March 18th, 2021
14 boats registered for the event including 4 new Weta sailors and entrants from 7 different States. Obviously folks want to get back to sailing after taking most of 2020 off. This year's regatta offered something for everyone, from no wind, to light wind to perfect breeze and even some heavy air races. Sarasota Sailing Squadron were great hosts for the weekend in one of the most beautiful sailing venues you can imagine.
Light wind conditions on Friday forced the fleet back to the beach to wait for breeze. When it did fill in it made for three great races in 8 -12 kts and flat water. The triangle courses used for the entire regatta were “nostalgic” as noted by Bob Hodges. Sean Fidler, a Weta newbie, sailed his brand new blue Weta for the first time ever. Bill Swanson from St. Louis is getting back into sailing for “the first time in 20 years”. Bob, Sean and Bill were at the top of the fleet on Friday putting the hurt on the rest of the class. Conditions favored those who could make gains by picking their way through shifty conditions. Bob Hodges pointed out that it was a day that rewarded the sailors who keep their head out of the boat.
Saturday belonged to the weather forecasters who predicted 100% chance of rain. They were right. The wind was good, in the 8-10 range, and the rain kept the power boaters away resulting in flat water in the Sarasota Bay. Bill Swanson's bullet combined with a Hodges 6 and a Fidler 4 in race 4 threatened to flip the standings. Tim Wieringa posted a 2 and was now mixing it up with the top tier. Kim Higgs from the hosting Sarasota Sailing Squadron, had his best race and recorded a 3rd place. Charles “Pooch” Pucciariello shifted gears and was on the way to 5 straight top 3 finishes. However, after 4 races in a steady rain the results started to solidify. Sean Fidler was holding to a slim lead and Bob Hodges was going to need everything he had to mount a Sunday comeback. Bill Swanson was within striking distance.
The Sunday breeze arrived as expected. On the beach it started out feeling like a solid 20kts. After a short delay to let the wind settle the course was set for the final 4 races. The wind came down into the manageable 12-18 kt. Range, but sore muscles and the early blow skinnyed the fleet down to 8 competitors. Fidler took a 1 and placed three boats between him and Hodges. At that point Sean Fidler was looking formidable. “I knew I would have to win the remaining three races to beat Sean” Bob recollected afterwards. Bob's focus and determination payed off with three straight wins, and into a tie for first. It was only on the tiebreaker that Bob was declared the winner. That is to take nothing away from Sean, who had only sailed a borrowed Weta once or twice years before. He came down, rigged his boat for the first time with no tune up tricks, did a quick out and back practice sail and tied for first in a field of veterans.
Bill Swanson claims not to have sailed in 20 years? His disarming permanent smile is hiding something. Who knew that there was sailing talent like his in St. Louis? Overall, he may have had the best boat speed all weekend.
The new faces included Bob Fidler, Sean's father who sailed all over the bay in a borrowed boat. He plans on sailing some on Sean's new boat and may be getting a Weta in the future. It was a lot of fun to hang out with him. Chad Clavel made a return to Sarasota. He's not exactly new to the boat, but one of those guys that has kept his boat in Florida to do as many early season events as possible before returning to Denver, Co. He is a tough, hard driving sailor who suffered a capsize in race 9. I think he righted the boat as fast as anyone has ever righted a Weta. Unfortunately, by the time he drained out the water from the flooded ama and straightened out the rigging he dropped out of that race. Devin Van Zandt came over from the East side of the State and is a very knowledgeable sailor. He is working on doing some fleet building in the St. Augustine area. Snoann Willett teamed up with Elise Read as the only double handed entry. These two seemed to be able to hit a lot of the shifts but Sunday's high wind kept them on the beach, along with several other competitors. Snoann and Elise compete against each other on Lake Pontchartrain. Jon Ewing is brand new to the Weta. He sails on the Biscane Bay over in Miami Florida. Jon is going to be competing in the Weta for a long time. He has high energy personality and he brings the rum. What else do you want? He is a very experienced sailor with a ton of speed and smarts.
Thanks to all the competitors who traveled from near and far. Tim Wieringa came all the way from Michigan and brought two boats in his majestic camper/weta trailer rig. Bill Frissell is living the snow bird life, from Ohio, and getting his Florida sailing program ramped up. Bob, Elise and Snoann came on over from NOLA. There will be more pictures on the Weta Facebook page and Class web site.
By Cliff Peshek
Photos Cliff Peshek
Chad Clavel from the great state of Colorado
Snoann Willett Bob Hodges and Elise Read rigging for racing
Sean and Bob Fidlers very first launch
Bill Swanson Enjoying the award ceremony
Jon Ewing and Tim Wieringa