I had decided early on that there would be no fleet limit for the last event of the season. I fully expected around 34 boats, but I was not prepared for the 41 boats that signed up for the regatta. By Saturday morning, we would be down to 37 boats, but this would still qualify it as the largest regular scheduled regatta in Florida. Well, at least as far as I can remember. There would be 19 boats on the line for the gold fleet and 18 for silver.
The venue was the lake behind the Comfort Suites Hotel at the World Golf Village. The four-story hotel was also home for the visiting skippers for the weekend. The management of the hotel gave us the use of their large meeting room, which we used to store gear and serve lunch. At the end of the day, the skippers could store their boats, fully rigged, inside the room. We could not have asked for a better day. The sun was peaking softly through the high clouds and the temperature would climb only to around 70 degrees. The wind for Saturday was a perfect 6-12 knots out of the NE. This meant we could sail long windward-leeward legs on the favored side of the lake. The course would be two long legs to windward, two long legs back down and finish half way up to windward.
The gold fleet took to the water first and Baron Bremer immediately set out to put his mark on this regatta by winning the first two heats. Then the Silver fleet went in and new comer, Eric Bassett from Charleston, matched Baron with two bullets of his own. It looked like these two skippers were going to dominate their respective fleets, but when the gold fleet went in for their second set, it was Danny Thomas’ turn to score back-to-back bullets.
Chris Kakavas, from Burlington, NC, began the regatta with a broken main sheet line in the first heat that would take another heat to fix. When he did get his boat back into the regatta, he averaged third place for the next 7 heats. Some other skippers were also putting in some good performances on the day. John Bottensek, Bob Greer, and Rick Gerry each scored a bullet, while Jack Wubbe, Reichard Kahle, Bob Brown, and Bob Dudinsky were hanging tough.
This gold fleet was as strong a field as any Regional or even National event and the silver fleet was a real challenge for the skippers as well. Eric Bassett scored 5 bullets in his first six heats, but it was David Zahn who would put in a very consistent performance to lead by just two points at the end of the day over Eric. Tom Germer and John Garver were close behind in third and fourth respectively. They both scored bullets on the day, with Tom taking two in a row to end the day.
Bob Szczepanski was also sailing great until a tangle in the last heat would move him out of the top three to fifth place. The strong breeze was a challenge for both fleets, but the silver fleet had the lion’s share of tangles. We learned our lesson about not having a motor for the chase boat. Trying to row into 12 knots of breeze is no fun. Assistant RD, Brett Biwer, did his best to chase down the troubled boats, but often we would just jump in the car and drive to the other side of the lake to free them when they reached the other shore.
The Annual Meeting of the Florida EC-12 Association was scheduled at the end of sailing and once again the hotel’s meeting room came in handy. The members voted to continue with the Two-Fleet system with one change to move the top three B-fleet skippers up to A-fleet for the next regatta. At the end of the meeting we had a drawing for some door prizes. The prizes included some brass candlesticks and sailing calendars to a new set of John B sails and a new RMD hull. The bar was crowded with Virginia Tech and Boston College fans who were in town for the ACC Championship game, so many of the skippers and their guests headed over to the restaurant early. The Saturday night dinner was held at the Shellfish Grill, which was a whole 600 yards away form the hotel by car or about 300 yards if you cared to swim.
Sunday came with more sun and a whole lot less wind. The first heat for the gold fleet was sailed on a westerly course of just one and a half laps. The less than 1 knot of breeze made for a very long drift with huge shifts. Chris Kakavas was right at home in these conditions and he easily moved through the fleet to take the win. As the skippers beat up the course in the second heat, the breeze got even lighter and struggled to pick a direction. John B made it to the first mark with the lead only to drift backwards into the fleet. Other boats seemed to be moving in all directions except forward. I made the tough decision to call the heat and bring the boats to shore.
We waited around for about 20 minutes before the breeze finally chose a SW direction of about 1-2 knots. I put the silver fleet in for their two heats on a shortened course. Bud Cassidy was the star of the morning with two bullets and two thirds, but it was not enough for him to catch the leaders. The gold fleet would get back in to sail three heats and as the breeze built just a little, we were able to extend the length of the course. Reichard Kahle put together a string of good heats to rally up to third place. Danny seemed unstoppable, while Baron faltered just enough to slip away from his shot at the win.
There were five new skippers sailing with us for the first time. David Zahn and Eric Bassett will be the new hot shots to watch, and we can all look forward to sailing more with Bill Ewing, Murray McQuaid and Brenda Pardee. Brenda is not the first woman to sail in the class, but it has been some time since we last had a lady race with us. Brenda was doing pretty good too, until mechanical problems sidelined her late on Saturday. Still she hung around as a spectator on Sunday, which is a good sign of her interest in the sport. I hope she will attract some more ladies to the class.
This was a very special regatta for me as so many great people turned out for the event and Mother Nature and the venue made it all perfect. I want to thank Brett Biwer for doing a terrific job as Assistant RD. Brett will be the RD next year and I know he will do a great job. Bill Gale came up from Orlando to help call the start line and I am sure glad he did. His help was invaluable. Angie Bottensek did another fantastic job as scorekeeper and I hope she will continue to keep that job for many more years. I also want to thank all the guys in my club who helped out. Tom Germer made the Cosco run to get all the drinks and helped place the marks. Tom Phillips brought the doughnuts and OJ. Baron Bremer helped with all the heavy stuff as well as performing chase boat duties at times. Tony Rieck was in charge of photographing the event and recruited Tom Germer to help him. Be sure to look at all their great photos.
This was a wonderful end to a terrific season. I look forward to getting the 2008 season started next February. All the scores are listed below. I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year!
Gold Fleet Results
Silver Fleet Results