2018 Weta Nationals Became a Stick in the Mud - Stephanie Taylor

November 09th, 2018

Sarasota Sailing Squadron in Florida known for its big Fall wind was the site of 2018 Weta Nationals. Many of the out of town sailors enjoyed their week vacation and sailed for six days straight with racing November 2-4. Throughout the week, Weta Trimarans of Florida dealer, Dick Hitchcock was busy greeting sailors and buzzing about getting charter boats ready.

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Chad Clavel, Dalton Tebo & Dick.Hitchcock

There were a handful of sailors on the Weta for the first time. First up, young Chad Clavel from Colorado who sailed his new Weta for an hour before flying across the country to join in the festivities for the week. Next, Dalton Tebo, former Olympic Sailing hopeful and a multihull phenom in his own right was ready to test out the nuances of the Weta. Third, Joel Blade, monohull sailor from NC hopped on the Weta for the first time on Thursday and was instantly hooked. In addition, local Kim Higgs needed crew and partnered with Dianne Ryan, a catamaran sailor who happened to be in Florida for the week. She instantly fell in love with the Weta. Finally, Elise Read who previously sailed with her husband, gave it a go as her first time single-handing.

Friday kicked off with winds of 15-25 knots and impending thunderstorms in the afternoon. Just to be safe, the course was set up close to shore with a quick reach in if necessary. Canadian, John Heizer got off to a great start with a bullet in race 1, followed closely by newcomer Dalton Tebo. Gusts came and went along with shifty wind at the weather mark. Race 2 the double-handed team of Stephanie Taylor and Joel Blade got a great start closer to the pin. As the gun went off, they were keeping paces with Tebo and Hodges heading to the weather mark. As S. Taylor and Blade tacked onto the starboard lay line, they were sailing very aggressively thrilled to be near the front. All of a sudden the biggest gust of the day came through and knocked the boat over. According to other sailors that watched the knockdown, S. Taylor and Blade were hanging by the windward ama dangling in the air as their boat was on its side. Falling into the water, they were done since their mast was buried in the mud in only six feet of water. Spinning like a top, their boat spun around on the mast until the mark boat helped them put the slimy side back where it belonged. Race 2 concluded as the wind settled down with Tebo getting his first bullet, followed closely by Hodges and A. Taylor.

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Saturday the course was moved a lot farther out in the bay with winds at 12-18 knots, gusts in the 20 range along with a very choppy sea state. The fleet couldn’t have been so efficient without the daily help from Weta Florida dealer Dick Hitchcock and fleet member Mike Wright helping launch and bring dollies up to the beach. S. Taylor and Blade had a shaky start off the beach. With a broken main halyard from Friday’s capsize, the repaired halyard busted as they were getting ready to depart. With the help of Mike Wright, the mast was dropped and a new halyard put in place. Now off the beach racing to get out to the course in time, the main was not staying up. “MacGyver” Blade stood on the bow as the boat was sailing and got the main locked. That was the first of a handful of fixes on the water.

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Joel Blade, Stephanie and Alan Taylor

As the sea state built, double-handed team of Tim and Jen French said, “It was like we were riding a bucking bronco”. With Tebo not sailing day two due to coaching obligations, it was a mashup of Hodges and Heizer at the front of the pack with Alan Taylor sandwiched in between with three second place finishes for the day. It was a wild ride downwind with many sailors crossing gybes as they blasted to the leeward gates in a pack which usually included Cliff Peshek, Bill Frissell and Rick Sylvester. At the end of the day, a one point spread between single-handers Hodges, Heizer and A. Taylor.

After dinner Saturday night, Hodges conducted the Weta Class annual meeting where the square top main was approved as the 2019 Class sail. Officers were elected and the Southeast Regatta schedule rolled out. Before calling it a night, Dick Hitchcock drew names for the class raffle where every Skipper walked away with swag including Zhik waterproof backpacks, Weta fleeces, LandShark prize packs and many more items.

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Zhik raffle winners
Bob Hodges, Stephanie Taylor, John Heizer

Sunday was predicted to be a light day. On the contrary, the wind was howling at the Squadron. However, conditions dramatically changed by the time we got out to the race course. Wind was barely five knots and glassy patches were seen all over. The double-handed teams barely made it to the start line in time with one checking in and five seconds later starting. The only race ended at the first weather mark and racing was abandoned for the day. As some of he boats requested tows, sailors limped back to the beach.

Congratulations to 2018 National Champions Bob Hodges and the double
-handed team of Stephanie Taylor and newcomer Joel Blade.

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Bob Hodges

The Class can’t thank the Squadron and Weta Trimarans of Florida enough along with sponsors, US Sailing, SailorBags, Zhik, Sailors for the Sea, Dave Dellenbaugh, and the Taylor family.

We’re looking forward to seeing everyone next Fall for 2019 Weta North Americans at Nor’Banks in Duck NC!

By Stephanie Taylor

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