The 2006 Laser Midwinters are being hosted by Clearwater Yacht Club February 23-26. This is the sixth straight year the regatta has been in Clearwater, Florida. I’ve made it to every one of them except in 2004 so I thought I would share with you some observations I’ve made over the years.
To begin, every year there have been at least 150 boats in attendance, the largest turnout coming last year with 180 total boats. I have a hunch this year will be the biggest. In 2005 the radials came extremely close to having more competitors, 83 versus 89 full rigs. This may be the year when the tables are finally turned. To-date there are 108 boats registered, 54 radials, 48 full rigs, and 6 4.7 rigs….an outstanding 13 of whom hail from District 11 (MD,VA,DE,DC) and we still have 3 weeks to go before the regatta starts.
As you can imagine, the regatta facility is packed to capacity. There isn’t an inch of land that isn’t covered by a Laser – no exaggeration. The good news is that there is a fairly wide beach for launching, so getting in and out of the water is usually pretty easy. The other good news is that about 20 of the older folks from New England have discovered that staying and launching from the Holiday Inn is a lot easier. That has freed up some much needed space. Here is a link to the regatta headquarters/launching site: Clearwater Community Sailing Center
Masters Midwinters 2006
Things you can count on happening include seeing aging west coast rock star Chris Raab score the best parking space day in and day out, somehow while always being one of the last competitors to show up in the morning. Don’t know who Raab is? You will by the end of the regatta. You can also count on finding the Masters crowd handing out at Big Ben, the English pub with very bad Karaoke. Looking for a good seafood meal? Head South on Gulf Blvd for about 2 or 5 miles and go to Keegan’s. It’s on the left. Call ahead as I really have no clue how far it is. Now for the blow by blow from the past 6 years.
11 boats from District 11 attended the regatta including George Panayides from Hampton YC who finished 19th overall. Off-the-water highlights include Valentines Day dinner. We all went out as a group and choose a nice looking joint right in town. The place was full of couples gazing into each other’s eyes. Fleet 10 had spent the better part of the evening drinking a few cold ones poolside at the motel…so we entered looking like quite the motley crew. We were soon banished to the furthest, darkest corner of the restaurant, so as not to disturb the ambiance for the rest of the patrons…such is life when you’re in the Laser fleet. Ken Campbell somehow got his entire boat re-rigged by Andy at the Tackle Shack. He never admitted how much it cost. We’ll never forget breakfast at Brits. All I remember is Mike Davis asking our waitress to repeat the options for toast. “Vheat, vhite, or vrye?”
There were 81 full rigs and 76 radials. 17 boats from District 11 attended. Over in the radial fleet George Panayides (Hampton YC) finished 2nd overall while Ali Meller, fresh from quiting his job at MCI, finished an outstanding 13th overall in the full rig fleet. Little did we know this would be the beginning of a long absence for George – or that Ali Meller would rise up from the ranks of the unemployed. I guess you could say George went out on top of his game! As for Ali – he has seen the light and is once again entering the world of reality. Other highlights include a guy named Philthy G bagging the regatta after two days; Alden Shattuck (30th) beating his son Brendan (33rd) for probably the last time. And who can forget Greg Stevens – Greg, they are still holding your reservation at the Sands Point Motel!
There were 92 full rigs and 69 radials. 11 boats from District 11 attended. Brendan Shattuck was the top local boat in 36th place. New to the midwinter scene was Liz Hancock (MRSA), Roger Bartholomee (MRSA), and Jen Cook (SSA). I took the plunge in the radial fleet and got my ass served up on a platter. Lessons learned: if you are overweight and completely out of hiking shape (as I was in 2003) sailing a radial isn’t going to make life any easier. In fact it is devastating. One day I may try it again but I will be trim and in fantastic shape.
There were 90 full rigs and 65 radials. This was a down year for the folks from SSA as many of them opted to attend Miami OCR. I guess you could say we kind of got sick of the hats and we really wanted to go where we knew it would be warmer! Brendan Shattuck once again was the top local boat finishing 24th overall in the full rigs, while Charles Fulmer (USNA) finished 3rd in the radial fleet. A total of 10 folks from District 11 made this trip including a few from Rock Hall Yacht Club (John Snyder, Mitch Grieb, and Nicholas Place).
There were 89 full rigs and 83 radials this year. I wasn’t going to go but at the last minute my plans for participating in the J22 mid-winters fell through. I wasn’t about to go back to work so I packed up my boat and headed south on I95. It’s hard to believe even now, but after 4 days of racing we only completed 3 races. Again it was a down year for SSA, but there were still 10 competitors from District 11. Top local boat in the full rig fleet was Midshipman Charles Fulmer (34th) followed closely by Ted Morgan (35th). Austin Kana (TAYC) finished 25th in the radial fleet. The great folks from District 10, Dave Breder and Mike Hecky, introduced me to a great greasy spoon that is next door to the sailing center. What a way to start the day!
That’s all I’ve got for now. I hope this is enough to encourage a few more of you to make the trip to Clearwater Beach this year. It really is an exciting place to sail! Yes, it can get downright cold, but when that sun comes out and the breeze kicks up there aren’t many better venues out there!