have a hobie day

have a hobie day

Another great cat sailing story from Jeremy Leonard / Surf City Racing:

The Hobie 16 North American Championships were held this past week out in the Mohave Desert at a small resort called Cottonwood Cove near Searchlight Nevada. Unless you’re talking about dirt boats, this area of the planet isn’t necessarily known for sailing. The Hobie 16 class are the original anarchists, and this event proves that still to this day they don’t need a yacht club to pull off an outstanding event. With a beach cat you don’t need slips and hoists and launch ramps and facilities. All you need is a beach and some breeze. Lake Mohave had both. The Hobie classes, starting with the first Hobie 14 Nationals back in 1968 held in Hawaii, and the Hobie 16 Nationals in 1971 held in Coronado California, exemplify the anarchist spirit. They simply didn’t need an official club (and probably weren’t invited) to race sailboats like the other classes of the era. So the events were run wherever there was a beach to sail off, some ground to throw tents down, and of course sun and wind.

Despite this free spirit approach, the Hobie class developed some of the rules that most of us in other classes sail under to this day. In the late 60s, it was commonplace that if you foul another sailor, you my friend, were disqualified from the race. The Hobie class felt that sailing circles was more appropriate and lobbied to change the rules, and here we are today. The primary strength behind this movement is a man named Paul Ulibarri, a long time ISAF International Race Officer. PU has been involved with several Olympics, the most recent one being Qingdao China.  Rich McVeigh, the current International Region chairman for the International Hobie Class Association sums it up, “Paul Ulibari is the grandfather of the Hobie Class Association. He was one of the very first Hobie Cat Dealers back in ‘68 or ’69. He sort of helped create the standard of the race program, and many of the things that he implemented are now standard throughout competitive sailing. Like the gates for example, we were one of the very first classes to adopt the gates and a lot of those things came from Paul’s experience at the Olympics. He brought that high-level race management experience to the Hobie Class. That standard evolved throughout sailing.” I have personally worked under P.U. many times as a mark boat driver and I can attest to the high standards to which he holds his crew. Every time I’ve helped to run a race with PU, I felt that no race committee could do a finer job of setting a fair course.

Matt Bounds the PRO for the H16 North Americans, and the North American Hobie Class Race Officer adds to the list of standards that the Hobie Class brought to the table of sailboat racing as a whole, “Gates were used at the Olympics in 1996 and the Hobie Class started using them at our major events…the first one that I really remember was in 1997 in Syracuse at the Hobie 17 North Americans.” Hailing from Detroit, Matt is the premiere multihull PRO for the entire U.S. To diversify his skill set and add to his resume, Bounds dabbling in monohull racing more and more. “Because of PU’s high level internationally the Hobie class benefited because we were on the cutting edge of race management. Before, for example, course changes, up until, oh I don’t know, fifteen years ago you just didn’t have any course changes. If  the wind shifted, that’s what you got. We were one of the first classes to adopt the ability to move marks in the middle of a race.”  The Hobie Class has always been on the cutting edge of high quality race management, a trait that stands today.

The NA Championship

On Monday the wind was variable and averaged around 12 knots on course. The Puerto Rican team of Enrique Figuroa and his youth crew Victor Aponte pulled off two bullets, which set the stage for the rest of the week. Enrique, The Streakin’ Rican, is no slouch when it comes to making multis go fast. A four time gold medal winner for Puerto Rico in the Central American/ Carribean Games, multiple Hobie 14 and 16 World and National Championships, Hobie Tiger World Champ, Olympic Tornado sailor, and a slew of other sailing accomplishments stemming back to the 70s, Enrique sails fast.

Coming on strong with a string of seconds on the first day, longtime Hobie sailor Wally Myers and Beverly Griffo held off the pack of Puerto Ricans that usually finish in the top spots. Sailing consistently in the top spots, Jason Hess and Guillermo Rosemberg from Guatemala, upped the game by bringing their coach from the Guatemalan Sailing Federation. In their hotel room taped up on the mirror were their daily affirmations and positive thoughts about how the day was going to go. It seems to have worked out for the team, they finished in the second spot when all was said and done. Experience definitely played a key role in the Guatemalans second place finish, I had a chance to sit down with the team and touch base about how to make a H16 go fast. Jason Hess gave me a quick rundown of his experience which started, “…when I was six years old, I started sailing Hobie Cats with my father, Guillermo started sailing Lasers, and just a couple of months ago we started training for the Pan Am Games, we have an idea of getting the gold medal.”  Jason at the ripe old age of 22 and Guillermo at 19 make one of the youngest teams at the H16  North Americans, and in order to be able to pay for their trips in order to compete, they get funding from several sources, Jason expands, “We get some funding from the Sailing Federation of Guatemala, and funding from several other private sources like Puma.” These guys have it dialed in and I expect to see them hit the big time in the sailing world in the future.

