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An interview with Doug Longhini on the Blackbeard Sailing Club's 2023 Turkey Trot Regatta

by David Schmidt 7 Nov 08:00 PST November 07, 2023
Racecourse action at the Blackbeard Sailing Club's annual Turkey Trot Regatta © the Blackbeard Sailing Club

There are some regattas that are all about creating the highest possible competition levels, then there are those that are about having a great time afloat with friends new and old. The Blackbeard Sailing Club's now-annual Turkey Trot Regatta (November 18) is a great example of the latter.

The event is open to San Juan 21s, Sunfish, 420s, Weta tris, and Ensigns, and it unfurls on the waters of either Upper Broad Creek or the Neuse River (the PRO will make the venue announcement at the skipper's meeting). The first signal for the first class will sound at 1125, and no races will begin after 1500.

This leaves plenty of time for the pot-luck gathering to begin at 1700, but it also leaves enough time on the racecourse for the top two teams in each class to earn their prizes, some of which will be especially useful on Thursday, November 23 (read: Thanksgiving).

I checked in with Doug Longhini, of the Blackbeard Sailing Club, to learn more about their organization's annual Turkey Trot Regatta.

Can you please tell us a bit about the Blackbeard Sailing Club's Turkey Trot Regatta, its history, and its culture? When did the event begin, and what kinds of sailors does it tend to attract?

The Turkey Trot actually started a number of years ago after Blackbeard's San Juan 21 Fleet 8 got back from a pre-Thanksgiving Regatta about a two-hours road trip away. We realized that 80 percent of the folks at that regatta were Fleet 8 members, so why not start our own and avoid the travel?

Over the years a couple of other international One Design fleets have joined in the fun of a low-key race with minimum bells and whistles.

New Bern, NC was the home of the Clark Boat Company, the builder of the San Juan 21, so we have a substantial number of boats in the area.

That also relates to members of the fleet because some worked in their younger years for the company building the boats they sail.

How would you describe competition levels at the Turkey Trot Regatta?

I'd say the competition levels are just, 'have fun, do your turns if you foul someone, and enjoy the day'.

What kind of entry numbers are you seeing ahead of this year's event? How does this number stack up against previous recent editions?

Normally we have 10-15 boats on the line. That seems to be pretty consistent over the years.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter on Upper Broad Creek or on the Neuse River in mid-November? What are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

You have to remember this is North Carolina in November! [We] always have breeze in Upper Broad Creek, but [you're] not sure where it will come from [or] how to time the shifts. Temperature could be 40 degrees or 80 degrees, so dress to impress with layers and a foul weather jacket within reach.

What are the trickiest bits of the racecourse(s), from a tactical perspective? Also, what makes them so tricky?

Like I mentioned before the creek is sort of like lake sailing. Lifts next to the shore, shallow water, timing the shifts, tree line name it and it happens.

Do you have any teams that you're eying for podium finishes? What about any dark horses that could threaten the leaderboard?

Although this regatta is a fun race, with the prizes being "Frozen Turkeys", there is still stiff competition, particularly within the San Juan Fleet.

There are six, plus East Coast, Western and North American Champions (some of them multiple year winners) in that group, so you go figure how that works out.

What kind of post-racing entertainment do you and the other organizers have planned?

Our entertainment is the friendships and war stories told since this group has known each other and their boats for years.

Our other PHRF and One Design Regattas during the year are much more formal, with catered meals and entertainment. This one is a pot-luck dinner looking forward to the Thanksgiving Feast.

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 use of recyclable tableware and beverage containers is a Blackbeard policy. Conservation of resources on the water is something to strive for, but safety is our key concern. Having this particular regatta in the creek cuts back on fuel use and number of support craft, but for our larger events it's back to the open water and longer courses.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add about this year's Turkey Trot Regatta, for the record?

The only thing I would add is always throw in a few events during your regatta schedule that are not about the competition but about having fun!

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