Dawdling through swarms of multihull sailboats in a slow catboat
Went out with a friend on his Com-Pac Sun Cat to watch Friday's sailing action in the 2011 Charlotte Harbor regatta, and typical of catboat folks, we showed up a bit late and racing was already in progress. Here the fleets are reassembling for the second start of the day as we approach the race committee boats outside the Port Charlotte Beach park.
Our friend Butch also came out in his Sun Cat. Since our boats are so slow, I did not want to leave the multihull fleets to go and take pictures of the S2 7.9 sailboats racing in a different part of the harbor. It would take too long, so I asked Butch to sail his boat down there and take some photos. Here is a brief video of the Sun Cat Spectator fleet in action (slow motion action though it may be!)
We really could not have asked for a nicer sailing day. Temperature was in the upper 70s and there was just enough wind to keep the sailing action interesting. My speculation is that the Chamber of Commerce sacrificed many virgins. That is a barbaric practice, but I can't argue with the results.
Trying to get close to the fast multihulls in a pokey Sun Cat was a bit of a challenge. Different fleets of beach cats and Weta trimarans were all zipping up and down the harbor, and all of them tack and jibe at pretty wide angles. In this photo, a couple of Vipers are reaching downwind as Weta trimarans in the background beat toward a windward mark. We could not catch any of them, but wanted to get close enough for pictures and video, so our goal was to get in their way, but not too in their way! Some racers come a long distance and dedicate a lot of time and money to the sport, and they get understandably irritated if some joker in a slow catboat ruins their race.
This photo shows the challenge of tracking the Viper F16 and F18 beach cats as they raced downwind. The picture was taken looking more or less downwind toward their destination, and look at the angles the boats are sailing to get there! For those unfamiliar with these boats, they can go much faster if they do not try to steer the boat directly downwind, and the speed difference more than makes up for the extra distance they must travel.
The boats were racing in different fleets, starting in groups staggered at 5 minute intervals, but they can still wind up close together out on the course. In this photo, Viper F16 32993 is sailing near Viper F18 1025, but the crew is looking back to see what the competition in their own fleet is doing. You can view all the race results for all classes across the three days of racing by visiting the Regatta Tech results page for the 2011 Charlotte Harbor Regatta.
Hobie 16 Fleet Pictures
The modern racing beach cats are very impressive performers, but are any of them really as cool as a Hobie 16 with a rainbow sail? Not to my eye! Sailors have been enjoying this design since 1969 and they are still in commercial production today. Not a bad run, and the end of the story is nowhere in sight!
I do not understand why the Port Charlotte Beach Complex shoreline is not packed with Hobie Cats all winter. Beautiful sailing days like this one are common. For those who prefer sailing in strong winds, we have those too, as the Charlotte Harbor Regatta report from last year shows.
When the wind is light, the Hobie 16 crew moves to the downwind side of the boat to help lift one hull out of the water, reducing drag. In the background is a Morris 29 daysailer named Grace, a frequent sight out on the harbor.
Gratuituous shot of Grace taken during Sunday's racing, just because she is so pretty.
As the wind came up a bit, the Hobie 16 crew moved out to hang from the trapeze wire. Here regatta winner number 67 is beating upwind with crew on the wire.
Here a pair of Hobie 16s fight for position as they work their way upwind.
Weta Trimaran Fleet
Here comes a group of Weta trimarans working their way up the race course.
When the wind came up a bit, the Weta fleet moved along nicely with each boat leaving a frothy wake behind the submerged ama.
Wetas roll out asymmetric spinnakers to go downwind.
Wetas roll up the asymmetric spinnakers to go upwind.
The two Weta trimarans at right show pretty well the reaching angles these boats work with when racing to a downwind mark. Both need to go more or less straight toward the Etincelle 60 fast cruising catamaran, but the fastest way to go in that direction is to zigzag.
F18 Catamaran Racing Fleet
Most of our sailing effort was directed toward trying to get near the high performance Viper catamaran fleets, but they are difficult to catch with a little catboat! We did manage to get near a few as they flew by. Here is #246 on their way to a second place overall finish in the class. I searched hard for a picture of first place winner John Casey's boat after he wrote a nice article on the regatta for Sailing Anarchy, but he must have been too fast and I got no pictures of his boat.
Another nice shot of #246 flying a hull as they sped by us. We were like a little moving island out there to those guys.
The crew of this F18 is using their weight to help the boat fly a hull and to try to keep the stern of the hull that is in the water from dragging.
In this shot they have the windward hull back down in the water during a lull in the wind.
This F18 crew has the boat moving along upwind nicely as they ride out on the trapeze wires.
This guy was swinging himself out forward. I'm not sure why. The hull seems pretty well planted in the water.
Viper F16 Catamaran Fleet
These two Viper F16s were really moving upwind and we were not able to get very close to take a picture. The one on the right is Karl Brogger, who eventually won the class in this regatta, racing his boat alone. The boat on the left is being raced by a crew of two, and can fly the jib under class rules. I would imagine that the extra sail area and extra crew weight would be advantageous in stronger winds, but Karl's boat seems to have plenty of power in moderate winds with just the mainsail judging by this picture.
And here they come back down the course.
A couple of the F16 catamarans capsized on Friday. One reported snagging a crab trap with his daggerboard on a jibe, but I did not see it happen. It is generally wise to do those kinds of things far from my camera. I also did not see how this boat capsized, but there was enough wind that a simple mistake could quickly send you swimming in one of these powered-up racing cats. It looked like the powerboat had a tow line on the upper (starboard) crossbeam or ama and the crew was helping it pull the boat upright.
They seemed to have a little difficulty getting the crew back aboard. It can be hard to scramble up on a boat when you are cold and tired. They were sailing again soon enough, and there were several powerboats on hand to help out if they had had a real problem with hypothermia and/or exhaustion in the chilly water.
When a Viper F16 is coming straight toward you, you can see just how little boat is actually under that huge sail. If you're watching from a slow catboat, it is time to get out of the way as fast as you can!
Here's F16 #808 reaching by us with an Etincelle 60 catamaran in the background. The big cat is home base to a couple of Hobie Wave racers who won their class in this year's races. I saw it setting sail later in the weekend, and it looked like a mountain had sprung up on the far side of the harbor.
Hobie Wave Catamaran Fleet
The Hobie Waves were the only fleet that really stayed close enough to one another to capture in one picture out on the race course. If you look closely, you can see ten Wave masts in this picture.
In this one a Hobie 16 and a Weta trimaran are making their way through the Hobie Wave fleet.
It was fun chasing and dodging the different sailboat fleets. I think that if we allowed a Viper fleet to bear down on us like this, we would have at least one Viper-bow-shaped dent in the catboat, but we were able to sail out of the way of the slower Hobie Waves.
We did not sail so far out of the way that I could not get a decent closeup picture of a Wave racing! In this one you can see that they leave the rigging on these boats beyond loose - it is actually floppy! Look how much he is able to deflect that shroud!
The Waves may not be the fastest boats, but it looked to me like they had the best fleet racing action, with all the boats staying pretty close together throughout the races. The husband and wife who took first and second place are serious sailors and they had some very skilled competitors out there sailing against them.
For world cruising fans, here is a picture I took as we sailed by their other ride, the Etincelle 60 catamaran.
Some video of our day at the 2011 Charlotte Harbor Regatta: