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.

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