RS Aero North America Midwinter Championship – Indian River YC, Cocoa Beach, FL, USA, Feb 8/9
by Bob Patterson
Trailers of boats from across the United States descended upon Kelly Park in Merritt Island Florida for our RS Aero Midwinter Champs. Thursday, Marc Jacobi put on one of his signature pre-regatta clinics in strong breeze. Your author was unable to attend the clinic, but by all accounts the participants learned a lot and handled the challenging conditions with aplomb.
An approaching cold front made the weather a point of anxiety for many competitors. Friday looked to be breezy and cold with overcast skies. Four races were completed with Marc Jacobi and Madhavan Thirumalai sailing RS Aero 9s revelling in the strong conditions. Bob Patterson and Hank Saurage were in the lead pack as well in RS Aero 7s, mixing it up with the 9 rigs and thinking they were looking good while on the water. There was a good bit of swimming on Friday, with Boris Mezhibovskiy showing impressive form. Staying upright was a key component to better results. When results were posted later and they realized that they had OCSs in their scorecard, they realized they had their work cut out for them Saturday.
Saturday was clear and sunny with a little less breeze but still quite sporty conditions. Jacobi and Madhavan continued their run in the RS Aero 9 fleet while Patterson and Saurage went to work. With the exception of race 1 on the day when Saurage went to the wrong mark and ended up at the back, the two sailors were 1, 2 on the day. Patterson was especially careful to be conservative at the starting line, hanging back and relying on his upwind speed to keep him within striking range. I will also mention that Erik Aker, sailing clean on day one (no OCS) and in the top three on Saturday was leading. Only when discard races would come into play would his lead be threatened.
A lovely dinner at the Hawksbill Restaurant was held Saturday night with some tired but happy sailors enjoying food and camaraderie. The restaurant was close to the sailing venue and was glad to accommodate us.
Sunday was forecast to be warm (correct) and light (nope). While not as consistently strong a breeze as Saturday, boats were depowering with sailors hiking full on to get that last chance to move up. Saurage put up a 1, 2, 1, 1 and Patterson was looking to move past Erik Aker with a 3, 1, 2 until he miscalculated a cross with Jacobi, did a penalty turn, capsized and had to battle his way back to 4th in the race. This cost Patterson second place overall but Erik Aker, having a 4 and a 5 as his drop races (versus 2 OCS for Patterson and a 12, OCS for Saurage) sailed a great series with very consistent results. Well done!
In the RS Aero 9 fleet Jacobi played his regular tune of straight bullets while Madhavan and Sean Fidler had quite a back and forth battle. Madhavan prevailed, but only by 3 points. The top 7s and 9s were often racing each other so it was interesting to see how things unfolded.
An interesting fleet in the regatta was the race among the RS Aero 5 rigs. While grouped with the 7s in the results, Paul Gingras, Gregory Popp, Melissa Solnick, and Tony Corkell all decided to sail with the smaller rigs, deciding that it was more fun to be out on the water than to be killing yourself with too much sail or staying on shore after trying to do so and getting hurt. We will definitely have a separate RS Aero 5 fleet next year.
The general consensus from this regatta was it was a positive experience. Indian River YC put on a great event, with little waiting on the water in between races and efficient changing of marks for the conditions. Launching was from a soft sand beach that we shared with windsurfers and kites and hose off right at the top of the ramp leading to it. There was ample parking for cars and trailers and Gregory Popp even had space to bring his RV as the unofficial shore base for the event. The racing area had little motorboat traffic and was a quick sail right off the beach. There were lots of smiles on shore afterwards and most agreed they will be back next year.
NEXT UP in Florida is the fleet’s first visit to the keys with an event at Key Lago March 7/8, before moving on the Sarasota OD Regatta on March 20-22. For full detail of RS Aero events in North America through 2020 check out the events list.