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An interview with Steven Dawson on Hobie Fleet 66's 2023 Cinco de Mayo Regatta

by David Schmidt 1 May 08:00 PDT May 5-7, 2023
Colourful and spectacular racing - Hobie 16 WA State Championship © Kathy Miles

Caveat Emptor: If you’re a multihull sailor and are interested in avoiding feeling jealous, you might not want to read the rest of this article.

That’s because Hobie Fleet 66’s annual Cinco de Mayo Regatta (May 5-7) sounds like a whole lot of fun, and if you’re not going (sadly, we are not), there’s a good chance that you will feel as though you’re missing out on some seriously good times afloat. The good news? The regatta is an annual affair, so there’s ample opportunity to participate moving forward.

2023 marks the 34th running of the Cinco de Mayo Regatta, which will take place on the waters of Puerto Penasco, Mexico, and is open to all Hobie and non-Hobie designed beach cats and tris (read: Nacras, Prindles, Wetas, et al). Sailors who are lucky enough to be participating (you know who you are) can look forward to two days of racing on the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez, as well as apres fun on the sand.

I checked in with Steven Dawson, Hobie Fleet 66’s president, via email, to learn more about this tempting multihull event.

Can you please tell us a bit about the Cinco de Mayo Regatta, its culture and competition levels, and the kinds of sailors that one can expect to encounter at the event?

Fleet 66 has hosted the Cinco de Mayo regatta in Puerto Penasco in Mexico for 34 years. We have a wide range of sailors, from hardcore A-Fleet racers to new and upcoming skippers.

For the first time, we have an open class, which is open to all multi-hull racers. On Friday, those who are there early head out on the water to enjoy sailing in steady wind, which is hard to come by in Arizona.

Friday is also a time when a couple of the more experienced racers coach those new to racing, both on shore covering basic rules and boat set up to on-the-water sailing.

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

After a couple of quiet years in during Covid, we're excited to have over 30 boats in this year's regatta. We have sailors from California, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona, many of whom only meet twice a year in Mexico.

The dinner and raffle on Saturday night is a highlight of the event, where families and friends reconnect year after year and new friendships are made.

What kind of course shapes will the event employ?

The course shapes are generally windward/leeward, crossing the bay in front of the hotels and RV park on Sandy Beach.

We head out in the early morning after the skippers meeting and race till late afternoon on Saturday, and just after lunch on Sunday when we all come in and pick up our traditional Sunday post-racing lunch—hot-dogs!

What classes are proving to be the most popular in terms of entry numbers? Also, will each beach-cat design have their own start/class?

The field is dominated by Hobie 16s. There will be three starts for the Hobie16's, H16A, H16B and H16C. We will have a start for the Waves and an open class start, which will use the SCHRS scoring system.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter on the waters of the Sea of Cortez, off of Puerto Penasco, in early May? What are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

Puerto Penasco has amazing weather year-round, sunny with winds generally between eight and 15 knots.

Launching from the beach through the surf is not an issue as the Baja Peninsula prevents waves getting excessively large.

The seawater has warmed up to the low-to-mid 70's beyond the beach, and far warmer on the beach due to large tidal swings across a long, open beach every day.

Sailing is generally easy, with an awesome wind to swell ratio to make it fun.

It's always been amazing sailing.

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

Local knowledge does not play a significant factor in the regatta results. The wind is usually an onshore ocean breeze, which is stable throughout any given day.

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

On your first trip to Puerto Penasco, make sure you tag along with the other participants where you will definitely get to eat at some excellent local restaurants.

Can you tell us about any efforts that you and the other regatta organizers have made to try to lower the regatta’s environmental footprint or otherwise green-up the regatta?

I'm embarrassed to admit we haven't got that far. I think you've triggered the theme for next year's regatta.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add, for the record?

If you are on the West Coast and would like an island-style regatta, with sun, warm water and a sandy beach, come to the Cinco de Mayo Regatta in May or [the] Pinata regatta in October.

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