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An interview with Scott Tuma on the 2023 Ides of March Regatta

by David Schmidt 22 Mar 2023 08:00 PDT March 25-26, 2023
The scene at the annual Ides of March Regatta © Ides of March Regatta

March can be an interesting time of year to sail. Depending on one's latitude and longitude, the month can signal the peak of the ski season (read: good luck getting crew), or it can portend the start of another great sailing season. The annual Ides of March Regatta (March 19-20, 2023), which is being sponsored and organized by the Texas City Dike Yacht Club in Texas City, Texas, and which will be contested on the waters off of nearby Somerville, falls in this latter category. And with good reason: The multihull regatta has a long history of challenging event participants with a deep menu of weather conditions.

But this, of course, is matched with a friendly and welcoming atmosphere that promotes camping under March skies, and which encourages participation on all levels.

The event is open to all multihulls, and the organizers are offering both spinnaker and non-spinnaker classes.

I checked in with Scott Tuma, regatta chair of the 2023 Ides of March Regatta, via email, about this exciting multihull regatta.

Can you please tell us a bit about the Ides of March Regatta's's history, culture, and the origins of its colorful name?

I have reached out to some of our older racers if they recall who named it and where it came from.

So far, the best I can get is a group of MSA (Multihull Sailing Association) members who had an idea of a regatta in March on Lake Somerville where everyone can camp under the full moon.

That I can find, it has always been held at Welch Park with a range of camping from plopping a sleeping bag on the boat to 7-figure RVs.

I don't know if there was a hidden agenda with the Caesar history or not. I've been doing this event since the late-80s.

What kinds of sailors one can expect to meet at this camping-friendly multi-hull regatta?

We get everyone from first timers, where they are figuring out how to rig the boat, to Olympians. Many people enjoy bringing their families [who] can hang out on the beach and just enjoy the area and help out with the regatta when they can.

How would you describe the competition levels at the Ides of March Regatta? Are we talking about professional sailors and Olympic hopefuls, or moms and dads sailing with their kids? Or, maybe a blend of all talent levels?

We have gotten every competition level you can imagine.

Charlie Ogletree has acquired a couple of Olympic medals and has spent a lot of his career racing in these regattas.

We [also] have a few young racers that I will not be surprised if we see their names in the next couple of Olympics. They are currently racing the Nacra 15 catamaran in the youth events and preparing for the Olympic Nacra 17.

We have teams of all relationship diversities; spouses, dating, parent/child and good friends. I have done this event the last few years with my son.

I have been working hard the last 15 years to support and promote Beginner (less than 5 years racing experience) classes in the regattas I organize. The last couple of years, we have had a good increase of beginners on catamarans coming out and entering events.

I understand that racing is not for everyone. Unfortunately, our by-laws for the club do not allow us to collect membership fees. We are somewhat limited to donations and regatta/seminar entry fees. This makes it a challenge to train-up/recruit new people; especially if they are not interested in racing. This forces us to think outside the box and build events that can appeal to our non-racers.

How many boats, total, are you expecting? Also, are some classes attracting more boats than others?

At this point, we have 25 boats and had 23 last year, and we still have a month to go for the regatta.

There is really no one class that dominates the event. We have a Hobie 18, Hobie 17, Hobie 20 1-D classes already formed and strong Non-Spinnaker A and B classes also.

We have 1 or 2 A-Class cats that will come out. The F18 class used to be strong but has fizzled out the last few years.

Generally speaking, what kinds of conditions can sailors expect on the waters of Lake Somerville in late March?

We will typically get everything from 0 knots to 25 knots, sometimes in the same race. Our conditions are primarily dependent on cold fronts this time of year.

On average, a front will roll through Friday or Saturday. We can easily have 15-25 knots on Friday and Saturday and then have 0 [knots] on Sunday.

Are you starting to see more foiling boats registering, year-on-year? If so, how are these faster boats affecting how you and the other organizers run their races?

We had a couple of guys bring some foiling boats (Flying Phantom, A-Class, S9) out, but they have changed their programs.

On a race organizer perspective, we haven't encouraged the foilers too much. The speed difference is too great with a huge risk of wiping-out trying to avoid a slower boat or having to rapidly adjust their course because of wind or wave conditions. if you can get a separate course or a pretty long run way, having foilers could be more viable.

It's like running an Indy car down the freeway, during rush hour, in the rain... Our fleet had taken a big down-turn about 10 years ago and people are starting to buy back into sailing catamarans. I am seeing an increase of boats in the sub-$2,000 [dollar] range.

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

I am planning to give a Racing 101 type of seminar the Friday of the event for our Beginners and/or anyone who wants to attend. This will be a campfire type of gathering.

Saturday we all typically get showered, have a cocktail, and make dinner plans.

Everyone typically reconvenes around a couple of campfires. Last year, we ended up having three gathering areas; the "kids" had gathered at a campfire, us "old farts" at another, and then there was a group of RVs that happen to be camping in the same area all week. They were planning on leaving Friday, but when the catamarans started showing up, they decided to stick around the weekend and watch. The old farts and the RVs ended up merging together and having a grand party. Several people brought food, chairs, coolers and firewood to all hang out together.

It just happens that way down here.

Can you please tell us about any efforts that the club has made to green-up the regatta and generally lower its environmental wake?

We have shifted our registration and check-in process to fully digital to eliminate any type of paper handling on the beach. We have always been sensitive to the beach and everyone naturally picks up trash along the beach area. We will typically take a few bags of trash back home.

Many of the racers bring their own reusable bottles, and we try to limit the single-use bottles (even though I reuse these bottles). We are only out on the water for a couple of hours so we do not need to carry many bottles. Our chase boat(s) and Committee Boat does carry water for anyone who needs it, but this group is pretty self-sufficient.

Our budget doesn't afford us to use any of the Mark-bots. The last I checked, they want about $2,000 a weekend for rental. We used these during the ILCA 6 Worlds at Texas Corinthian Yacht Club and had a number of issues.

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