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Green shoots emerge on the North America regatta scene

by David Schmidt 13 Apr 08:00 PDT April 13, 2021
- 49er Worlds, - Day 5 - Auckland , December 3-8, 2019 © Richard Gladwell / Sail-World.com

It's fair to say that the last year has seen a drumbeat of bad news for the sailing world thanks to the still-roiling pandemic, mostly in the form of cancelled regattas. While this less-than-great theme is still unfurling (we'll get to that in a bit), good news arrived last week in the form of a press release from the 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 classes, announcing that their 2022 World Championships will be hosted by Sail Nova Scotia, as well as Hubbards Sailing Club, St. Margaret Sailing Club, and Sail Canada, and will take place on the waters of Nova Scotia's St. Margaret's Bay from September 6-11, 2022.

All told, some 400 high-performance sailors from more than 35 countries are expected to participate in this high-level regatta, giving North America a decidedly international regatta to look forward to at a time when both Canada and the USA are dealing with persistently high caseloads of Covid as more contagious strains of the virus gain purchase.

This regatta will mark the first time that these three highly competitive classes have contested their world championship titles on Canadian waters, however it's not the first time that these waters have played host to national- and international-level regattas.

"Nova Scotia has a long history of high-performance racing and training," said Eric Hill, who serves as president of Sail Nova Scotia. "St. Margaret's Bay is one of the best sailing venues in Canada and is known for having great winds and ideal sailing conditions. This event will bring awareness across Nova Scotia to skiff and Nacra sailing, and also leave a wonderful legacy of improved infrastructure for sailors."

Others agree. "The sailing on St. Margaret's Bay is perfect for Olympic style racing," said Nathan Outteridge (AUS), president of the Nacra 17 class, a double Olympic medalist (gold at the 2012 London Olympics and silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 49er class), and a recent Nacra 17 class competitor (N.B. Outterridge and his sister, Haylee, competed for, but did not earn, the Australian berth to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the Nacra 17). "It will be a great test for our fleets."

While this is great news for high-performance One Design sailing on the eastern seaboard and North American sailors interested in an Olympic campaign, not to mention great news for Canadian sailing in general, the less-than-great reality in April of 2021 is that races and regattas are still being negatively affected by the pandemic.

Ironically, just as great news of the 2022 49er, 49erFX and Nacra 17 Worlds broke, the 2021 Marblehead to Halifax Race was forced to make the tough decision not to sail its traditional 363-nautical mile course this summer. While vaccine deployments have been rolling out relatively smoothly in the USA, Canada hasn't yet seen the same success in vaccinating its public, and (as of this writing) the border between the two countries remains closed to non-essential travel.

Fortunately, a statement on the Marblehead to Halifax Race website offers some hope for big-boat sailors in need of an offshore airing.

It reads: Due to the current situation with COVID, we don't have enough clarity on whether current restrictions at the Canada/U.S. border will change to allow the race, despite regular outreach to border authorities. We are concerned that we won't have time to properly prepare for the race or give our competitors ample time to prepare their yachts when or if the restrictions are lifted before July. Our attention and efforts will now turn to our alternative options where both Boston Yacht Club and the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron will look to hold slightly shorter races to start around the same time. More information on these will be available in the coming weeks.

So, while this is certainly isn't great news for the sailors who were excited to race this historic course, the good news is that it sounds like the event organizers are working hard to deliver some sort of distance-racing event, even if participants can leave their passports at home.

If "two steps forward, one step backwards" feels like a theme of 2021, you're not wrong. The good news, of course, is that - while slow - VMG is still on the side of regattas safely taking place. For example, this past weekend saw racing unfurl at the 2021 Charleston Race Week (April 8-11), which is great news given that the 2020 CRW was wisely cancelled due to the pandemic.

On the West Coast, the St. Francis Yacht Club also announced that they have opened entries for their 2021 Rolex Big Boat Series, which will unfurl from September 15-19. In addition to high-level keelboat racing across a variety of classes, this year's Rolex Big Boat Series will also serve as the J/88 class' North American championship and the Express 37 class' Pacific Coast Championship.

Finally, word also recently broke that the inaugural edition of The Southernmost Regatta is now accepting entries for their 2022 event (January 17-22). This regatta is set to unfurl on the waters off of Key West, Florida and is open to all One Design keelboats that measure between 22' and 75' LOA, as well as to multihulls between 24' and 75' that also carry an eligible ORC rating.

This is especially exciting news for veterans (you know who you are) of the now infamous Key West Race Week, which ran for 30 years and offered exceptionally great racing during an exceptionally cold time of year in many other parts of the country. Sail-World wishes this fledgling regatta the best of luck as they attempt to gain traction, and we sincerely hope that 2022 will mark the beginning of a great mid-winter sailing tradition.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt
Sail-World.com North American Editor

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