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An interview with Tom Sinnickson on the 2023 Hobie 16 North American Championships

by David Schmidt 17 Aug 08:00 PDT August 22-25, 2023
Hobie 16 Nationals 2021 at Poole © Hazel Beard

The Hobie 14 may have come first, but Hobie Alter will forever be remembered for the Hobie 16, a beach cat that forever changed the face of international sailing when it hit the scene in 1970. And with good reason: The double-trapeze boat is a rocketship that reliably delivers grins in almost all wind ranges. Better still, active class participation ensures competitive racing, even 53 years after the first Hobie 16s began flashing their windward undercarriages at the brine.

Take, for example, the 2023 Hobie 16 North American Championships, which is being organized by the Hobie Class Association of North America and Hobie Division 3, and is being held at Crown Beach Memorial Park in Alameda, California, from August 22-25.

I checked in with Tom Sinnickson, who serves as the regatta chair for the 2023 Hobie 16 North American Championships, via email, ahead of this exciting championship-level multihull regatta.

The Hobie 16 is a fantastic design, but it's not new. Can you please tell us a bit about the state of the Hobie 16 class, its current culture and competition levels?

The Hobie 16 is old, but as one of the most popular boats ever made, it makes it easy to sail recreationally at the local level or strict One Design sailing at the world level.

I've got more time on Hobie 18s and 20s, but we've been making a big push on the H16 due to its accessibility and wind range. It can do well in 5 knots or 30 knots. You can get started for free—$500.

What kind of entry numbers are you expecting at this year's North Americans? Also, are there any notable geographical concentrations to this entry list?

Unfortunately, we were asked to put this on earlier this year, so it's a lot more rushed than we'd like. We're only expecting to see 35-45 boats this time.

There are a good number of California sailors, but we're getting people from all over the country, and some folks [are] thinking about coming from Puerto Rico and beyond.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter off on San Francisco Bay in late August? What are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

We typically run a beachcat event in June or July in the south bay off of Alameda because the conditions are moderate and reliable.

While sailing up by Alcatraz is exciting, it can be challenging for some sailors. South of the Bay Bridge, it's typically blowing in the low to mid-teens with moderate sea state.

We try and pick a time in the middle of the lunar cycle for moderate tides, both for shoreline launching and for the tidal chop that can occur in the shallow waters in the area.

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

Local knowledge always helps. Sailors familiar with tides and currents will figure it out quickly, but keen competitors need to check the tide charts each day to weigh the left or right side of the course.

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

See above! Also, prep for cold or warm conditions. Wetsuit or drysuit is common. We expect spring suit to be all you need, but we don't know until we get closer to the dates.

The water can be chilly for folks that are used to sailing in trunks.

Do you have any entries that you're eyeing for podium finishes? What about any dark horses who you think could prove to be fast, once the starting guns begin sounding?

We have some hold outs... the Puerto Ricans typically do well, or our local Ben and Casey Brown should be top, with a few other long time H16 sailors making up the top

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?

In many of the events put on by our class, there is a strong emphasis on water refilling stations over single-use plastic bottles. Many events have a beach cleanup day or series of days. We're working on something for this event.

As far as mark boats and safety boats, the first priority is safety and ensuring that the event can move efficiently.

We plan to have an extra boat or two in reserve that aren't on the water, but one of the advantages of our sport is that most of the on-the-water activities are supported by one or two boats moving marks and spotting people. We don't have a bunch of coaches following racers around, and creating pollution, via chemical, noise or kinetic via wake.

It may be good to mention that East Bay Regional Parks and the City of Alameda have been working to restore habitat and shoreline, as well as making parks and other community spaces available to the public and local wildlife. We've been hosting a regional event in the area for the past 50 years, recently the parks and facilities have seen some significant improvements. A seal habitat has been created near the seaplane lagoon as a safe space that is a protected location near the shoreline.

We've seen less trash as local businesses create relevant low impact activities on the shoreline, such as the Alameda Community Sailing Center, a local outrigger canoe club along with kayak and paddleboard rentals. It's a gem of an area in the middle of the Bay.

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

Anybody in the area that is curious about beach cat sailing or the Hobie class should come out to Crown Beach on Monday [August 21]. People will be arriving and setting up boats. It's a great chance to check things out and talk to people.

For over 50 years the Hobie Class has built a strong community of highly skilled sailors and racers as well as casual water sports enthusiasts.

Visibility can be hard in the Bay area, but it's a great place to sail and learn. We're happy to welcome novice sailors and answer questions.

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