After frostbiting Lasers all winter, I was looking forward to getting in some sunny, warm weather sailing. Prepping for the 16 hour drive to Sarasota is always a little daunting and you always question if it is worth 32 hours of driving to go sailing for 15 to 30 hours. But this year with the number of boats going down and Barney setting up two days of clinic definitely made it seem worth it.
I ended up driving down by myself and left on Monday night for 5 hours and then finished the drive on Tuesday arriving at the sailing squadron around 6 PM. Barney and some of the Canadians down there were wrapping up some quick sails out into the bay and back. The breeze was up and temps were in the 80s. A group of us ended up heading to the Salty Dog for dinner that night.
On Wednesday morning the breeze was up with consistent breeze around 20 knots and gusts as high as 29 knots. We had about 8 boats present that morning for the first day of the clinic. Barney’s plan was for us all to measure our mast rake and centerboard rake and then work on practicing. For the practice, the plan was to practice how to practice. We would do this by pairing off and pacing within a boxed off course. Since we measured our mast and centerboard rake, we could use these numbers to help with the pacing. Barney showed us all how to make the measurements for these on one of the boats. After some discussion of the forecast with the wind dying out in the afternoon, we decided that it was best to go out and practice and then perform the measurements in the afternoon. Some of the boats decided that the wind was a little high and they would prefer to go watch the practice baseball game, but 4 of us (Nich, Barney, RJ, and myself) went out for the practice with a support motor boat. After some sailing in the bay with the wind starting to die down, we decided to head out into the gulf to practice. The breeze was mostly out of the south and it turns out that when the tide is flooding into the bay with this condition, getting under the bridge to head out to the bay is pretty tough. The four of us each got under the bridge and on the gulf side the breeze shut off and the current would sweep us back under the bridge. Nich had a close call with the bridge piling but wound up being the first of us to get clearly away. For future outings, we decided that with these conditions, it is best to use the second opening north of the drawbridge. Once we got out into the gulf, we did several sets of pacing but the wind direction really only allowed for port tack pacing. After a couple of hours of this and with Paul meeting up with us out there, we opted to head in by sailing around the island. At this point the breeze had started to die down and back in the bay the wind was light, puffy, and shifty but it gave us a pleasant sail back in. All in all we had a nice day of practice!
Thursday morning started with similar conditions as Wednesday. Similar breeze levels with a dying forecast for the afternoon. Nich and I were able to get our rakes measured in the morning before heading out. About 14 boats headed out to the gulf for the practice. Our support boat setup a small quarter mile course to practice pacing on and we were able to get several upwind and downwind sets in while switching partners each run. RJ discovered that while all seemed well the day before, his boat had some rigging issues and his starboard tack was much lower and slower than other boats. It turns out that it is a good idea to check both tacks! As the wind began to lighten, some boats headed in. We finished the day with two short practice races before the wind really lightened up and we headed back in. We then continued to help people with getting the measurements taken care of. For dinner several of us trying to take the motor boats over to Dry Dock. We were told it was a two hour wait and we ordered some appetizers. After waiting for an hour, we were still told to expect a two hour wait. Se we wound up going to Salty Dog again.
The next morning was the start of the midwinters regatta. We ended up having 18 boats registered for the event with 17 of them being present. Our race area was not in the best location with it being in the middle of the intercoastal waterway and we were the only fleet on our course. This gave us a interesting area to sail in with lots of lumpy chop with waves coming from all directions and boat traffic coming through every so often. For the first race we had lighter breeze and we did a windward leeward course. During the race, the wind shifted and the second leg was basically a one tack beat. After this we waited for the sea breeze to settle in a little bit more and reset the course. Through the afternoon, the breeze built and after the second race we started sailing olympic courses as the breeze was high enough that you could get up on a plane during the puffs and on the waves. The chop did lend to some interesting surfing where you could catch waves sailing upwind sometimes, downwind sometimes, and on the reaches. We ended up sailing 7 races on the first day, most of them running around 30 minutes and 5 different boats took bullets. Scores were close after the first day and the day really felt like a day of college racing with lots of races and all of them being close. For the most part, the breeze shots seemed to come from the left of the course and there may have been some current playing in because it did not seem to pay to go inside on the downwind legs.
Saturday morning started with rain in the forecast and no breeze. We started the day with a 2 hour delay before some breeze came in. After the first day, our race area was moved to the north part of the bay. After a decent bit of drifting around, we got a course set and did a windward leeward course. The breeze was really light the whole race but was present. We attempted to start a second race. After a 20 minute upwind leg, all 17 boats were stacked up rounding the windward leg and by the time we all drifted down to the leeward mark and were looking at a terrible mark rounding the Race Committee abandoned the race. We then continued to drift around for a while waiting for the sea breeze to come in. It finally came in around 3pm and we ran one more windward leeward course. The breeze built up during the race and we had a nice race at the end of the day. Paul and Mia were battling it out with Chris and I for first and second with some match racing like sailing at the top of the fleet. I think we did about 10 tacks in a row trying to catch Paul and Mia and get clear air. It was really quite fun! Also no other fleets got any races in on Saturday.
On Sunday morning, we had nice breeze to start the day with the breeze forecast to die off around noon before filling in from the north. After 3 general recalls we started a windward leeward race. The breeze stayed light and shifty. It was a very odd breeze that was coming out of the left but once in the pressure it was very right favored. It was very odd and tough to sail in. After that race, the breeze shut down. Around 12 the breeze finally started to fill in from the north. We were able to get in 4 more short 20 minute races in before the 2pm stop time on Sunday. These continued to be close races and again felt a lot like college sailing because of the short time of the race and the close competition. Chris and I had a few more tacking duels upwind with Paul and Mia. We were able to get in a total of five more races to finish up the regatta.
At the end of the regatta, we had 17 boats sail with 14 races sailed. We ended up with 8 boats for the US and 9 boats from Canada attending The racing was close all over the fleet. The top five boats were Paul and Mia in first place with 24 points, Farley and Chris in second with 28 points, Marek and Alex in third with 68 points, Marty and Jordan in 4th with 70 points, and Jeff and Janna in fifth with 90 points.
Many special thanks are required for getting this event to happen. First goes out to Barney Harris for helping organize the event, volunteering to be PRO so that we could race, bringing down his motorboat for the Race Committee, and for planning, setting up, and running the clinic. Barney also helped with the rallying of US boats and getting a lot of us down there. Next goes to Paul Clifford for rallying the Canadian boats that came down and bringing the inflatable marks.. Also a special thanks to Heidi Bay for loaning out her motor boat as the second RC boat and to Marek Balinski and Dean Goodwin for going out of their way to pick up Heidi’s boat and drive it down. Another thanks goes to Heidi for driving down the triple trailer to help with getting more boats down to Sarasota. And finally special thanks goes out to the rest of the Race Committee, Nancy Minot, Lee Sayasithena, Dean Goodwin, and Chris Lane.
I look forward to the rest of this sailing season and Internationals in Shelburne this August!