The 2nd Annual Return to Duck Cup - Bruce Koch

Setting up our annual Wētā Zoo

June 16th, 2022

The 2nd Annual Return to Duck Cup
(And that darn Lemans Start)

The Duck Cup is a multihull tradition that dates back to the early 80’s. This is the second year the regatta has been held after last year’s “return” following a several year absence. The event is two days of distance racing on North Carolina’s Currituck Sound and open to all multihulls 20’ in length or less. This year’s festivities were again held at the Nor’Banks Sailing and Watersports facilities in the heart of beautiful Duck, North Carolina on the weekend of 4-5 June.

The weekend started on Thursday for four excited Wētā sailors and “ground crew” as we gathered at a nice Airbnb for two additional days of friends, good food, a little pool time and fun in the sun.

This year’s event attracted three multihull fleets, all racing together; Wētās, NACRA Formula 18’s (boy are those things fast!), and an open fleet consisting of various Hobies, Prindles and other NACRAs.

Saturday morning we arrived at the venue to find 16 multihulls in various states of assembly and a gaggle of multihull sailors busy tuning their boats, renewing friendships and “telling lies”. The almost perfect sailing conditions; mid 70’s, water in the lower 70’s and the wind out of the ENE at 12-15 knots,
added to the buzz.

The 10 am Competitors’ meeting was held at “around” 10:30 (I was again reminded that this is a VERY laid back event) and the plan for the day was discussed and explained. For us first timers (I was the only first timer on a Wētā), The Duck Cup uses a unique starting method: The “Le Mans” start.

(I hadn’t participated in a Le Mans start since the “Billy Bowlegs Regatta” fun race at the Fort Walton Yacht Club in the late 1970’s…and this one was MUCH different! This was also the first time in 55 years of sailing that I was sailing in a distance race in a small boat – I had a lot to take in…and learn.)

The OA described the courses; we could choose as a fleet either the long course or the short course. Both courses required sailing about 10 miles north through an area the locals call “The Narrows” which is just as described. The short course would then round an orange tetrahedron and back to Nor’Banks.The long course boats (F18’s – man are those things fast!) continued on “another few miles”, turned around a known mark, and back to Nor’Banks. We chose the short course.

We then discussed a few other key points and things to watch out for…
(Then the OA said something that, for some reason, I just couldn’t get out of my head).

“those boats with dagger boards need to be very careful, it’s very shallow in places and I would hate for someone to split a hull…”

(Why did he have to say that?).

“And stay west of the white drums. That’s the Jet Ski course and it’s real shallow through there”.
“Don’t get too close to the duck blinds, it’s real shallow through there too.”

(Duck blinds? In the middle of the Sound? This could be interesting!)

The last task of the Competitors’ meeting was to draw our “line-up order”. Each crew drew a number (1-16 participants) to determine their place in line.

(I drew #2, not bad for a first timer!)

Once all the boats are in the water and lined up (theoretically) the committee will initiate the 5 minute starting sequence. During the start sequence boats are held near the line by a member of the crew (usually not the driver) until “the gun goes off”. The crew then pushes off, jumps on, and away they go!

(That works well for a two person crew, us single handed Wētā sailors are on our own.)

The topography in front of the sailing center provides very shallow water (shin to waist deep) for 100-150 yards straight off shore. It took about 25 minutes to get all the boats off their cat tracks and dollies and crews to find their positions on the line.

(I made my way out to my “primo” starting position and ended up standing in water just below my waist line…not bad.) I’m #2 in line, standing between my starboard ama and the main hull, left hand on the foredeck, right hand on the forward aka. (This feels like a pretty good position, I can keep the bow
into the wind, I can easily get on the boat, drop the board a little, hook the mainsheet up, clear air and I’m off!)

Like all plans, they’re great until first contact---- then ad-lib!

Sailors, like other highly competitive athletes, will take any advantage available up to the point of cheating. A Le Mans start in a multihull race is unique and different, the sailors aren’t! The higher numbered crews (closer in to shore) were constantly inching up to try to gain an advantage on the
boats next to them. This caused a domino effect resulting in the lower numbered boats (farther out) being blocked from seeing the starting flags or hearing the whistle being used as a starting signal...someone forgot to bring the horn!

