Rosenbach put together some good looking trophies, and Matt Markovich and clan provided some handsome t-shirts for the competitors.  We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the indefatigable Molly Brown, er Laura Sullivan, who not only organized Saturday’s dinner, but carted a bunch of necessary equipment out to the lake.

Last, and most certainly not least, Bob Combie and “Grouchy” Tim Dorwin quietly put together a race management clinic that could not and should not be overlooked.  They reset the course multiple times over the two days, and did so quickly and accurately.  Unless you travel to other regions to race, you really cannot fully appreciate how good these guys really are.

Results are posted here.

Youth Clinic

The unsung heroes from Quinault would be the many volunteers on the beach who prepared a delicious Saturday dinner AND were instrumental in supporting the 3-day youth clinic.

First and foremost would be “Happy” Tim Webb.Tim’s “other” job is as a school teacher, and those skills were well on display as he corralled 8 energetic kids into focusing on having fun while learning sailing.  Jaedon Bott and Will Nelson showed the young sailors the ropes out on the water along with support from Laura, Paul, and Peter.

The kids advanced quickly from Day 1 skills of learning basic sailing to the skills of Day 2 and 3 involving trapping and rounding marks.  Their hungry faces were constantly fed by Laura & Dana Groesz who tirelessly worked the kitchen not only for the kids but also all of the “hangers on”.

Acknowledgement/Disclaimer: If you chipped in and helped out — even if it meant washing a pan or picking up some trash — and you got left out of this list then please accept my/our humble apologies for the oversight.  It takes a village to put on such an epic 5 days and we greatly appreciate your efforts.  Thank you so much!!