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Home2019 Region IV Championship

2019 Region IV Championship Regatta
Hosted by Fleet 30, Austin Yacht Club

Ensign Class Fleet 30 at the Austin Yacht Club was proud to host the Region IV Championships on October 10 -12. It was a highly successful event mainly because of the amazing work of regatta chair Bill Hawk along with the capable help of his wife Kelly. The Hawk's brilliantly organized and then ran this event which all participants thoroughly enjoyed. They actually came out on the plus side of the ledger after everything was tallied following this 11 registered boat contest.

Kudos for a job well done should also go out to the following fleet members who helped take care of the wide variety of responsibilities involved in running the three day regatta. Anne Morley helped with photography and along with her husband Daivd did the t-shirt design. Hazel Sanchez did a great job coordinating the creation of some beautiful glass trophies. Tom and Kelly Groll hosted a wonderful BBQ dinner at their home near the club following the first day of racing. George Dahmen and Jonathon Baker helped provide the beer, wine and snacks following each day of racing. George and Frans Dahmen did any sail measurement that was needed. James Bland helped with any launching and retrieving that was required. Bill Hawk, among others, helped organize the race committee headed up by Ray Shull. This RC, made up of several highly experienced club members did an outstanding job setting up some excellent courses over a wide variety of conditions. One final important duty, which several of the above mentioned people took responsibility for, included organizing, setting up and breaking down the final awards banquet which was catered by local Mexican food restaurant Rosita's. All and all, everyone pitched in to make for a really smooth running event.

Now to the championships themselves, which anyone reading this will find out shortly could be appropriately renamed the "Baker/Faust Racing Clinic". Ten Ensigns were on the line for the first day of racing, including one out of town boat named Slueth which was brought down all the way to Lake Travis by Bob Conkey and his crew from Cleveland, Ohio. It was towed by their RV which is actually a converted bus with a giant Ensign insignia painted on the side. Thanks for making the effort to join us down here in Texas, Bob, along with representing the fleet so well on a national level.

With the threat of a strong cold front approaching the area on Friday the 11th, accompanied by projected 30 to 40 mph winds, the RC, along with the regatta chair, decided to forego the scheduled practice race and get in 3 races on Thursday afternoon. So the first race started at 1300 on Thursday. By that time a strong warm southerly had developed with a steady breeze in the upper teens and gusts in the 25 to 30 mph range. The air temperature was flirting with a record high (for that date) of 95 degrees. Obviously sail selection was paramount and much of the fleet opted to use their "blade" jib while others went with their No. 2 genoa. Big gusts would come sweeping down the race course followed by periods where the breeze would lay down a bit, so the skippers and their crew really had to be on point especially when flying the spinnaker down wind. Major boat oscillations were quite common and I witnessed several emergency round-ups and accidental jibes. Bob Conkey on Slueth was forced to withdraw from the 2nd and 3rd races when his tiller broke. He was provided another tiller off a loaner boat for the remainder of the regatta.

I would be remiss in writing this article if I did not point out the very high level of sailing talent that was present on the various Ensigns in these championships, making for the type of competition where even the slightest tactical error, lousy start, or sloppy mark rounding would cost you several places. 2011 Ensign National Champion Jonathon Baker, who was steering his family Ensign, "Jonathon Seagull", was joined by his sister Sarah Faust and her husband Eric (international Laser Class guru) along with local racing "rock star" Ravi Subramanian. Tom Groll had local sailmaker John Bartlett on board "Brewser" with him, and George Dahmen who, along with Ann Kitzmiller had a podium finish at nationals back in August were joined by brother Frans on "Styf Komp".  Longtime Ensign racer Harold Neel, who has recently returned to Austin after decades of chartering his own yacht in the Caribbean and South Pacific was at the helm of Fred Ford's "September". This talented field was rounded out by current AYC Commodore, Annie Lancaster and her husband Charlie on "Eagle". Others who sailed fantastic regattas included Bill Hawk, Dave "Doc" Gamble, as well as Anne and David Morley, all who had recruited "rock star" crews for this event. Maybe the presence of all these folks explains why myself and my wonderful crew on "Dos Locos" were constantly in the "cheap seats" throughout this regatta.

Back to the racing. Despite not "feeling it" and being occasionally overpowered using their No. 2 headsail in the first race on Thursday, the Baker/Faust team elected to put up the No. 1 genoa in race 2, and as they say in sports "the rest is history". As Jonathon told me later on shore, "we were already being overpowered with the No. 2, so we decided what the heck, we might as well be overpowered with the bigger sail." Strange logic, but it worked, as Team Baker/Faust proceeded to get their first two of five straight bullets. Team B/F later had the luxury of throwing out their 6th in race one which was won by Tom Groll with the Dahmen's coming in 2nd. Using his No. 2 jib, Bill Hawk managed an excellent 2nd in race number 3 on Thursday.

The expected cold front blew into central Texas early Friday morning with northerly winds gusting to 40mph, making Lake Travis resemble the North Sea with rolling whitecaps and blowing fog caused by the still warm water temperature. The RC had told us the day before to meet at the club at 10:30 for a decision on the scheduled day's racing to be determined by 11. Around 10:45 they told us the racing was cancelled for the day which was greeted by collective sighs and a few cheers. We were told we would start at noon Saturday and they would try to get in at least 3 races that afternoon.

Saturday the fleet was greeted by lovely conditions, with a light breeze out of the north/ northeast and air temps in the 50's and 60's. The start in the three races on Saturday became extremely important. The idea being to have speed and clear air in the dying breeze as well as getting to what appeared to be the favored side of the course. Team B/F nailed most of the starts and despite being hotly pursued by a number of others managed to stay in the lead when it counted with excellent sail handling and tactical decisions. The Dahmen brothers stayed consistent with two 2nd places and a 3rd on Saturday followed by Tom Groll who got a 3rd and a 2nd. By the end of the 3rd race the wind had died completely so the RC decided to "put a wrap" on this fun event with the chase boats towing most of the fleet back to the harbor.

Around 6 that evening the group enjoyed an excellent Mexican food meal and presented the beautiful awards along with the Region IV Perpetual Trophy. Congrats again to the podium members, Team B/F first, Dahmen's 2nd, and Groll 3rd. Liked I mentioned earlier, everyone had a great time being part of this wonderful event. The Austin Yacht Club and Ensign Fleet 30 showed once again that they know how to host a great regatta and demonstrate a very high level of Ensign racing. So when we host this event again in a few years please consider making the effort to join us, it will be worth it, I guarantee it.  

Click here for photos of the regatta.

Let's Go Ensign Sailing!! 

Lewis Price, Region IV Commander

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