Whew! Wow, June was a busy, but successful month of Snipe sailing. We had planned on running the 2020 Snipe Nationals – coincidentally exactly 30 years from the last time Lisa ran the Snipe Nationals – but then the COVID-19 pandemic put the world on hold so we went under a one year postponement.
Finally as the pandemic clouds parted, we pulled it off this year. The plan was to have June 2021 be the “June Snipe Circuit” with Colonial Cup as the nationals venue warm up with the Surf City/Atlantic Coast Championships sandwiched in between. Now that a little water has passed under the bridge, it’s time to reflect on the circuit and really the entire prior year as this represents the first real “outing” for many sailors.
The summer 2020 sailing season during the pandemic paradoxically ended up being very good for our local Snipe Fleet. We were one of the only active local fleets (along with the Laser Fleet) due both to the nature of our boats being 1-2 people, but also due to the nature of the Fleet leadership taking a “what can we do” vs. a “what can’t we do” attitude. We did take COVID and the precautions seriously, but within what we believed to be prudent guidelines, we took every advantage to sail. Local sailing was more attractive than ever before because no one was traveling – not to regattas, nor to any of the myriad of activities that keep families busy these days. The “stay at home” orders in Maryland kept everyone around looking for something to do. We introduced a lot of younger post college sailors to racing the Snipe and taking a page out of Old Man Diaz’ fleet building book, we put two lease to own boats in service for the 20-something crowd. While not meaning to underplay the severity of the pandemic, we were able to adjust and find the silver lining as I commented on Carol Cronin’s blog post on creativity during the pandemic. In addition to local practicing, clinics and fleet racing, we ran successful “covid-style” Colonial Cup and Frigid Digit invitationals thanks to SSA working hard to find ways to make the infrastructure work – no indoor or planned social events, limited registration, etc. Personally, we went even a step further to take advantage of the working remotely by acquiring our own COVID-bubble travel van. Naming her VanFuckingTastic (in homage to Id Crook), we were able to #VanLife, spending a significant amount of time this winter in south Florida for 4 regattas: Rescheduled 2020 DonQ, Commodore Rasco, Ron Payne, 2021 DonQ while working remotely full time. The #VanLife world is a story in and of itself and a subject of many future blog posts no doubt. But as a preview it enabled a unique Thanksgiving on the beach in Key West with Lexi and boyfriend Andres from Barcelona making a beautiful paella on the beach.
Now onto the June Snipe Circuit wrap up: Colonial Cup was a great event with a very competitive 30 boat fleet and was won by Raul Rios despite his only being in the boat a few times recently. Oh to be that talented… Seven races were completed in a difficult 8-12 knot shifty southerly with lots of chop and current and this would turn out to be a PERFECT warm up for the conditions we saw at Nationals. Lisa and I ended up 16/30 – solidly middle of the fleet, continuing the string of basically middle of the fleet finishes over the winter.
A few days later we packed up and headed up to Lee’s place in Surf City for the “Pork Loin” regatta. We had only 10 boats as it was rather disruptive to have to travel between Colonial Cup and Nationals but nonetheless it was a great social event and the breeze was really nice at about 10-15 knots. The racing was super tight and it was easy to go from the front to the back and vice versa with one small mistake. We ended up 5/10. Big fleet, in the middle; small fleet, in the middle! But this was a group of 10 very good sailors, so nothing to scoff at. Of course there was beer, wine, pork loin, ice cream and a little time on the beach. There were a bunch of first timers at this year’s event including two boats on their way to Nationals from Rhode Island.
For Nationals, the conditions were spectacular but challenging with breeze mostly from the southerly directions and quite lumpy even during the week. We had three days (Thursday, Saturday, Sunday) of light-ish (5-12knots) breeze and one day (Friday) of champagne Chesapeake sailing (12-17 knots). PRO Steve Podlich completed 9 of 10 scheduled races as the third race on Saturday was abandoned due to a 90 degree wind shift on the first lap.
Our performance was a bit lacking in the lighter air and because we are so out of practice in large and deep fleets, we had to relearn the lessons of “doing things that make no sense in small fleets, but are a must in big fleets” (like over standing laylines, and staying out of the middle if you are behind).
In fact we sailed our throwout in the first race (a 39!). Our best day was Friday in the champagne breeze and scored three, consistent top 15 finishes (11,14,13). The Old Folks were Boogie-ing for sure that day. I am just way more comfortable when the boat has some life. And of course my article on wind conditions was off and it took me a bit to let that go and as everyone knows if you can get a little breathing room, it’s way easier to sail in the front – the rich get richer! Weirdly, there was often a bit of a persistent left shift throughout the day, which caught us on the right too many times and it’s sooo hard to work back from that. As the regatta went on, it became clear we were “in the hunt” for the Carolyn Nute Trophy awarded to the top placing married couple. Along with the O’Hares and the Disch’s, we were having a little race within the race. Even though we really missed them this year, thanks to Connie and Peter Commette for having a prior commitment so one of us mortals could compete for that trophy 😉 It was touch and go right up until the end with the O’Hares but for once we finished ahead in a regatta. After the last race of the day on Sunday, I was so done with light and lumpy and was really happy to be done. Thanks to Geaux Fast Sailing and Keith Donald’s “Snipe Alumni” spectator boat, we sailed by to grab a few beers they were distributing to competitors for the ride in which always dulls the frustration. We ended 24/52, again solidly mid-fleet.