(One all lady crew in particular kept getting in my way as I moved up to gain a glimpse of the starting signals and perhaps be able to “synch” my starting watch without having to go so far as to be OCS. Nope, each step I took, she matched it. I waved to try to get her to stop, she waived back! Thanks Stephanie & Michelle!)

“I think I just heard someone yelling Go! Go! Go! I did! Darn it, I missed the start completely!”

(I’m OK. I can still get a good start, just stay calm and move. So here goes; I bend slightly at the knees lowering my body to about mid-chest, I’ll spring up onto the trampoline, spin around, push the board down a little {not too much, all the hull splitting and all}, hook-up the main and still pull off a decent start. BUT… I sprung up onto the trampoline, my bathing suit decided not to join me in its original position and my wet quick dry shirt is stuck up around my chest! Decision time! Do I stay down and kind of wriggle my shirt and draws back on or do I stand up, fix em and go? Wriggling takes too long!)

With my wardrobe back in place, I proceed to get the boat moving. I can still see Alan; Michelle and Steph “really” ran aground and are dealing with that…

(Hope they didn’t split their hull, {why did he have to say that?})

I’m finally out in deeper water, board’s not quite half way up, on a close reach, and moving great! I’ve avoided the jet ski course, stayed a little farther away from the duck blinds than the boat in front of me, keeping the seaweed off the rudder and the board, I’ve got some distance on the boat behind me
and I’m actually gaining on Alan!

Suddenly the port leeward ama dives under the surface, water reaches the corner of the port tramp and the boat comes to a sudden stop! I hope I didn’t split my hull!

(Why did he have to say that?!)

I regained my composure, did a quick assessment of the boat and got back on course. The boat behind me had gained and Alan seemed to have gotten away. The turning point is in sight and he’s just about there, I’ve got about another 300 yards and the wind is moderating and starting to clock to the east. Do I sail try to turn the beam reach into a close reach, sail a shorter course and cover ground I’ve pretty much been through? Or, do I bear off to a broad reach, sail a longer course through an area I’ve never been? I chose the “shorter course”, never really got to that close reach and finished a distance third. But I didn’t split my hull!

Oh well! Tomorrow is another day and there’s great food and refreshments back at the Airbnb!

Sunday morning we arrived at the venue to temperatures in the low 70’s, winds out of the NNE at about 21 knots with gusts into the mid 20’s, and 2-3 foot waves. We also noticed that there were several fewer boats rigging or already left.

(This could be sporty!)

All three Wētās decided to give it a go. This morning’s course would consist of a Le Mans start to the north on a starboard tack, round the pin end of the line to port and head south to the Wright Memorial Bridge and back. The starting order would be yesterday’s order of finish by class. We all got our boats off their wheels and dollies and into our respective starting positions. I was at the end of the line, but at least I could see the flags and almost hear the signals. The start, with fewer boats, happened with little fanfare and race two was underway.

As I rounded the pin mark I saw a NACRA had already capsized (boy are those things fast!).

(This is going to be SPORTY!)

I got about two miles into the course and decided that discretion is perhaps the better part of valor, tacked about, and returned to the beach. The other two Wētās continued and enjoyed one heck of a ride! The final results had Alan Taylor in first, Michelle Angrish & Stephanie Taylor in second, and me
having had a great weekend and learning a lot.

I for one will be “Returning to the Duck Cup” next year! Hope you’ll join us!
(LeMans start Day 1 of Return to Duck Cup. Wind was 12-15kts out in the Currituck Sound)

By Bruce Koch, Wētā #507





Hardy Peters, East Coast Sailboats Wētā Dealer with the Le Mans Start Flags



Stephanie and Michelle


Rigging area

Stephanie and Michelle, the only female team amongst the boys

Stephanie, Alan, Bruce and Michelle

  • Categories

Wētā Owners

We’d love to hear from you. Send us your stories and photos.

Contact Wētā