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An interview with Ron Holm on the 2023 Yellow Brick Regatta

by David Schmidt 7 Jun 2023 08:00 PDT June 10-11, 2023
Just follow the Yellow Brick Road! © Yellow Brick Road

If you live reasonably close to northeast Kansas and are in need of a shot of multi-hull-induced adrenaline, be sure to put the Yellow Brick Regatta on your radar. This event, which is being organized by the Perry Yacht Club and Hobie Fleet 149, runs from June 10-11, and is open to all beach-cat designs.

According to the regatta's NOR, the event organizers will make a dedicated class if three boats of the same design enter; if the minimum class size isn't met, boats will instead race under the small catamaran handicap rating system.

Irrespective of class size and composition, however, all class winners are granted the title of Wizard of Oz.

If this sounds like your kind of event, take author L. Frank Baum's advice (from 1900!) and just follow the yellow brick road.

I checked in with Ron Holm, regatta chair of the Perry Yacht Club's 2023 Yellow Brick Regatta, via email, to learn more about this exciting beach-cat regatta.

Can you please tell us a bit about the Yellow Brick Regatta, it's history and culture, and where the event draws its colorful name—and its unusual regatta logo—from?

This will be the second year of the Yellow Brick Regatta, which is a purely Kansas revival of one of the historically largest Hobie Fleets in the Midwest, Fleet 149.

Perry Lake has been home to many epic Hobie regattas, and let's just say if you "Follow the Yellow Brick Regatta", you will soon find out there really is no place like home! We have strong interest at Perry Yacht Club for Hobie and multihull sailing, and this will be the third consecutive season in which we have had Robbie Daniel and Jill Nickerson of Red Gear Racing coach a weeklong Cat racing seminar.

The Yellow Brick Regatta leads you right to an Emerald City of learning, new friendships, and newly discovered abilities you might not have known you had the whole time.

Glenda the Good Witch really nailed the Spirit of the event when she remarked: "You've always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself."

The logo for the event was designed by our own Angie Pickman, a nationally recognized paper-cut artist. You can see more of her work at https://ruralpearl.com/.

Much like the most Kansas movie, it was a Tornado [that] sparked a series of events at Perry Yacht Club that scooped up a whole group of multihull friends and set us off on a wild adventure. What Angie created I thought perfectly captured the spirit of the event.

This reminds me... If you want one of the fantastic T-shirts from the event you should register now. Believe me, the shirts go almost as fast as the sailing around here!

How many boats are you hoping to see on the starting line? Also, do you anticipate any geographic hot spots in terms of where entrants hail from?

It really isn't purely the number of boats we are targeting this year, but who we have coming, and how they inspire growth in the sport.

At Perry Yacht Club, we have a strong youth program [that] often has more than 30 kids participating on a single day during the five to six classes throughout the summer.

We also are proud to be the home of the Kansas University Collegiate sailing team. These young sailors are the future of our sport, and I couldn't be prouder of our club for supporting all of the fun these kids are having.

The Red Gear Racing team will also have with them some of the youth sailors they have been training for larger events. I expect the youth sailors from Red Gear will be as equally skilled and inspiring as the sailors they had with them at last year's event. We are really focused on youth participation and particularly youth-led participation for this event. We expect to be well into the double digits with youth teams and mentors from our club passionate about this wonderful sport.

In addition to the growth inside our club we are expecting sailors from all over the Midwest. We have definitely seen sailors travel hundreds of miles.

What can I say, it's a great venue, with US Sailing Regional Race Officer Gil Greenwood as our PRO, with sailors like Robbie Daniel racing and teaching, youth sailors hungry to learn more about the sport, all I can say is I wouldn't miss this one!

I see that the regatta is open to beach cats. Does this include foiling boats? Or, do you anticipate that this regatta will be determined by fast displacement-mode sailing?

We expect a solid fleet of Hobie 16s, our strong local fleet of Hobie 18s, and there is a very active fleet of both Hobie 17s and Hobie 14s here in the Midwest.

We also expect to have a very solid class of high-powered spinnaker cats including F16, F18, and possibly several Tornado's, and [we] would love to see some A class boats.

