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An interview with Juana Rudzki on the 32nd annual Juana Good Time Regatta

by David Schmidt 7 Sep 08:00 PDT September 9-11, 2022
Two hulls, two wires, two big smiles at the Juana Good Time Regatta © Image courtesy of Juana Good Time Regatta

While plenty of regattas are focused on serving up serious on-the-water competition, the annual Juana Good Time Regatta isn’t one of them. Make no mistake—plenty of great multihull sailors have taken part in the regatta over its 31 editions. It’s just that the regatta itself takes refreshing steps to keep the event focused on serving up great times with family and friends, both on and off the water .

The racing is competitive, but not at the expense of having fun.

Some backstory. Juana and Steve Rudzki, of Navarre Beach, Florida, are the owners of Juana's Pagodas and Sailor's Grill and avid multihull sailors. The two founded the Juana Good Time Regatta in 1990, and they have been welcoming multihull sailors of all stripes—from high-performance beach cats to comfortable cruisers—at the event, which is run out of their beachside business, ever since.

The 32nd annual Juana Good Time Regatta will take place from September 9-11.

I checked in with Juana, who serves as the regatta’s event organizer and chair, via email, to learn more about this high-spirited multihull regatta.

Your event has a colorful name—can you tell us about its origins?

Our original business was a beach catamaran/jet ski rental business. Since my name is Juana, we thought naming the business “Juana Ski and Sail” was clever. We’ve since used my name within our business in many “punny” ways.

Knowing that we wanted to make our event a “fun” regatta, we thought “Juana Good Time” encompassed it all.

Can you please bring us up to speed on any changes to the on-the-water portion of the regatta, compared to the 2021 event, when we last corresponded?

This is our 32nd year of throwing this regatta, and the on-the-water portion has pretty much stayed the same.

Distance racing to Pensacola Beach and back on Saturday, (shorter versions for smaller/slower boats) and some form of triangle racing on Sunday.

Depending on wind, we’ve been known to change triangles to windward/leeward events when needed. This year we plan to do the same.

And I should mention that we will have a new race committee this year. Kirk Newkirk and the Key Sailing Team are running the scoring portion of the race.

What are your entry numbers looking like, and how do they compare to 2021?

It’s lining up to be another good turn-out. Last year we had nearly 90 registrations and we expect the numbers this year to be similar.

What about any changes to the regatta’s onshore/social aspects?

There won’t be a lot of changes to the past years: Friday evening is “Wish for Wind” package pick-up, (on-line registration only closes Thursday, Sept. 8 at midnight). Our main liquor sponsor this year is Blue Chair Bay, and they will have their reps out Friday and Saturday evening and Sunday before trophy presentation, handing out fruity drinks, liquor samples, and other swag.

Each morning of the race, Sailors’Grill, [which is] the restaurant at the Juana’s complex, will put on a beautiful continental breakfast of pastries and fruit, [and] Saturday evening will be a sailors’ dinner on the deck. And Sunday afternoon we’ll have 6-foot subs.

And of course, live music through the weekend, door prizes…. Plenty fun.

Have you guys opened the regatta up to foiling cats? Or, does everyone race in displacement mode?

[We] haven’t had requests from foiling cats, but if there were enough to make a class, we’d certainly welcome them.

Can you tell us about the Hobie Wave timed beach races? How do these work?

If you’re an experienced racer with a good-time attitude, but for whatever reason cannot get your boat to the event, then this is the class for you! Generally, it’s three well-used rental Hobie Waves that are used in timed buoy races.

In the past, we’ve had between 12-20 participants take turns racing each boat off the beach and back.

We try to get three races in per day, with each racer sailing each boat at least once. Everyone stays on the beach together unless it’s their turn to sail. It’s really a blast!

Last year, when I asked you about how you and theater event organizers have been lowering your environmental wake, you talked about the online registration and a smaller RC boat. Can you tell us about any new changes to the 2022 regatta to help make it more sustainable?

It’s a sailing event, so the wind is our main fuel source. Still using small RC boat and all registration is on-line, so no more paperwork. We also have destination chargers if you come by electric car.

Is there anything else about this year’s regatta that you’d like to add, for the record?

This is one race where family and friends may enjoy joining you. Two of our sponsors are offering lodging discounts for that weekend, and non-racers should enjoy the family-friendly atmosphere of Navarre Beach, with its crystal-clear water and sugar-white beaches.

By day, Juana’s is a great place to bring your kids, [as we have a] playground on-site.

Also, over the years we’ve had every type of racer you can imagine — from top pros like Randy Smyth and Kirk Newkirk, to party sailors like Yours Truly. The eclectic mix of participants and the party atmosphere really does put the “good time” in the regatta.

Though we take the scoring seriously, we still try to stress to everyone that this is all about finding the fun in the competition.

If you’re a newbie racer, try to befriend one of the hotshots. If they’re in your class, use them as your lead boat while racing. It’s amazing what you might learn. If you’re an experienced competitor, being a mentor to a rookie sailor can be amazingly rewarding.

And finally, focus on the FUN! If you find yourself angry for whatever reason, pull yourself back and finish your sentence with “sailing, at the beach, at a beach bar”.

[N.B., for more information, navigate to www.juanaspagodas.com]

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