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An interview with Ted Weihe on the 100th E Scow Anniversary Sarasota Regatta

by David Schmidt 30 Nov 2023 08:00 PST December 1-3, 2023
2018 Lake Geneva E Scow Spring Regatta © Melges / Hannah Lee Noll

Yacht designer Arnold Meyer Jr. drew the lines for the first E Scow in 1923 following an Inland Lake Yachting Association meeting, and the fractional-rigged sloops soon made their appearances on lakes and flat-water venues. The flat-bottomed boat carries a distinctive scow bow, dual bilgeboards, a single rudder, a huge mainsail and a relatively small jib. The combination delivered crisp performance and great speed on flat waters.

Fleets soon gained traction in the Midwest before migrating East and then South. Today, to celebrate its centennial birthday, the class has been enjoying great racing from Colorado to New Jersey, and from Michigan to Florida.

Take, for example, the Sarasota Sailing Squadron's 100th E Scow Anniversary Sarasota Regatta, which will unfurl this weekend (December 1-3) on Sarasota Bay. I checked in with Ted Weihe, regatta chair of the 100th E Scow Anniversary Sarasota Regatta, to learn more.

Can you please tell us a bit about the SSA's E Scow Sarasota Regatta, its history, and its culture?

E Scows have been present [in Sarasota] since 1950.

Jim Barr brought three Es in 1992 and we have been racing Es every Wednesday from October to May. We try to put anyone who shows up on an E. There is a dock party after racing.

What kinds of sailors does it tend to attract? Are we talking about polished One Design sailors and Olympic hopefuls, or are we talking more about club-level racers and Corinthians?

All club-level. Older converted E Scows. Mostly retirees and snowbirds. Generally senior sailors.

How would you describe competition levels at the SSA's E Scow Sarasota Regatta?

We have several very good racers. But, most of us just enjoy racing Es.

Only one in our fleet travelled to nationals at Madison Lake Mendota,

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

Mostly our fleet of nine. Not sure if E Scow sailors will come from Augusta [Florida] and Charleston [South Carolina], the closest fleets.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter on Sarasota Bay in early December? What are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

There [are] no better sailing conditions in fall, winter and spring.

The wind usually arrives at about 2PM from [the] west at 10 to 15 [knots]. [We] mostly race in the Bay, but [if presented with] strong northerlies, we race off the club behind a sand bar.

I would say we have wind over 70% [of the time]. The water is warm. [We have the] best E Scow conditions anywhere.

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

No, our winds from west are very steady, veer right some but little isolation.

But [if we get] wind over land from [the] east, [expect] big shifts and [conditions that are] similar to lake racing.

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

Our goal is to encourage E Scows up north to come here to sail year-round. The Squadron is very inexpensive. We have [the] two largest fleets in country [of] Melges 15s and Sunfish. [We] also [have a] large women's sailing group, [the] Luffing Lassies.

Many sailors participate in multiple classes. We have very large year's round youth sailors including five high school teams.

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

[There's] always [a] dock party. Sailors bring food and we drink beer or soft drinks. [We have] many social events at the squadron with wonderful views of Sarasota.

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?

Our regattas are green for the most part. We have drink fountains and discourage single-use plastic bottles.

We have strong training [in] safe powerboat operations [and we require] certification to use club powerboats. Racecourses are very close, so not a long powerboat distances.

Is there anything else about this year's 100th E Scow Anniversary Sarasota Regatta that you'd like to add, for the record?

Our goals [are] to encourage E Scow skippers to retire or snowbird in Sarasota. I raced here in 1964 and Sarasota was only Florida city for my retirement.

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