Women Swarm WetaFest

Back row (L to R) Nona Puccariello (2nd place doublehanded) Stephanie Taylor (3rd place doublehanded), Deborah Wilusz, Cam Farrah (1st place singlehanded) Front rower (L to R) Linda Wright, Jen French, Elise Read

April 17th, 2019

Weta sailors swarmed Fort Walton Yacht Club for WetaFest April 11-14. A record breaking year included seven female skippers and three junior skippers in a fleet of 22.

Heading down from the arctic north, Tim and Martha Wieringa arrived early as usual to enjoy some relaxation in the Florida sun. By Wednesday, many savored a great afternoon of sailing and chasing each other around the bay in 7-10 knots. John Heizer and Alan Taylor looked like the Air Force jets flying above in a dog fight with their maneuvers around each other.

On Thursday, Weta Class President Bob Hodges conducted a sailing clinic. The chalk talk started out with boat set up and moved to a land drill demonstrating proper tacking technique. Winds started picking so many decided to save their energy for racing while five boats went out and practiced starts and mark rounding.

On Friday, the fleet got in three lighter air races with 8-10 knot winds and a one foot sea state. Some excitement ensued when Cliff Farrah pickle forked a mark. After dropping to close to five knots, the PRO called it a day. Hodges led the singlehanded fleet with bullets while Alan Taylor was on his stern in second followed by the two juniors Matthew Smyth and Cam Farrah. When Matthew Smyth was asked how he did so well, he said, “I just sail fast” in typical Smyth fashion. In the double handed fleet, Corsair sailor Phil Styne dominated with bullets while former collegiate sailor Nona Pucciariello, Jen French and Stephanie Taylor played a tactical chess game with each other in races two and three. One point separated each of them in the standings. What great fun!

On Saturday, winds built to 18-20 and an extremely choppy two to three foot sea state. Due to the wave angle on port tack, all the sailors could do was keep soaking it down. Rick Sylvester said, “ It was like riding a bucking bronco” as he felt airborne on some of the waves. What a wild ride downwind! On a different note, Englishman Richard Stephens was thinking, “I just want a cup of tea”. Prior to the start of race three with fatigue setting in and the gusts building to 22-25, some of the sailors retired and headed in. 

Back on shore, the party went into the evening as an 18th birthday celebration occurred for first time Weta sailor, Logan Smyth. HIs favorite chocolate cake was served while the band played Caribbean music. He ate more then one piece!

Due to the forecasted weather front on Sunday, many sailors had packed up Saturday night and headed home early including the top two sailors of Hodges and Taylor. As it turned out, the weather gods provided a very brief window just long enough for the nine singlehanded sailors that remained to complete the long distance race. Congrats to Junior Sailor Cam Farrah for winning the singlehanded division and Phil Styne and Michele Schott for winning double handed.

We’ll have to wait until next year to see if the female fleet continues to grow. Word on the streets is that there are at least three more ladies that want to sail!

By Stephanie Taylor

Video from Fort Walton Yacht Club

Photos:
Day 1
Day 2
Final Day

Awards

Logan Smyth 18th birthday cake

Junior Skippers (L to R) Logan Smyth, Matthew Smyth, Cam Farrah

Cliff Farrah pickle fork

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