L to R - Bruce Koch, Alan Taylor, Stephanie Taylor, Tom Bews
(Article written for “The Beat”, a NC Sailing Publication)
Sailors flocked to Florida in February for the biggest regatta of the year! Leg one of the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series did not disappoint with 270 boats, 3 days of racing, 4 sailing circles and lively parties featuring Mount Gay Rum. Due to Hurricane Ian last Fall, Wetas were racing their rescheduled 2022 North American Championship at this event.
Half the Weta Fleet from Carolina Sailing Club swarmed to St. Petersburg to kick off their 2023 sailing season in the warm temperatures of central Florida. The line up included Bruce Koch from Virginia and the Taylor duo of Stephanie and Alan along with their good friend, Toms Bews all hailing from Greensboro. While Bruce and Alan were both sailing singlehanded, Stephanie teamed up with St. Petersburg para-sailor, Jen French as the only registered doubled handed Weta. Since there were no other boats to race against, the “Weta Girls” decided their plan was to be out on the water and “sail for the love of the sport.” After chatting on their long sail out to the race course, the girls decided to set a goal, beat 1 singlehanded boat with a stretch goal of beating 3 singlehanded boats.
Elva Rouse Park, on the shore of Tampa Bay, was filled with dinghy sailboats from end to end. The football sized field served as the rigging area for 23 Weta Trimarans, which was the largest dinghy class in the regatta, A-Class cats (foiling and traditional), and Waspz. Add to the crowd the Melges 15 and Contender fleets. There was always a backup at the hose off stations after sailing.
Day 1 brought light air in the morning as sailors were making their way out to the course. Ninety plus minutes later, multihulls finally made it out to the “Course B” Signal Boat to check in. The first two races were somewhat painful with winds around 5-6 knots dropping lower than that at times. By early afternoon, the sea breeze started to kick in with white caps providing 10-12 knots. Here we go…. FUN, “Booty on the ama” Weta sailing. In addition, the wind direction kicked up the sea state and provided a 2-3 foot chop. By race 4, winds modulated a bit. Alan Taylor ended the day in 4th place with the top 6 being in striking range. Bruce Koch from VA, our new 2023 Class President was a respectable 11th overall, being new to the boat after racing the Flying Scot for over 15 years.
Day 2 brought the “big chill” to the air with winds in the mid 20’s offshore. RC postponed for an hour to let the breeze settle in a bit. Sailors went from shorts and tech shirts to their wetsuits and spray tops. What a difference from one day to the next! 3 more races were sailed in a very comfortable 12-18 knot breeze. With these wind conditions, Wetas thoroughly enjoyed planing upwind and surfing the big waves downwind. Bring on the Weta Smile!
Day 3, winds were light and dropping to nothing so all fourteen Classes had racing cancelled to end the Regatta.
As the sun set over Tampa Bay, Alan finished with the “A” Fleet in a respectable 6th place. Bruce Koch finished in 10th. The Weta Girls, Jen and Stephanie beat 2 singlehanded boats and had a blast on the water. Tom Bews, completely new to the Weta got some experience on the water prior to the regatta and decided he needed at least a few hours in the boat before racing, especially at this level.
After shaking off the rust in Florida, we’re all looking forward to being back on our North Carolina home water, Kerr Lake for our Carolina Sailing Club season opener on April 15th!