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An interview with Dave Valentine on the 2023 Texas Yacht Club Challenge Cup

by David Schmidt 5 Dec 2023 08:00 PST December 9-10, 2023
J/22 racecourse action on the waters off of the Fort Worth Boat Club © the Fort Worth Boat Club

When it comes to determining the fastest gun amongst yacht club teams in the Lone Star State, the Texas Yacht Club Challenge Cup (December 9-10) sounds like a good speed check. The event is being organized and hosted this year by the Fort Worth Boat Club (FWBC), and is open to the first ten teams—each representing an invited yacht club—to register.

Racing will be contested in event-provided J/22s and is set to unfurl on the waters of Eagle Mountain Lake on a patch of water that's adjacent to the FWBC, so as to maximize spectating opportunities.

According to the event's NOR, the FWBC's staff will inspect and tune each J/22 prior to racing to ensure parity. Attending sailors are given their boat assignments following each day's mandatory skipper's meeting, and—once on the water—the RC aims to administer nine races that each last roughly 40 minutes.

I checked in with Dave Valentine, of the Fort Worth Boat Club, to learn more about the FWBC's Texas Yacht Club Challenge Cup.

Can you please tell us a bit about the Texas Yacht Club Challenge Cup, its history, and its culture?

The event's history can be traced back to 1986 when it was initially hosted at Texas Corinthian Yacht Club, with nine clubs competing on Solings. Over the next three years, the event was hosted by the Lakewood Yacht Club and Houston Yacht Club, both just down the road. However, after this period, the event came to a halt.

It was brought back to life in 2001 and by 2005, it had expanded to include representatives from various clubs across Texas.

The tradition took a brief hiatus until it was revived by Lakewood Yacht Club in 2021.

The event's culture reflects the friendly and hospitable nature of sailors in Texas. Despite being a Championship with bragging rights at stake, it maintains a relaxed atmosphere, as most sailors from each club are familiar with one another. Many of the competitors have known and raced against each other for years.

The event is by invitational—what kinds of sailors does the event typically invite? Are we talking about polished One Design sailors and current/former college sailors, or are we talking more about club-level racers and Corinthians?

The event certainly attracts some of the best talent in Texas, and that was its original purpose. Every Club sends their best, making the champion the cream-of-the-crop.

As the event continues and with other Clubs having the opportunity to host, I imagine we'll see an evolution in its format and even the guest list.

What's the reason for capping the fleet size at ten boats?

Primarily, our fleet of 10 J/22s is designed to cater to ten teams. If there was a significant demand to exceed this number, I'm sure we could establish a rotation system.

However, given the present demand, the ten-team cap promotes early registration and coordination among the invited clubs.

The event uses charted J/22s. Can sailors arrive with their own sets of brand-new sails and other rigging? Or is that not in the spirit of this event?

Typically, there are limitations on introducing personal sails/rigging. Fort Worth Boat Club recently received a very generous donation of new racing sails for our J/22 fleet from American National Bank & Trust, so our sails will be crispy.

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

Sailing conditions in Texas during December, particularly in the Dallas Fort Worth area, can be varied. Generally, the weather is moderately chilly and breezy, with average highs of 59 degreesF and lows of 38 degreesF.

In terms of wind, you can expect conditions ranging from calm-to-moderate breeze. However, Texas weathermen love curveballs and past winters have seen temperatures drop below freezing. Extreme conditions are not the norm, but Texas sailors will be monitoring that ten-day forecast.

If conditions are not perfectly ideal, we'll hear about it at breakfast.

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

Local knowledge will give a competitive edge in any sailing race. Being familiar with the unique wind patterns of Eagle Mountain Lake can be advantageous.

It's going to be an exciting match-up, as the representative skipper from FWBC and his crew are well-acquainted with both our boats and lake. However, many competitors from other clubs have also spent considerable time sailing here and are quite knowledgeable themselves.

Since we sail on a lake, crew coordination, in my opinion, will be the most critical factor.

If the crew can react quickly to wind shifts and minimize time lost during mark roundings, they'll have the edge.

Winning always boils down to eliminating mistakes - easier said than done, of course.

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

Be social and grab a drink from Chu at the Regatta Bar. While most FWBC sailors won't be participating in this event, they'll definitely be there to spectate and cheer.

There's a bounty of local knowledge ready to be shared with any sailor willing to inquire, and listen.

I've found that just being friendly and asking the right questions will result in all the information you need.

Also, Chu makes a great Dark 'n' Stormy.

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

We're incredibly excited to be the hosts of the Texas Challenge Cup this year. Living up to the standard set by Lakewood YC is no small task, but we're ready to meet the challenge, especially when it comes to hospitality.

FWBC has recently undergone an extensive remodel of our clubhouse and grounds, which were reopened in July 2022. We're all set to show off our new facilities and welcome back old friends who might not have seen the improvements yet.

Post-race refreshments are provided after both days of racing, which will be well deserved after a day out on the water. Competitors will be encouraged to participate in several Club events happening over the regatta weekend, including Happy Hour with the Grinch, an Ugly Christmas Sweater Competition, and Brunch with Santa.

Organizing weekends with multiple events on and off the water is no easy task, but with a supportive membership full of rockstar volunteers and a hospitality team that loves their job, it's a recipe for success.

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?

We always advocate for our sailors to be environmentally aware, and one of the simplest changes we can incorporate is reducing plastic waste. When we renovated our clubhouse, FWBC installed an reverse-osmosis water-purification system, meaning our tap water [tastes] better than any bottled water. We encourage everyone to utilize reusable water bottles for our events, and just in general.

As an organization, there's always room for improvement, but it's also true that sailors are typically conscious of the environment. This is why we maintain a long-standing partnership with a local organization Save Eagle Mountain Lake. Their mission includes advocacy, environment preservation, community involvement, and economic growth to ensure that future generations can enjoy the water, just as we have.

Community partnerships and filtration systems might not be as trendy as a paper straw - but we have those too!

Is there anything else about this year's Texas Yacht Club Challenge Cup that you'd like to add, for the record?

There's great enthusiasm about us hosting the event this year. The excitement lies not only in the competition on water, but also in the friendly rivalry ashore as we strive to parallel LYC's example. We don't know which club will host the event next, but we hope that other clubs will be inspired and step forward.

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