Fair Winds, Full Sails at WindRider National Championships & Owners’ Reunion
Mid-Westerners Go 2, 3, 4, 5 in WindRider 16
by Nate Simmons
|WindRider 16s watching the WindRider Rave Hydrofoils start.|
Sails filled with wind and snapped to attention as the blare of the race horn sounded the start of the third annual WindRider National Championships and Owners’ Reunion. Racers and family members had come from all corners of the country for a weekend of around-the-buoys racing, barbecuing, and recreational sailing. The event was held at the Fort Walton Beach Yacht Club in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, October 27-29, 2000.
Attendance at this year’s gathering doubled, with 22 WindRider Raves and 16 WindRider 16 trimarans arriving from as far away as San Diego and Toronto to compete in a series of six races for the national championship.
Trailers stacked high with WindRider 16s and Raves pulled into the Fort Walton Beach Yacht Club as early as Wednesday to begin rigging sails, polishing hulls and testing the winds.
“This year’s event, presented by Multihulls Magazine and sponsored by Neil Pride Sails and Harken, was a departure from the traditional regatta,” said WindRider National Sales Manager Keith Zwart. “By hosting an owners’ reunion and regatta, we were able to involve far more WindRider owners and their families - and a good time was had by all.”
|Raves sailing upwind towards the weather mark.|
The weekend’s races kicked off with three practice races on Friday to give competitors the chance to get into racing mode. Low winds demanded technical sailing and close attention to wind direction. Sailors and spectators were in good spirits after the practice and eager for the next day’s races. Hungry competitors, spectators, and race coordinators spent Friday evening beneath a warm, star-studded sky, with food sizzling on the grills, beer flowing, and music in the air. Racers talked boats and strategies and kept their eyes on the sky.
Everyone was up bright and early Saturday morning and the beach was an impressive sight, with dozens of WindRider trimarans rigged and ready. The committee boat was on the water and the course was set. WindRider 16s would run a single triangle course while Raves did a longer upwind, reach, reach, run course with two jibe marks to keep it exciting and give the Raves an opportunity to fly.
The starting horn echoed over the water and they were off! The wind was holding steady at a light 4-6 knots for the first two morning races but picked up to around 7-9 knots for the two afternoon races. A close WindRider 16 race saw Alexis Olson, of Golden Valley, Minnesota, leading thoughout (accompanied by her stepfather and first sailing instructor, Thom Burns), followed closely by Ron Williams of Dunedin, Florida. All three were nearing the finish line when a last second change in the wind direction allowed Williams to squeeze past Olson for a first-place finish. These racers were giving two-time returning National Champion Darrell Hatton, of McDonald, Ohio, a run for his title!
In the Rave race, tight passing turns around the buoys and unpredictable winds kept the lead changing. A buoy line snagged a Rave racer or two, which meant minutes of untangling in a tight race. By the end of the first day of races, Mike McGarry, of Archdale, North Carolina, was leading the Rave class with Williams, Olson and Burns fighting it out for first in the WindRider 16 class.
Sunday’s wind conditions weren’t ideal, but racers were in good spirits. Jaunts and jeers were yelled between boats in a friendly yet competitive banter. Competitors were even seen breaking out beverages mid-race. Steve Albright, of Britt, Iowa, was definitely out to have a good time. He brought along his wife and their dog and rumor has it that they even found time to cook lunch in the Rave cockpit between buoys! Albright managed to sail well while sporting a Halloween mask for parts of the race and finished in the middle of the pack.
Even in the low winds, the Rave racers kept it interesting. “The last race sunday was exciting because I was just 5 to 30 feet behind Don Walton from Canada’s “Eh” Team for all three legs of the race,” said Saturday’s leader, McGarry. “I didn’t actually edge ahead of him until just at the finish. Neither he nor I knew who won when we crossed the finish line.”
The results from the race committee told the tale: McGarry had crossed the finish line first by a mere foot. Sailing rarely sees a race this close! This gave McGarry a total of three first place-finishes, two seconds, a third and the title of National Champion for the Rave class.
“I concentrated on staying in the wind and watching telltales on the sails for 100% power,” said McGarry of his low wind winning strategy. “I stayed focused on keeping my boat speed up and trying to pass boats when I was behind.”
In the WindRider 16s, Burns showed his mastery of light winds in race five with a decisive win. But it wasn’t enough as stepdaughter Olson edged him and new National Champion Ron Williams edged her by 1 point. This was Williams’ first WindRider racing.
|Thom Burns relaxing after a tough race.|
Special congratulations also went out to the two women sailors, Alexis Olson (the youngest competitor) who took home a second in the WindRider 16 and Jane Sherrod who finished first in the Rave Open class.
Competitors all agreed that this had been a great event. As sailors pulled away to begin their long journeys home, everyone was looking forward to next year’s competition with an expected double turnout and even more sailing fun planned.
“We look forward to expanding on the reunion theme in 2001 with a series of events that bring owners together in a fun learning environment,” said Zwart. “Thanks to our sponsors and the excellent support of the Fort Walton Beach Yacht Club, this gathering has been a huge success.”
Thom Burns put it best when he summed up the weekend with, “Fair wind, full sails, great people and great fun.” It certainly had been all that.
1. Mike McGarry 8 Archdale, NC
2. Scott Charlesworth 12 Toronto, Ontario
3. Don Walton 16 Toronto, Ontario
4. Doran Oster 19 Gainsville, FL
5. Hollis Caffee 23 Melrose, FL
6. Ira Heller 24 Boston, MA
7. Bob Gleason 30 Wareham, MA
8. Glen Steinke 33 Dunedin, FL
9. Don Wigston 40 Atlanta, GA
10. Tom Haman 45 Melbourne, FL
11. Steve Albright 50 Britt, IA
12. Mitch Pedersen 54 San Diego, CA
13. John McDaniel 62 Pewaukee, WI
14. Dean Hubbard 74 Orlando, FL
15. Don Farley 80 N Liberty, IA
1. Jane Sherrod 5 Galveston, TX
2. Paul Schulten 15 Annapolis, MD
3. Jeff Lynn 17 Houston, TX
4. Ueli Walchli 19 Miami, FL
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