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Southern Spars

A Q&A with Shari Seaton about the 2018 WetaFest and U.S. Multihull Championship

by David Schmidt 16 Apr 08:00 PDT April 18, 2018
Weta Trimarans in action © Cece Stoldt

When the conversation switches to fast, fun times afloat, it’s tough to beat the speed, exhilaration and adrenaline rushes that come with flying a hull on a racing-oriented multi-hull. While there’s no question that the grin factor is huge, there’s also no question that the intensity ramps up a dozen degrees when that same hull is flying as the crew approaches a crowded mark rounding at a regatta.

Crank that regatta up to the level of the 2018 WetaFest and U.S. Multihull Championship for the Alter Trophy, which is being held from April 18-22 at the Fort Walton Yacht Club in Fort Walton, Florida, and you can bet your last roll of duct tape that plenty of competitors are trying to get in as much practice time as possible before the starting guns begin to sound.

For anyone who didn’t place the name, the “Alter Trophy” honors the memory of the legendary Hobie Alter, Sr., (1933-2014), who is credited with innovating the fiberglass surfboard and “inventing” modern multi-hull sailing with the introduction of his Hobie 14 in 1968, which was soon followed by his iconic Hobie 16 in 1970. To say that Mr. Alter disrupted the sailing world in the 1960s is perhaps a bit akin to saying that Elon Musk is impacting space transportation (and soon, travel) today with his SpaceX company.

To honor Alter’s impressive legacy, U.S. Sailing helps sponsor this annual regatta (established 1986), which regularly attracts some of the fastest multi-hull sailors afloat. Interestingly, the regatta changes locations and boat types each year, thus testing participants’ abilities to race in all conditions and aboard all platforms, year-to-year.

I interviewed Shari Seaton, Fort Walton Yacht Club’s fleet captain, via email, to learn more about the 2018 WetaFest and U.S. Multihull Championship.

Can you give us an overview of the event—am I correct that there are three regattas unfurling concurrently, namely the US Multihull Championships, the Hobie Alter Cup and the FWYC WetFest?

Wetafest is a regatta for the Weta trimaran that is hosted by the Fort Walton Yacht Club in April of each year. This year, US Sailing has joined in to use this regatta as the US Sailing Multihull Championship, for the Hobie Alter Cup.

What kinds of boats are used in the Hobie Alter Cup and the US Multihull Championships? Or, do all three events use (singlehanded or double-handed) WETA trimarans? Does the class of boat change from year to year, or do you always compete in WETAS?

The Multihull Championship boat changes from year to year. The Weta can be either single- or double-handed. This year, we may have a single-handed winner or a double-handed winner. Either entry is valid for the regatta.

Do these events rotate venues each year, or are all three regattas always held in parallel at the FWYC?

US Sailing rotates venues for all of their races. This year they have joined Wetafest for the purpose of a multihull regatta.

On average, what kinds of conditions can racers expect to encounter in mid-to-late April? Also, will racing take place on Choctawhatchee Bay or on the Gulf of Mexico?

We will be racing in Choctawhatchee Bay. We should expect clear weather and steady winds. Late April is a great time to sail in Fort Walton Beach.

What kind of racing format can sailors expect? Also, how many races are you hoping to get in, provided that Mother Nature cooperates?

Hopefully, we will get in 2 or three races each day. Hal Smith is our National Race Officer for the event and he will make the final decisions on courses, length, and number of races. And as everyone does, we are hoping for good weather.

Besides racing, does the event offer any lectures or clinics for interested sailors? If so, can you tell us about those?

On Wednesday afternoon, Randy Smyth, Olympic Sailor, will be hosting a clinic for anyone wishing to participate. Each day, our competitors will have available a continental breakfast, a full day of racing, and dinner in the evening. On Thursday, Stephanie Taylor will provide a Clean Regatta presentation and Jonathan Weston will offer tips on Heavy Wind Sailing. On Saturday, the Weta Class will have their annual meeting and on Sunday we wrap up racing to include the trophy presentation and late lunch.

What kinds of steps has the FWYC and US SAILING taken to green up the event and reduce its environmental footprint in recent years?

We most recently have begun to participate in the Sailors for the Sea program. I have been working closely with Faye Black, FWYC Commodore, to reduce the amount of paper and trash we generate on a daily basis, not only on land but [also] on the water.

Anything else that you’d like to add, for the record?

We are all looking forward to this event. We will have many spectacular sailors and race committee volunteers showing up and helping out.

To date, 34 Wetas are registered to compete for the Hobie Alter Cup and it should be grand!

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