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An interview with Rocky Sanchez on the 2023 Rhodes 19 National Championship

by David Schmidt 3 Oct 08:00 PDT October 4-8, 2023
2018 Rhodes 19 Nationals at Southern Yacht Club © Tyler Kaufman

Some sailboats have clearly delineated origin stories; for others, things are a little bit less defined, with some old-fashioned evolution involved. The can-do Rhodes 19 falls in the latter category.

It all began when designer Phillip Rhodes was commissioned by the Allied Aviation Corporation in the years following WWII to design a "wholesome" and affordable sailboat. His solution was the "Hurricane", a 19-foot wooden that carried a small cabin and about as much sailcloth as the Lightning.

While small racing fleets were seeded, the boat failed to gain national traction. In time, fiberglass usurped wood, and in the late 1950s, O'Day worked with Rhodes to build a fiberglass version of the Hurricane.

The Rhodes 19 entered production in 1959.

The new boat gained traction and a class, which recorded its first national meeting on February 19, 1965 at the Larchmont Yacht Club in Larchmont, NY, was born.

Interestingly, the boat has always been available with either a keel or a centerboard. Also of interest: the boat has been used to contest a number of high-level trophies, including the the Adams Cup, the Mallory Cup, and the Sears Cup, in addition to its own national-level regattas.

This year's Rhodes 19 National Championships are being organized by Southern Yacht Club and the Rhodes 19 Fleet 7, and will be hosted by the SYC, in New Orleans, Louisiana, from October 4-8. Racing will take place on Lake Pontchartrain on windward-leeward courses.

I checked in with Rocky Sanchez, regatta chair of the 2023 Rhodes 19 National Championship, to learn more about this championship-level One Design regatta.

Can you please tell us a bit about the Rhodes 19 Nationals, its history, and its culture? When did the event begin, and what kinds of sailors does it tend to attract?

The Rhodes 19 is a 19-foot fiberglass day sailor that was created in the late 1950's.

The R19 is a keelboat that is powered by a mainsail, jib and spinnaker with similar sail area to the International Lightning sailboat and is crewed by 2-3 people, which makes it ideal for husband-wife or family teams.

The class held its first National Championship in 1963.

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?

We are expecting 15 to 18 boats for the 2023 National Championship, which is on par for this event when held in New Orleans. The 2022 Nationals in Chicago drew 21 participants.

The Rhodes 19 [Class] draws mostly from three areas of the country. The biggest concentration of R19s is in New England around Boston and Marblehead where they have drawn 30 boats for a National Championship.

The other two active areas are Chicago and New Orleans.

However, there are other small areas such as Fairhope, Al., San Francisco, Savannah, Maine and even in St. Croix [in the USVI].

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

The weather in New Orleans in early October is one of the nicest times to sail. October is typically the driest month of the year and the highs average in the mid-80s with winds around 8-12 knots. Extremes can range from no wind at all with high pressure to an early cold front that can produce 20 knots of breeze and a stiff, short, nasty chop on the shallow waters of Lake Pontchartrain.

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

Local knowledge always comes into play at any sailing event. Even though we do not have to deal with current issues, wind patterns are unique to the area depending on whether it is blowing offshore, from the north, big chop, or flat water.

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

The best advise to any sailor is to get out on the water early and sail some of the course and try to detect a pattern and incorporate it into your tactics.

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?

The 2022 Champion, John Durlak, from Chicago, will be here to defend his crown.

Also, local sailor Peter Sladovich is a two-time National Champion. Class President Mike Lane from Marblehead will be here and has finished third at the Nationals a couple times.

Other possible contenders include current Gulf Coast Champ, Rob Rogers from Metairie, La. And Rocky Sanchez from New Orleans who has won the Nationals twice as crew (with Peter) and was also a Gulf Coast Champion in 2022.

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 sailing community has endeavored to reduce the use of plastics by requesting that competitors use reusable water bottles in an attempt to reduce the use of single-use plastics.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add about the 2023 Rhodes 19 Nationals, for the record?

This will be the 11th time that the R19 Nationals will be held by the Southern Yacht Club in New Orleans, La. We first hosted in 1968 and the R19 Class has been an active local sailing fleet ever since. New Orleans is a great destination venue and with the help of our sponsor, the Allstate Sugar Bowl Committee, we look forward to immersing our visitors in the cuisine and culture of our city and we hope that all go home with a smile on their face and a memory of a great time! For more information on the Rhodes 19, please visit our website:

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