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A Q&A with Susan McKinnon on the U.S. Multihull Championship for the Hobie Alter Cup

by David Schmidt 2 Oct 08:00 PDT October 4-8, 2023
A Class Cat racecourse acion © Helly Hansen (2023 Regatta St. Petersburg, FL)

Most One Design regattas are organized around yachts or dinghies of identical designs. The U.S. Multihull Championship for the Hobie Alter Cup, however, is more centered around the idea of determining the fastest multihull gun in the country. So, rather than contest this high-level trophy aboard the same design each year, the eligibility requirements for this high-level title change with each edition.

The 2023 U.S. Multihull Championship for the Hobie Alter Cup will unfurl on the waters of Florida’s Pensacola Bay from October 4-8, and will be hosted by the Pensacola Yacht Club.

Racing will take place aboard A-Class cats that conform to the “Non-Foiling Classic Division International A-Class Catamaran Class Rules”.

While the U.S. Multihull Championship for the Hobie Alter Cup isn’t the only regatta to rotate classes of boats, we at Sail-World have always thought that this is a cool idea, especially when different varieties of fast boats are involved.

I checked in with Susan McKinnon, regatta chair of the 2023 U.S. Multihull Championship for the Hobie Alter Cup, to learn more about this championship-level multihull regatta.

Can you please tell us a bit about the U.S. Multihull Championship for the Hobie Alter Cup and its history and culture? When did the event begin, and what kinds of sailors does it tend to attract?

In 1985, the Multihull Council conceived the idea to recognize its top multihull sailors with a high-level championship regatta. By 2013, the decision was made to rotate it though the various multihull classes.

The US Multihull Championship for the Alter Cup attracts top multihull sailors, whose ranks include Olympians, as well as national and international champions.

What kind of entry numbers are you seeing ahead of this year’s event? How does this number stack up against previous recent editions, and are there any notable geographical concentrations to this entry list?

There are approximately twenty-five registrants. The competitors hail from all over the country, as far north as Michigan and south to Key Largo. We have competitors traveling from California and Washington state, as well as Missouri and Virginia. One third of the fleet hails from South Florida.

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

October is a very desirable month, weather-wise. You can usually count on consistent days of 10+ knots.

Best case is 10-15 knot days with little chop and worst case, a typical Florida thunderstorm.

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

Local knowledge always plays a role, big or small will be dependent on the current conditions. Pensacola Bay is known for great, consistent sailing conditions making it an excellent sailing venue. It is the reason we are the winter training ground for the America’s Cup contender, American Magic.

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

If the wind is blowing from the east/southeast in the morning, it will clock to the west throughout the day.

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?

It’s really tough to say. We have Bruce Mahoney, Ben Hall, Chris Brown… all top-echelon sailors who are vying for the Alter Cup. It’s anyone’s game!

We also have an accomplished foiler in Bob Hodges, who is new to the classic fleet. He may prove to be the dark horse!

I see in the NOR that the event is open to non-foiling A Class catamarans. Do you think that this event will ever embrace foiling?

I believe that this event will embrace foiling, but it will be several years down the road.

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?

The Pensacola Yacht Club is committed to lowering its environmental impact. In the state of Florida, we are designated as a Clean Marina. In the clubhouse, we use biodegradable paper products and are working to reduce our consumption of single -use plastics. On the racecourse, we run a very efficient regatta, using practical (low fuel consuming) vessels.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add about the U.S. Multihull Championship for the Hobie Alter Cup, for the record?

Multihull sailing has been a very popular sport in northwest Florida since the creation of the Hobie Cat. With our beautiful, sugar-white sand beaches, for many years, sailors have enjoyed the thrill of flying a hull [above] our waters.

[The] Pensacola Yacht Club is thrilled to host the 2023 U.S. Multihull Championships for the Alter Cup.

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