2017 Contender Midwinters Write Up

Courtesy of Peter White (USA 1771)

The 2017 North American Contender Midwinters were held February 8th-10th at the ever-so-friendy Clearwater Sailing Center on the sometimes lumpy Gulf of Mexico. This year's, like nearly everyone I’ve attended, included a common set of contestants - mostly from Toronto but also some fresh local meat - Colin Browning a local from St Pete picked up one of the California triplets and unanimously voted best first regatta by a newbie. Gil Wooley and his infinitely patient wife Gail won the distance and sloooooow-time record for traveling east to represent the west. 

Tuesday was earmarked as a training day. While I was not present, the word of the day and on the bay was carnage - with almost everyone swimming due to the big winds, small courses and the number of maneuvers required to complete the recently adopted Harry Anderson course—Perfect drills for the remainder of the week. Peter Hale demonstrated beach landing strategies and got a well-needed manicure in the process.

Wednesday brought "champaign" conditions, and we kicked off the first day by venturing out into the above mentioned Gulf for a day of perfect racing in a steady 15 mph. Roger Martin took the first bullet while Ethan was apparently thinking about something else. Ethan kicked into gear the rest of the day only faltering from numero uno only one other time to Mike Smits. Yours truly literally stabbed Stephanie in the back with a carbon spear while recovering from a low-skill, high-risk, low-reward, high-race-losing low-courtesy fuckity-fuck tack/capsize. (make this day end already!) With five races in the bag, we headed off to our first dinner where we feasted on Italian served by a Greeks.

Thursday brought forecasts of increased wind and seas, so the fleet elected to stay on the inside bay and sail in blustery SW 5-20 mph conditions - oh, and it was shifty too. Keeping boats upright was a challenge, but five more races were held and once again, Ethan prevailed showing that he is not only silky-fast in perfect conditions, he also has cat-like reactions in less-than-ideal ones. An unlikely, and first-ever, bullet was scored to the gentleman farmer from Ohio. (just sayin') Ethan immediately forced himself to “drop and give me 20” and vow never to let this happen again. Dinner became a late lunch, and everyone retired early so they could be at their best the final day of competition.

Friday Fun Day found the fleet on the inside again, this time with a NE breeze and a very low tide. Several boats became mired in a dead zone on the way to the starting line, and racing was postponed to allow them time to reach the race course. The fleet squeezed in 4 additional races in moderate but weakening breeze to wrap up one of the nicest Midwinters in recent memory. Ethan kept a perfect sheet Friday as Roger and Mike battled for the coveted 2nd place. Roger had a slight edge going into the final race but somehow capsized and was forced to use that race as his throw. Final standings are listed below. Friday’s award banquet took us to an upscale eatery on the bay where we dined on Grouper and howled at the lunar eclipse.

Special thanks to Rich White, Karin Olsen Campia and the entire CSC staff for making us feel welcome and to Dave Elis for his training day and expert PRO duty. We will be back!

See more photos here.

Stephanie Mah