Midweek saw the wind pipe-up to 21kts at the top of the course, which kept the crash boats busy.  Enrique and Hess settled into a groove of firsts and seconds respectively, with Francisco Figuroa and his highly skilled (y muy bonita) crew Jolliam Berrios, sailing under the Heiniken green main, with a string of good finishes. Francisco and Jolliam have been sailing the 16 together for 5 years. Francisco has sailed an F18 with Gustavo Pinto, and notes that the biggest differences between the F18 and H16 are, “The F18 is a very technical boat, and there are a lot of adjustments that you can make. The Hobie 16 is relatively simple, you can pretty much stick to mast rake, downhaul your sheet tension, and you’re good.” I asked the women that sail at the top of the fleet about what attributes their skipper has that makes them a good sailor. It was unanimous that the less a skipper yells, the better he sails and the better the boat runs, duh. Jolliam comments on Francisco’s, temperament, “He’s very relaxed he’s a great skipper. He’s never screaming. I think he’s concentrating, and never gets frustrated. He goes with the flow, and our major goal is to just have fun.” There you go guys, a tip from the top.

Bringing up the fourth spot, one of my favorite guys in multi-hull sailing is “The Doctor” Pedro Colon and his lovely crew “Nurse” Monica Cabrera. Pedro and Monica have been sailing together for four years and pretty much have the situation dialed in, and figured out that it’s best to not sail with their ‘significant other’. Monica tells it like this, “ We don’t believe in sailing with your sentimental partner, because you can’t take what you have outside into the boat and vice versa because it just messes things up. Pedro adds, “You definitely don’t sail the boat yourself that’s for sure. Monica knows how to run the front of the boat. Sometimes she doesn’t get to watch the race because she’s so focused on trimming the jib.” Monica interjects, The only thing I see when we’re going downwind are the telltales, I don’t cleat the jib, I keep it uncleated and trim it the whole time.”  Colon sailed Tornados in the Olympics for Puerto Rico with Enrique Figuroa and has a lot of experience on Melges 24s. Pedro prefers to sail the Hobie 16 over F18s and Tornados, and explains it like this, “ The F18 is more professional, I was a professional once in my life, and I don’t want to go back there, it gets in the way of the parties.”

My friend Mark Moddrman and Sandra Tartaglino who finished in 5th overall were sailing well all week and scored several finishes near the top. Modderman, a citizen of South Africa, is about 6 months out from obtaining U.S. citizenship. Since this H16 Nationals was also the qualifier for the Pan Am Games to be held amongst the Anarchists in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico next year, he was not qualified to represent the US at the games even though he finished in the fourth spot. Talking with mark after the event, he was noticeably bummed.

Enter Greg Thomas and John Williams who ended up in 6th overall and the top US team, which will take them all the way to the Pan American Games. The Games, held every four years one year before the Olympics, is a multidiscipline, multinational event for every country in the Americas. The Hobie 16 has a class, and though they don’t have much time on the boat, Thomas and Dub will be there in force!  

Thomas and Jdub have only sailed the Hobie 16 together 3 times, proving what excellent, intuitive sailors they both are. Both have been invited to the Puerto Rican H16 Nationals and for the past two years, so they chartered a Hobie 16 and placed well. JDub, a seasoned sailor, summed up his excitement, “It has been a goal of mine for a very, very long time. There are three classifications of sailors within US Sailing and I always wanted to be a level A sailor.” In order to become a level A sailor, you have to either represent the USA in the Pan Ams or the Olympics, so this placement at the Hobie 16 NAs enabled Dub to realize his dream.

U.S. Sailing puts together a budget so that our qualifying sailing teams can have the opportunity to attend events like the Pan Am games, so Thomas and Dub will be fine tuning their skills on the Hobie 16, a completely different focus than their norm. Both guys are known for their activities in the F18 class, and Thomas was one of the first pioneers to sail and campaign the F18 in the early 2000s here in North America. This win at the H16 NAs has put a slight kink in their F18 plans, Greg explains, “ Before this, I was focused on the F18 Worlds that will be held in Long Beach in 2012, and so next year was going to be a big year trying to qualify for the F18 Worlds. I was going to be focusing on the new boat (Wild Cat), and so now this is going to be taking some time away from that. I’ve been to the Pan Am Games in a working atmosphere before and I know it’s a pretty big deal, so I feel that my time has to be spent preparing for that event and try to represent our country. I think that next year, my time is going to be very focused on the Hobie 16.” Sounds like it’s going to be a busy year for the duo, who luckily, both live relatively close to one another in Southern California.

Lake Mohave was far out in the desert, but the good times rolled on, which is typical of every Hobie Cat regatta. Thank you to all of the volunteers that made this event happen. Tons more pics