The Blackbeard Sailing Club is located in the back of a gated community surrounded by coastal water not far from New Bern, NC. As sailors headed to the Gurganus Regatta on a hot August Friday, the neighborhood was abound with smiles from residents walking their dogs and golfers enjoying their favorite past time. Rounding the corner and passing through the gate to the marina, it appeared nice, but felt like it was going to be crowded when the 60 registered boats show up. A huge air conditioned shower building, great campsites, and a raised clubhouse overlooking the mouth of Upper Broad Creek and out into the Neuse River were all part of the grounds.
Several sailors went out to enjoy the double digit breeze and warm up for Saturday’s racing. As others arrived and began rigging up, you could sense some angst from some of the multihull “beach launchers”. The 420 crowd, however, was not at all concerned that they had 12 boats stuffed along the tiny beach. They were young and focused on more important things. Along the same lines, the Sunfish sailors that frequented the Club were not bothered by the crowd of boats on the beach.
On Friday evening, Blackbeard Sailing Club provided a picnic dinner with libations with an informative rules seminar.
At the Saturday morning skipper’s meeting, we learned that the Wetas and Isotope Catamarans would be the first race start of the day. Some of the multihull sailors were getting more anxious as the club’s shore director explained that the Wetas and Isotopes would be last to launch. More anxiety since we were all sandwiched in between the 420's and Sunfish. Did I mention first start of the day, last off the beach? Skipper’s meeting ended. Sails started going up. Trailered boats started streaming into the water on two ramps. The 420 crews were calmly milling about and chatting away. Anxiety builds. Are they going to go? The Sunfish fleet slips off a bank (not the beach) and were off to the races. Finally, the 420's hit the water in an orderly manner that resembled a flock of sea birds flushing from a grass shoreline and heading out to sea. Wetas and Isotopes launched without incident and we all headed out to the course. The Wetas passed everyone on the way to the committee boat (because we are faster). We all got there in PLENTY of time. It was like the race committee knew this all along. Like they had done it before a time or two.
Much angst about nothing! The shore crew did an outstanding job directing where fleets were to park. It went off without a hitch. It has amazed me all summer that these sailing clubs can pull off these open regattas with an all volunteer force. Sailing is fun and clearly a lot of people think so. So these 60 or so boats, with all levels of experience, made it safely out to the race course where the PRO and his race committee (also volunteers) put on a great day of racing.
While Alan Taylor won the day, we made him work for it in each race. In the first race, I was in the back observing technique (really I was struggling with bad ideas), while Steve Cardoze and Eric Frank chased after our 2023 East Coast Champion. In race two, Steve and Alan battled for first, while Eric and I slugged it out for third. In race three, I led for the first two marks. While I was imagining my first Weta race win, my competitors had other thoughts. The other sailors battled their way back and left me to watch an awesome finish from further back than I’d like to admit.
On the final downwind leg, Steve sailed to the left and caught Alan just before the leeward mark. They rounded with Alan only inches from Steve's transom. Alan headed up hard and an aggressive luffing battle ensued (gennakers trimmed tight) toward the reaching finish line. Meanwhile back at the mark, Eric was grinning at the opportunity to slip past while Steve and Alan were in a tactical duel. Having attended the Friday rules session, Alan confidently called for mark room at the pin. So it was Alan on the inside and windward, Steve slightly ahead, both practically DDW and parallel to the line. Eric was coming in hot to leeward. Did I mention that it was a really short line? Barely room for three boats at the same time. Alan managed to turn around the mark and cross inches ahead of Eric with Steve seconds behind. (The three all agree that the RC mixed up Eric's and Steve's scores). Here’s the official results (https://www.regattanetwork.com/event/26200#_newsroom+results).
After a good workout on the water, Eric invited the Weta Sailors to his house for dinner. We had wonderfully seasoned ribs, relived the day on the water, told sailing stories, and laughed a lot. It was a big day. A game of darts tried to break out, but we ran out of energy. Next time!
If you are a student of sailing, these regattas are a great place to learn more about your boat. They are a great place to discuss and execute sailing tactics. The off water discussions and sea stories are a learning experience that generate lifetime memories. The connection that you can so easily make with other interesting people just because you joined the club by getting a Weta and coming is quite remarkable. I am only a few months on my Weta adventure, but I feel I have made some lifetime friends.
Sunday came, but the wind didn't. Great chats with sailors of all types. Discussions about sail camber, dogs on sailboats, Weta self- tacking jib trim, how that block for the gennaker sheet works, how the microburst here a few years back capsized a bunch of boats on a day like today, things that have shaken off the boats on the road, and how much cooler it is in the North Carolina Mountains. I can’t wait until the next regatta! Come join us.