For the fourth year in a row, Contender sailors from Denmark, California, Texas, Toronto, Florida, New Hampshire, and Ohio gathered on the sunny shores of St. Petersburg, Florida, for their midwinters regatta. The last three regattas had taken place in early January as part of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club’s multiclass regatta, but this year, Ethan Bixby (USA 2396), the midwinters (and 2012 Worlds) organizer and all around swell dude, had proposed a different date and a different venue – the white sand beach at Pass-a-Grille, where SPYC has a satellite facility and where the 2012 Contender Worlds will take place. Stretching several blocks along the West coast of Florida and facing the big blue Atlantic, PAG doesn’t suffer from the usual overbuilding that wrecks the horizon of so many other beaches, and there are dolphins but no sharks, jellyfish, snakes, drunken tourists, nude bathers, or drop bears. The racing area is also a very short sail away.
Neck and neck - 2011 Contender Midwinters - Ethan Bixby
The midwinter sailors got an extra treat when great Dane Soren Andreasen flew over for some pre-regatta training and then took part in the racing. In the light airs on Wednesday and Thursday, Soren shared rigging and tuning tips, and then made the most of the swell and puffy breeze by focusing on starts and downwind kinetics during a series of short and intense races. Training will be added to every Contender Midwinters from here on out.
The regatta began on Friday with a beautiful 13 – 15 knots under a cloudless blue sky. Soren had opened the training clinic by promising that, 'for the next two days, I’m all yours, but after that I’m going to make your life hell', and he wasn’t kidding (for once). During all four races, Soren demonstrated how Contender sailing is done. Ben Moon, an Aussie now based in Florida, had also chartered a boat and demonstrated why he was the North American face of Ronstan, quickly learning how to make the boat go (and learning the hard way that the Contender boom is really low). Saturday opened with lighter winds of 7 knots and it got progressively worse as a high pressure system slid in over the area, but three races were run and again the game was 'chase the Dane'. On Sunday, the wind was wheezing and gasping like a chubby kid chasing a speeding ice cream truck, so the RC was merciful and ended things after one race, allowing everyone to hit the road that much sooner. With a first as a throwaway, Soren accepted first prize, Ben took second, and Toronto sailor Mike Smits took third. As usual, the SPYC race committee ran a perfect regatta, getting starts off on time and setting perfect courses.
The start on Sunday - 2011 Contender Midwinters - Ethan Bixby
The 45th Contender Worlds will be at Pass-a-Grille in April 2012. Keep an eye on the International Contender Association for further information as the date draws closer: http://contenderclass.org/en/home.html
Full results are here
The beach - 2011 Contender Midwinters - Ethan Bixby