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Small But Mighty

by Doug Hansen
Courtesy of Ryan Carson

DOUG HANSEN hops aboard a dinghy for CYC’s Turkey Bowl Regatta, a beloved local tradition for racers of all ages.

As winter reaches its stride, the calendar begins to dwindle down to just a handful of racing events and a handful of sailors foolhardy enough to take them on. For example, during this year’s hectic lead up to Thanksgiving, Corinthian Yacht Club of Seattle played host to one of the most ridiculous cold weather events on its calendar, the Turkey Bowl Regatta. This is the final dinghy racing event on the Northwest calendar and invites all manner of small boats to the water.

This year’s fleets were a solid mix of junior racers and seasoned veterans on single, double, and triple handed dinghies. Run out of the Shilshole clubhouse, the event had the potential to be a truly miserable experience as the weather had not been cooperating all fall. The weeks leading up to the event saw record rain and windstorms pummeling the Northwest, leaving many racers questioning their sanity and checking to see if they owned enough warm clothing. For this weekend, I had somehow found myself crewing on a 505 as my good friend Lena Captain handled the driving. It was my first time on a dinghy in many years, and to say I felt underprepared is an understatement. 

Somehow an opening in the clouds gave sailors a break from the wettest November on record with blue sky and sunshine. As we rigged our boats on Saturday morning, it became apparent that it wasn’t going to be full-on, white-knuckled experience that many of us were hoping for, as a light southwesterly settled into Shilshole Bay. The race committee gave us all a slight delay to allow for all the boats the make their way out to the starting area and get a couple practice maneuvers under our belt.

As it was my first time sailing on the boat and learning where the multitude of controls were located certainly took some time. Slowly, things began to make sense and right on cue, the race committee signaled it was time to start racing.  Four light wind races were in store for the day, some longer and some shorter, but all of them in light shifting breeze. This made for challenging starts and plenty of opportunities to make poor decisions on the racecourse. The lead boats of the weekend certainly put on a clinical demonstration of light air sailing, rocking through the tacks, and hitting the start line with amazing precision.

Sunday saw more of the same, but even lighter breeze, resulting in a brief dock postponement by the race committee to wait for the wind that never really arrived. Eventually we all headed out and fleets knocked off two more races before the breeze finally gave way for the day and sailors found themselves rocking back to the docks to tear their boats down for the last time this year.

Certainly, the highlight of the weekend was that at the end of the both days there was all manner of people hanging out, trading stories, talking about their boat setup, and helping each other in the boat park. This wild level of competitor support is certainly one of the major reasons that sailing stands out in the world of sport. At this local regatta, you have national champions racing on the same course as true novices and everything in between.

On the water we saw a few standout performances, with Pacific Coast champion Dalton Bergan knocking out a perfect regatta in the RS Aero class, Andrew Lin taking home a commanding lead in the Optimist division, all while Mats Elf took home the turkey in the hotly contested 505 class. Many of the fleets were hugely competitive with lead changes and mixed results leaving things undecided until the last race. As we roll through the dark days of winter, I am looking forward to getting back out on the water in a dinghy next spring!

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