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A look at the Coconut Grove Sailing Club's 2021 Open Orange Bowl Regatta

by David Schmidt 22 Dec 2021 08:00 PST December 26-30, 2021
2017 Orange Bowl Regatta © Community Sailing of Colorado

Winter can be a challenging time to be a One Design sailor in North America, unless, of course, you can get yourself to warmer climes. In the month of December, few sailing venues shine brighter than the wonderfully warm Sunshine State, which is home to many great events including the Coconut Grove Sailing Club's annual 2021 Open Orange Bowl Regatta (December 26-30, 2021).

This combined adult and youth regatta is open to International 420s, 29ers, Nacra 15s, Flying Scots, Lasers (both Lasers and Laser Masters), Finns, and Sunfish, and it will unfurl on the waters of Biscayne Bay. Youths compete in the 420s, 29ers, and Nacra 15s, while the adults race in the other classes.

The event takes place on the same dates as the Orange Bowl International Youth Regatta, which is hosted by the nearby Coral Reef Yacht Club. This opens the door wide for parents (or siblings) of participants in the Youth Regatta to bring their own boats to the Coconut Grove Sailing Club and participate in the CGSC's Open Orange Bowl Regatta.

I checked in with Andi Hoffman, regatta chair of the Coconut Grove Sailing Club's 2021 Open Orange Bowl Regatta, to learn more about this exciting regatta.

What kind of entry numbers are you seeing this year? Also, are there any notable geographical concentrations to this entry list?

We have seven classes for this year's [Orange Bowl]: I420s, 29ers, Nacra 15s, Finns, Sunfish, Lasers and Flying Scots. In those five of those classes, we currently have 70 entries.

The Flying Scots have a local fleet of approximately 20 boats, although we do not anticipate all of the boats competing over the Christmas holidays. We have a growing fleet of Sunfish. Although we recently hosted the 30-boat Sunfish Regional championship regatta, we do not anticipate that many Sunfish for this event.

The entrants for the I420s, 29ers and Nacra 15s are largely from the Florida area with some from the East Coast.

Can you please give us some backstory on the regatta's origins and culture? What kinds of sailors is one likely to meet in the dinghy park? Polished collegiate racers? Olympic hopefuls? Also, has the regatta always taken place right after Christmas? If so, how does this scheduling play into the regatta's culture?

The regatta began more than a decade ago as largely a Masters Laser event. Parents of Opti sailors asked if we would host an event for them while the kids were participating in the Orange Bowl.

It has since become a combined Youth/Adult event. The I420s, 29ers, and Nacra 15 sailors are largely teenagers and some collegiate racers. This is the first year for the Nacra 15s. We were asked by US Sailing to add the Nacras as it is an Olympic development boat.

The Finn, Sunfish, Laser and Sunfish racers are all adults. The Finns are a particularly serious group of racers. We are trying to grow our Finn representation in anticipation of next year, as we will be hosting the Finn Gold Cup and a warm-up Finn Midwinter Championship in January 2023.

The Open Orange Bowl Regatta is timed to match the Youth Orange Bowl.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter off on Biscayne Bay in late December? What are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

The predominant sea breeze is easterly at 12 knots that develops at noon and strengthens until 4 PM for champagne conditions.

If a front occurs it can get chilly, 60 degrees from north\northwest with 20-25 knots of breeze, still beautiful sailing, just sporty. We rarely get thunderstorms at this time.

The worst conditions would occur when the sea breeze from the east encounters a weak front and the convergence zone is directly over [Biscayne] Bay resulting in no wind.

Do you see local knowledge playing a big or small role in the regatta's outcome? Can you please explain?

Local knowledge plays a role when the winds get light and shifty as current in [Biscayne] Bay can be a factor, though rarely a big factor.

As a good friend and active coach, Larry Suter, has been known to say, "the Key is the key." When the wind comes over the Key generally the sailors go left. But when the sea breeze fills in to the right of the Key, the sailors tend to go right.

Another known local saying describes the tendency to go left as "El Viejo Highway", named for the renowned Gonzalo Diaz.

If you could offer one piece of advice to visiting (and local) teams, what would it be?

If the winds are from the south, go right. If the winds are from 0-090, go left.

If the winds are from the west, 220-360, it will be shifty and its anyone's call.

How many races do you and the other organizers hope to score over the course of the regatta? Are we talking Windward-Leewards or other shapes? Also, how are you guys managing the racecourse? Traditional racing marks, or will you use some of the new GPS-guided autonomous robotic marks such as MarkSetBots to administer the racecourse?

Windward/Leewards for all fleets but the I420s who sail a trap. We will run fleets on the inner and outer leg of the trap course. The 29ers will have a separate course this year.

We use traditional marks. [Biscayne] Bay is 12-15 feet deep, using the autonomous marks is expensive and not necessary when shifting marks with only 20 feet of line is so easily done.

I420s/Nacra 15s, which are sailing all four days, will have ten races. The 29ers, who are sailing three days, will have eight races, and all other classes, which are sailing only two days, will have five races.

Obviously organizing and running a big regatta for younger/collegiate sailors amidst a still-churning pandemic isn't easy. Can you tell us about the biggest logistical and organizational hurdles that you've had to clear to make this happen?

We will be using Regatta Park which is a large open-air park, so there is very little impact of the pandemic on this event.

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