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.

Hobie 18 North Americans – Avila Beach, CA

Eight Pacific NW teams from Division 4 picked up the challenge to head south and take on Division 2 and the rest of the country in a Hobie 18 showdown on the beaches of Avila, just north of Pismo Beach.  Five days of racing culminated in a total of 16 races.

The first 3 days saw strong winds in the 20-25k range with gusts over 30k.  The last two days the wind settled into a comfortable 10-20k range.  The heavy winds brought three Div. 4 teams to the top of the leader board — Ken Marshack & Val Pioszak, Peter Nelson & Laura Sullivan, and Paul Evenden & Tawnya Fox.  Not far behind were Alexa Edgar & Doug Weston, Gillian Thomson & Ruth Branscombe, Jerry Valeske & (Texan) Dana Gradel, and Cal Bridge & Chris Pomeroy.

A total of 20 18’s were on the line for most of the races, and made for some exciting starts and mark roundings.  Despite the heavy winds, there were few capsizes, owing to the 18’s significant stability.

Wednesday was the most brutal with sustained gusts over 30k and a huge sea state, with just one race before racing was canceled.  Marshack, Nelson, & Evenden all capsized (as well as a few others), but all survived and came away with smiles (more or less).  Peter & Laura capsized just 5 boat lengths from the gate, which the committee was going to shorten the course at.  When Paul & Tawnya came around leading the 2nd lap they did the same thing!

Laura went into the event with a swollen, black eye.  She quickly put to rest rumors that Jerry or Peter were to blame by explaining it came from a collision at Quinault.  Then on Wednesday, while coming into the beach after a harrowing day, her trap handle broke and dislocated her finger.  She was not to be denied, and sailed the final two days with a black eye AND a dislocated finger!!

The wind subsided the last two days and allowed the committee to run 7 more races in comfortable, double-trap conditions.  Under sunny skies it was a sailor’s dream.

Organizers managed to give each team a life jacket similar to the one used by America’s Cup teams.  Shoreside parties and prize giving were held just a mile down from the campsite in downtown Avila, which is a rocking little town.

Overall it was a very wonderful regatta.  It is safe to say a good time was had by all.  Next year’s rumor for the 18 North Americans is on the East Coast.  Stay tuned!