In addition to all of the One Design Hobie classes and previously mentioned boats, [at] the club we have skilled sailors on a Nacra 5.5 with spin, a Hobie FX1, and an inter 17 sailor who alone has more time on the water than most other fleets combined. Everyone is sure to find great competition.

Last year one of the greatest moments for me was when we had fallen just a little behind, but there we were coming back downwind with the chute up on the Tornado, fully powered up, and have a foiling F16 helmed by Robbie trading gybes with us down the course. It is an exhilarating experience we have at the Yellow Brick Regatta you don't often see anywhere, let alone in the Midwest.

That being said, we really want the regatta defined by youth attendance not necessarily the fastest boats.

Based on your current entry numbers, what classes are showing the biggest numbers? Also, based on what you know about who is racing what boats, are you expecting some classes to be more competitive than others? Can you please explain?

With a focus on our youth crews, who will primarily be on Hobie 16s and Hobie 14s we are striving to promote Hobie One Design Classes.

While I want to make sure Tornado's and other "big cats" get on the water, the competition among many of the Hobie classes is very high-quality [and] reliably very fast. It's a great way to measure both your progress and potential for improvement, against a one design boat.

That being said, last year at the event in the open class the spinnaker cats had extremely tight racing with corrected times within seconds of each other in almost every race.

At the end of the day though, whether you are on a Hobie 14 or a foiling A Class, everyone seems to win. We have high-quality sailors on a variety of boats, and while the foiling boats are no doubt exciting, and crazy fun to sail and watch, this Tornado sailor still "gives" all but a very select few foiling boats time around the buoys, and everyone knows [that] One Design racing is the best yardstick.

I will say that coming off a week of coaching from the Red Gear Racing team you can expect some surprises as sailors have historically made exponential improvements to their technique and with all of it fresh on their minds, and it is very common to be pleasantly surprised by someone you might have expected to not be at the front of the fleet challenging those who were anticipated to be leading the event.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter on Perry Lake in early-to-mid-June? What are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

I hope you aren't asking me to predict the weather in Kansas!

No, seriously June in the Midwest is almost ideal regatta weather. During the spring you may have warm air, but cool water, and in the fall the water might be warm, but the air is a bit cool, and during the hottest part of the summer, well it's hot!

In June you can generally expect the spring winds to stick around and enjoy yourself, whether on the boat, or in the lake, not that I have ever gone for a swim in the middle of a race or anything. Ha!

What's the scene like, once the boats have sailed back ashore? Do you guys have evening festivities planned?

Oh, I am so glad you asked! PYC is a wonderful place! June 10th Judy Garland (Dorthy) would have turned 101 this year. So yeah. We might be having a little celebration!

Last year Dorothy and the Scarecrow even stopped by....and the Scarecrow left us with these thoughts about the evening festivities at PYC:

"I am convinced that the only people worthy of consideration in this world are the unusual ones. For the common folks are like the leaves of a tree, and live and die unnoticed."

One of the traditions of the Red Gear Seminar and the Yellow Brick Regatta has been some fierce cornhole competition, well long into the hours of the night.

For dinner this year we are going to have a Jerk chicken cookoff/competition among some of the amazing volunteers at the club. I will leave it to your imagination what a Jerk cookoff might be called, as we are a family friendly club, but let's just say jokes happen. Lots and lots of jokes. We pretty much have an entire cast of comedians, and other misfits.

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?

At PYC on we are very focused on protecting and preserving the environment. Among all of the other similar clubs I have visited PYC is proudly kept free of trash and other debris, including abandoned boats. Great lengths are made to make sure the natural beauty of the site is maintained.

We are often planting native plants and working to limit erosion from the limited changes we have made to the landscape. We have several very involved members with experience with a variety of conservation and environmental protection organizations. Their leadership helps keep the club focused and ahead of the typical knowledge curve on everything from basic property management to boat refinishing activities and much more.

Personally, I think it is all of the little things we do each day, which if done with mindfulness towards the impact it may have on our surrounds, each of those small things adds up to a huge impact and gradually leads to cleaner environment and a more enjoyable place to live.

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

Follow the Yellow Brick Regatta!

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