Southeast Regional Regatta Delivers Beautiful Weather And Great Winds!
19 November 2008
Article courtesy of Mary Anne Ward - This past weekend, eighty-five degree temperatures and breezes of 6-9 greeted the small but eager fleet on Friday. All three boats were out sailing in the gorgeous Fl weather by the afternoon. Our conditions ranged from 85 to 55 degrees with winds from 6-25. There was something for everyone. After great tuning sessions on Friday afternoon the three of us were ready to go!
Jim Hilgard of Glen Lake, Michigan site of the 2009 Melges 17 Nationals started well and sailed a great upwind leg in a SSW breeze to begin the series. Mary Anne Ward from Cocoa Beach, Florida was close on his heels and Ben Biwer of Pewaukee, Wisconsin was trying to close in. Sailing with Ian Schillebeeckx, Hilgard sailed well through the first time around the course, but Ward and teammate Blair Ross passed them just before the second upwind mark, winning the race by a good margin.
Hilgard started on the starboard end but needed to aggressively ward off Ward from coming in above him allowing Biwer to win the start. Ward sailed a strong first leg to take the lead and protect it through out the race. Biwer sailing with Drake Sprinkman sailed well throughout the morning, but could not break into the leaders until later in the day.
Brian McMurray was in Florida to race with Jim Hilgard also, so McMurray took the helm during the afternoon on Saturday. As the wind built everyone needed to tighten their rigs. McMurray tightened as much as 6 turns above base. After a good start, McMurray did a great job of sailing the shifts and pressure. Biwer was close behind and sailing well. Biwer stayed close behind throughout the first lap, McMurray finally managed to extend their lead on the last downwind leg. Ward failed to successfully complete a jibe and went over losing any chance of catching the rest of the fleet. To add to Ward’s problems she had to take a one point penalty for receiving assistance to get the boat up.
In the last race of the day, Hilgard and Biwer chose to start at the starboard end. It turned out to be a good decision, because the wind filled in big time from the right. McMurray took that shift a long way, played a couple other shifts, and then battled the oncoming waves to get to the first mark with a pretty strong lead. The wind had built to about 25, once McMurray was in his straps, he called for a set, and WOW, and the downwind leg began. The ride down the leg was exhilarating, as the waves built and boat speed increased. Once McMurray was half way down they knew they would have to douse early, and McMurray started worrying about doing any damage to Hilgard’s boat. He shouldn’t have let it enter their discussion, because soon after they were hit by an even bigger gust from their port and went over.
Having watched Ward struggle earlier to right their boat with the chute up, McMurray decided to douse the chute sideways before getting it upright. Once they popped the boat back up they still had a strong lead on the boats behind.
Biwer and Ward rounded the windward mark within seconds of each other. Ward decided not to hoist the spinnaker as she was sailing as fast as Biwer who had set his chute. This paid off well as Biwer went over and tore his spinnaker. Ward was able to scream downwind under just jib in an effort to catch the overturned McMurray but it was too late. McMurray went on to win the shortened course.
Biwer started strong and once they were ahead of Ward, they sailed safely and smoothly on the first leg covering well. A good lead at the top mark does not insure victory in the Melges 17 class. Any mistake with the chute could be very costly. Something happened during Biwer’s set and soon after the kite was up, they pulled it back down. Fortunately, they fixed whatever was wrong, because they had it back up and the boat planning before Ward was able to overtake them.
They protected their lead throughout the race to give them their first Melges 17 win in Florida.
After missing the start of race 5 late, Hilgard sailed well in the 6th. Going into the day with a 2 point lead, their mission in this race was simply to beat Ward. Biwer got out ahead soon after the start and Hilgard stayed ahead of Ward throughout the first 3 legs. When the wind lightened and began getting shiftier just before the final windward mark, Ward split with Hilgard after a getting tacked on. She gained a slight lead there only to lose some of it when Hilgard tacked on the starboard lay line for the port gate. But with the starboard gate favored, Ward chose it to gain some distance back. They battled up the last windward leg remaining very close and gaining on Biwer in the softening breeze. All three finished within 15 seconds of each other with Biwer beating Ward by 10 inches. Biwer won his second race of the day, while Ward nosed out Hilgard for the race and the regatta. The final scores were Ward 12, Hilgard 12 and Biwer 13.
Next year the Southeast Regional Regatta will be equally fun and fast! The class hopes to see everyone there!