We of course have an outstanding set of volunteers for race committee, but also from the fleet to staff the various teams (measurement, registration, awards et al). While some of the off the water social activities were driven by the conditions of the pandemic – the planning was mostly done prior to the successful vaccination status we had during the event – the regatta was very much tailored to fit the strengths of the SSA venue. We structured the social activities such that sailors would hang out at SSA after racing and then head out in town on their own for dinner later. Botanas Fajardo did a fantastic job providing drinks from an upstairs bar (no waiting!!) with regatta provided appetizers as well as making more food available for anyone who wanted a meal. As part of the registration, each team was provided a set of drink tickets that were redeemable at the upstairs bar (or downstairs window) instead of regatta provided kegs as many have done in the past for large regattas. This gives competitors a wide choice of beverages and is very easy to manage from both the organizer and provider standpoints. Each team was also given a set of dinner tickets they could use at their leisure during the event at Botanas Fajardo. Each evening’s events were a little different over the 4 days including Street Tacos, guac & queso, foccacia sandwiches, an ice cream truck & pizza, and cake with activities such as Snipe Family Feud and a Pick-Your-Prize raffle thrown in.
With the usual end of regatta social media posts, we were honored and flattered by the outpouring of gratitude from competitors and others about how well the regatta went. While we always see all the warts and problems, it’s nice to get an end user’s perspective and to know they really enjoyed all aspects of the event. While this regatta was in some ways similar to many other Snipe Nationals, it had a variety of unique attributes that matched the capabilities of the SSA venue. For example, we don’t have a full service restaurant or a large interior space so if we wanted to have an organized dinner we would have had to hire a caterer and a tent & chairs which would have taken boat and car parking away. Also since SSA is ostensibly a sailing/racing club and not really a social club, there is not a lot to do onsite other than hang out in the boat park or around the bar, but we have an awesome view from the deck which was encouraged by the upstairs bar, a vibrant local scene offsite in Annapolis and, luckily for late June, fantastic sailing conditions. As a result, the compressed 4 sailing day event works well here. It’s definitely a different experience – neither better nor worse than a 9 day (week long with two weekends) event like “Camp Vandermolen” at the 1996 Nationals at Gull Lake YC in Michigan where you could swim in the pool, play golf and drive antique cars when you are not sailing. It’s our belief that you can’t shoehorn an event that works in one place into another; you’re better off playing to your strengths even if it ends up being, uh “different”. And as a side editorial, that’s how Lisa and I roll as evidenced by our quite non-traditional wedding where we played some odd constraints of that event to our strengths. Perhaps one of the highest honors is being receiving the National Secretary’s trophy awarded to the key organizers of the SCIRA USA National Championship 31 years after Phil Richmond donated the trophy, awarded in 1990 to a young Lisa Foulke before she met Alex Pline Snipe sailing in Bermuda.
Following in the footsteps of the 2019 Nationals at Jubilee YC which has a lot of photo/video documentation, this event is perhaps the most documented Snipe Nationals ever.
Kim Couranz did a great job with daily writeups on our blog (with the help of “in house” photographer Ted Morgan) and PR to social media as well as other sailing outlets like Scuttlebutt.
- Snipe Family Gathers for 2021 U.S. Nationals
- García Bringas/Smith Jump to Early Lead at Snipe Nationals
- Rios/Reifkohl Gonzalez Thrive in Solid Breeze; Take Lead at Snipe Nationals
- A New Day, A New Leader: Rodriguez/Tocke Step into First
- Rodriguez/Tocke Capture U.S. Snipe National Championship
- Snipe US Nationals on Chesapeake Bay
- Light winds launch Snipe US Nationals
- New leader at Snipe US Nationals
- Another shift at Snipe US Nationals
- Rodriguez/Tocke win Snipe US Nationals
- Crafting events to work for a venue
- The Capital and Baltimore Sun newspapers (same article affiliated)
- SpinSheet Magazine‘s Photo Gallery Saturday and Sunday.
Thanks to a very generous grant from CBYRA we hired T2PTV to shoot daily video on the course and produce a wrapup each evening that we played at the club as well as a final wrap up with interviews. Also thanks to Kathleen Tocke, not only the winning crew, but she also did interviews during the regatta that were all over social media and are on our Nationals You Tube playlist.
We also hired local sailor and photographer extraordinaire Ted Morgan to shoot pictures on the water which he makes available for full resolution download to competitors as part of his fee. We love working with this model to pay a flat fee for the service out of regatta funds and make all content available free to competitors. It’s a win-win for everyone and increases the reach of the regatta since so many competitors download and post the best pictures to their own Social Media. Check out his gallery and download your favorites on his photo site: