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.

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!!


Round Mercer Island “has a story to tell”

It had to be.  The first Hobie event of the season.  Probably no one had seen their boat for at least 5 months.  “April Fools” was stamped on the day early when PRO Peter Nelson managed to take a long walk off a short pier at Stan Sayer pits for an early swim.  The look of humiliation and embarrassment was not to be missed.  The embarrassment was further fueled when the dazzling duo sought immunity from racing when they discovered their tiller crossbar was missing!

A motley crew of Hobie sailors indeed!

Several new faces showed up, including Matt Hawkyard from Lincoln City(?), OR and his crew Nam (Pt. Townsend).  Nam was crewing for Matt, but also owns his own Hobie 16.  J0sh Curtis showed up from Harstine Island with crew Sam and another H-16, and both boats appeared more formidable than the usual “first timer”.  These guys (and gal — Sam is a girl) had game faces on that belied an experience level beyond their classic boats.

Not to be forgotten were the wannabees.  A.J. & Al showed up to check us out, but left their 18 at home, as did Paul Hollister and wife (whose name slips me.  Sorry!) from Tacoma without their H-16.  These guys wanted to see if Hobie Fleet 95 really was legit or not.  I can’t say the morning’s antics answered that question!  lol

With a 5k sou’westerly filling in and the forecast calling for it to die in the afternoon, we cancelled ‘the long course’ (round the island) and opted for a repeat of last year’s “1-bridge fiasco”.  Sailors were required to go through the east & west portals of the I-90 bridge in any direction they chose.  Interestingly, 3 went left and 3 went right.

The sailing in that light breeze should have been uneventful.  Right.

We gave the “C-fleeters” a 13-min. head start on the 17 and 18s.  Both Matt and Josh got off the line in great shape.  But the funniest part was 13 min. later listening to Paul Von Stubbe bringing Dave Wilder up at the start.  The yelling was something of epic proportions.

It was great to see Matt be the first to emerge through the 2nd required portal, and for a moment we thought this newbie might be able to pull out the victory.  Meanwhile, Jere & Jaedon Bott were on the north side of the bridge giving the bridge traffic fits and shudders.  They launched up onto one hull from a rogue puff that had them looking like Emirates Team NZ in the 34th AC.  Only with Jaedon grinding on the hydraulics were they able to save a capsize and avoid a major traffic incident on the bridge!

Paul & Vanessa VonStubbe accepting their award before the paparazzi get to them.

Then there was Jeff Rickard and crew Tory who had obviously been hired to measure the clearance of the bridge in one of the shorter spans of the east portal.  They were able to report back that a Hobie 18 mast canNOT make it through that span!  Thanks to the efforts of chase boat driver Mike Hensel, the crew was saved from a troll life of living under a bridge.

As the sailors closed in on the finish, it was fun to see everyone tacking for glory.  In the end, the Hobie mavens of Paul & Vanessa beat out defending 1-Bridge Fiasco Champ Dave Wilder to claim the victory.  (Paul was officially inducted as a Hobie Maven with the victory!)  Jere & Matt followed closely behind.

But the real battle was for last place.  Josh and Jeff were duking it out — crossing tacks and covering each other.  They finished a mere 30 sec. apart. But we suspect that if Jeff had not made his little “I-90 stopover” that he could have beaten Josh to the finish.

At the awards ceremony it was standing room only (there were no chairs!).  The perpetual trophy passed from a tearful Dave Wilder to Paul and Vanessa amid thunderous applause from the audience.  After a brief acceptance speech, Paul could be seen wandering off muttering something about getting hired on with Team Oracle USA.   We’ll see how that goes!  lol

It was, in short, a great time on and off the water seeing familiar faces and good friends, and making new ones.  Thanks to all who showed up, sailed, chased, swam, or otherwise put a smile on our collective face.