2008 Midwinters Race Commentary by Willie Blevins
Catalina 22 2008 Mid-Winters Commitment to Excellence
Catalina 22s have been racing in Mid-Winters competition in Florida for 23 years. For the past 5 years this event has been held on Lake Monroe in Sanford. The hosting authority is Florida’s floating boating school, the FUN Maritime Academy. The little blue building is just about the only small thing about this event any more. This year 34 boats raced in the traditional Gold and Silver Fleet competition with 5 of those Catalina skippers and their crew racing in the spinnaker fleet on Friday February 22.
The starts on Friday would have drawn an “I” flag preparatory signal if there had been a bigger spinnaker group since 40 percent of the fleet was OCS (over early) in all three races. The race committee was well supplied with attentive spotters and individual recalls were timely as were most of the restarts. A couple of near misses added more excitement but close doesn’t really count unless somebody has to change course or boats make contact and that didn’t start until Saturday. Wind was nearly perfect for kite flying on Catalina 22s, around ten knots and very consistent for Lake Monroe.
My son Orion and I sailed our 2005 C22 sport (number 15545) on Saturday and Sunday, but on Friday 2 of my sailing students, Aggie and Carlton Brown from Eustis assisted in sailing against 3 of the first 500 hulls ever made (vintage 70-72). Justin Chambers from Buford Georgia sails Buc-ee (hull 158), Reid Collins sails Chikin’ Ship ( hull 241) from Flowery Branch Ga. Randy Pawlowski sails Gold Rush (hull number 439) from right there in Sanford. Ervin Zimmerman sails a little newer boat (number 1787, must be a 1974) Adventuring from New Baltimore, Michigan. Besides the spinnaker fleet we had a preliminary practice on Friday that always has a few boats on the water.
Friday Night our waterfront hang-out and regular sailing sponsor, Wolfy’s, provided wings and libation to get everybody ready for Saturday and Sunday. Catalina sailors will eat some wings and they did. Saturday morning the Lake Monroe Sailing Association (another extraordinary sponsor) provided coffee, bagels, fruit, etc. for the skippers and crews while a huge weather front slid across Florida. The front was relatively narrow but it was parallel to I-4 which made it quite wide as it crossed Sanford. So it rained hard enough and consistently enough that the competitors’ meeting was postponed. We had a couple of computers watching the weather at the school, and people were attached to the internet by cell phone everywhere waiting for that front to get on through. Just like the computer screen predicted, the rain quit about 12:10 and we were racing by 13:45.
The weather ended up perfect again and in spite of the late start we still managed to get 3 races in. 24 four boats in Gold Fleet made for some very competitive and exciting starts. The 10 boat Silver Fleet was also quite competitive. Gold Fleet was pretty much about who could get to second place this year, as Justin (the current Catalina 22 National Champion) and his crew did not allow Buc-ee to take anything but bullets.
George the Gourmet Cookie man again catered an exceptional meal of prime rib, and lots of other good stuff but even my classiest faux accent could not do the menu justice so I will resort to the straightforward, it was really good. I mean really good. After dinner we raffled off some fine prizes, provided by more fine and generous sponsors. A magnificent water color by Stewart Jones of a crowded pole douse and leeward rounding from a great photo by Gerry Banton was the high point of the prizes. My son and I were riding a pretty high mark Saturday night because we had been consistently in the first eight finishers and were in fourth place so after the all the dinner toys got put up we went back to Wolfy’s and did some premature celebrating.
Sunday started in a fairly thick fog (externally and internally). Several protest hearings had to be held Sunday morning because of the delay caused by Saturdays weather. Jay Wood dispatched the protests with precision, speed, professionalism, and accuracy. The warning signal went off about 10:15 I think.
We had been doing well with a conservative starboard tack RC boat start, so I used that as my criteria for starting strategy. The wind was light so I knew staying in clear air was critical. We stayed to the right and rode a big lift almost to the lay line. Buc-ee (yeah, the National Champion) did the same thing but a little closer to the middle. Some boats went left early, there were a few that stayed to the right with us, but we were definitely on the right (note that I did not say correct) edge. Justin Chambers took Buc-ee back to the left and the group between us peeled off one by one. They were taking a pretty good header from my perspective and since were we the farthest right, we were almost at the lay line before tacking. On port the wind was backing as I thought so it took a couple of short tacks to stay in clear air and make the mark. We rounded the windward mark eighth, still respectable in this group, and rounded the offset with a clean pole set and boat speed just in time to see the last little zephyr suck up into itself and disappear. During the next thirty minutes we set the whisker pole and headed down, the doused the pole and headed up, got passed by virtually all the boats behind us, passed them all except Buc-ee and started being passed again. Eventually it began to look like a solid wall of Catalina 22s side by side, wing and wing, sails limp, half a mile wide with Buc-ee out in front being deprived of even enough air to breathe and soon to be swallowed up by the entire fleet. The race committee mercifully abandoned that race and the wind did not fill in time to start another and stay on schedule, so the regatta was over.
This was one of the best ever. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and sailed well too, awesome. We had a record turnout, pretty good weather, great food, excellent competition, and a lot of fun. I think next year we may need to give a little more attention to a centralized party but that always seems to give an advantage to those Millikans. Anyway it was great regatta and I am pleased to have been a part of it. So many people need thanking that I will run out of room. DJ McCabe really makes the thing work, Denise Burchard, Maggie and Fred Shoemaker, Bernice Seibuhr, Mike and Pam Loughlin, Jeff and Susan Laydon, Carlton and Aggie Brown, Andy and Diane Forrest, Bill Kruger, George Paul, Garie Blackwell, Jay Wood, Luke Lucarell, Charlie and Brian Volk, Orion Blevins, Stewart Jones, Daryl Turner, all these and more worked like crazy to make this a phenomenal weekend. Thanks for coming to Sanford and sailing. Sailing is pretty much my solution for everything so if you were here in spirit or in fact, you are solving the worlds problems. Thanks so much.