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An interview with Beth Owens on the 2022 Rainbow Regatta

by David Schmidt 1 Apr 2022 08:00 PDT April 4-5, 2022
Racecourse action at the Rainbow Regatta © Rainbow Regatta

If you’re a female dinghy sailor living in the Tampa Bay area and are looking for a fun One Design regatta, check out the 2022 Rainbow Regatta (April 4-5). The event is being hosted by Dinghy Dames Sailing Club and Mainsheet Mamas, and it will take place at—and on the waters off of—the Davis Island Yacht Club, in Tampa, Florida.

The regatta is open to members of Florida Women’s Sailing Association clubs, as well as individual FWSA members. It will be contested in Sunfish (60-plus boats), Clearwater Prams (20-plus boats), and Optis (seven boats, at the time of this writing).

Sail-World checked in with Beth Owens, the Rainbow Regatta’s race chair, via email, to learn more about this women’s only One Design event.

Can you please tell us a bit about the Rainbow Regatta, its history and culture, and the kinds of teams and sailors that one can expect to find here?

The Rainbow Regatta is put on by the Florida Women’s Sailing Association for our nine member clubs throughout Florida. The clubs all have unique and fun names such as the Dinghy Dames (Tampa), the Mainsheet Mama’s (Tampa), the Luffing Lassies (Sarasota), the Salty Sisters (St. Petersburg), the Broad Reachers (Pass-a-Grille), the Bow Chasers (Clearwater), the Rhumb Runners (Boca Ciega), the Bitter Ends (Venice) and the Windlasses (Dunedin).

Our clubs are mainly located along the west coast but every year we are trying to get more clubs started on the other coast as we would really like to go over there to sail. Most of the women in our clubs are in their 50’s with the majority of them over 60 but the younger age groups are rapidly growing as our sport is growing exposure. This year the youngest sailor is 28 and the oldest sailor is 87 and she is sailing a Sunfish. That is a six-decade spread.

What kinds of numbers and interest levels are you seeing ahead of the 2022 Rainbow Regatta, compared with (recent) previous editions?

The Rainbow has been held since 1974 and in the early days most clubs raced IOD’s and Clearwater Prams. Sunfish were introduced in the late 1970’s.

This year’s Rainbow will be the second-largest that has been held. In 2017 the record was 95 sailors and this year we have 91 registered. The interesting part is in 2017 there were 52 IOD/Clearwater Prams registered and 44 Sunfish and this year we have 28 IOD/Clearwater Prams and 63 Sunfish.

The Sunfish fleet has seen fantastic growth throughout all the nine member clubs.

What kinds of on-the-water racing can attending skippers expect? Are we talking about mostly windward-leeward racing, or will the regatta also run races that use the islands as turning marks? We have two race courses, which takes a tremendous amount of volunteers, and we have two PROs and they are both female.

We also have lots of “Sailing Dudes” that come and help us. Hosting a regatta on a Monday and Tuesday takes a village of help and we are so appreciative of all the support we get from our Sailing Dudes

We race the same kind of racecourses you would see in the Sunfish Midwinters or Masters…Windward-Leeward with gates and offsets and finish lines to the starboard side of the committee boats.

The IOD’s and Pram’s might see a triangle course as well.

Are there any new additions or important changes to the 2022 regatta, compared to previous editions?

We have added a couple of new things this year. We decided to have a practice race the day before. Most major regatta’s have a practice race so the race committee’s can work out any kinks, and we thought that would be a great addition to our regatta so that will be held on Monday.

I believe we have over 40 registered to participate in the practice race so this year the Rainbow is really starting to take on the feel of it being a two-day regatta, which is exciting.

We also added a Rookie Sailor Award to encourage our newer sailors who have never sailed in a large fleet regatta to participate. The Rookie Sailor Award is awarded to the top sailor who is in their first year of sailing.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter on Tampa Bay in early April? What are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

The conditions are usually beautiful for racing. We have only not been able to race four years since 2007. In 2010 there was no wind, in 2011 there was too much wind and then the last two years we canceled due to COVID.

Best case scenario is a beautiful 10-15 knot breeze out of the North, East or West…. worst case is 20+ knot breeze out of the south.

Tampa Bay is relatively shallow so a southerly breeze really brings big wave action.

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

Be sure to look [at] the wind forecast and what direction it is projected to come out of. We are surrounded by land and sometimes the land does favor one side of the race course vs another.

Also, pay attention to the tides and which way they are going. Davis Island Yacht Club is located on the end of the island and the current flows and divides as it goes into and around the island.

What about onshore entertainment? What can sailors look forward to once the finishing guns have gone silent each day?

On Monday after the practice race which is at 2:00 one of our Dinghy Dames, who is also a Mainsheet Mama, is hosting a Sail Gate Party at her home on the island. This will give us all an opportunity to socialize and be together, which should be a lot of fun.

And then after our regatta on Tuesday we have a luncheon with trophies and awards, which also gives us the opportunity to have fun together.

Can you please tell us about any efforts that the club has made over the last year or two to further green-up the regatta and make it an even more sustainable event?

Davis Island Yacht Club is a green club and we make every effort to help keep our environment clean. As a club we have gone away from plastic and use paper products and recyclable materials for To Go meals and drinks.

In an effort to support that this year, Dinghy Dames were able to order insulated wine tumblers with our club’s burgee and our names on them. We thought that would be a great way to help support the green effort. :-)

For more information regarding any of the FWSA sailing clubs check out their website at www.fwsa.net

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