It’s hard to adequately describe the overwhelmingly positive experience that I had at Nationals. Even more surprising since we had to deal with a rogue trailer roller that decided to punch through our hull on the very first day. Bryan Parker has written up a fantastic recap of the racing and some of the other highlights of the week. Now that things have calmed down and I’ve had some time to reflect, allow me to highlight some of the awesome things that I saw and experienced during the week at Mayfield. I’m sure that many of you had similar experiences.
1. Dean and Kelly Whalen
Can’t justify with words the job that was done to make this a successful event. Kelly was everywhere all week, taking pictures, helping with food, helping the weary skippers and crew get out of the water, and just solving any problem that came along. As far as I could tell, Dean took the lead in just about everything for the event, including gathering race committee, arranging housing (thank you for our lovely boat!), food, finding crew, t-shirts, auction, and everything else required to pull off a Nationals. Thank you! And Chris Whalen, you are getting good – keep sailing!
2. Mayfield Yacht Club and their generous members
MYC is not a one-design club. In fact, the Jet-14s as far as I can tell are the only non-cruising/power boat fleet in the whole club. So I was gratified to see that their membership took it to another level to welcome us back, whether it be helping out on race committee, taking pictures, helping with food, donating their boats for housing (or rescue!), letting us park and mess up their grounds, and just making us feel welcome. I know I speak for everyone when I say that we will look forward to coming back!
3. Dave Japikse the boat finder
I thought our Nationals was over at the end of Day 1 when #483 jumped off the trailer pulling up the ramp and crashed down through the trailer (completely my fault I should add). Next I think I know, Dave is pulling out of the club with an empty trailer (the Parker’s – thank you!) on his way to pick up a mysterious Jet-14 out in the woods somewhere. He brought us a rock solid boat that we were able to race for the final couple of days without one thing breaking. I hope we were able to help out with the tuning a little bit so that the boat will be a bit quicker. Thank you!
4. New faces in the fleet
At the 2013 Nationals at Lake Norman last year we had a number of new skippers and crews, many from the North Carolina area. This year the trend continued. I was happy to meet Paul and PJ Blonski (Edgewater), Lee Sackett with crew Emily (Edgewater), and Dennis Foley (Mayfield). The trick is to keep the new faces coming back. Signs are that this time they will. Dennis was indicating his interest at coming out to Ohio this fall for the Halloween Classic. Speaking of Edgewater, they had the most boats in the entire fleet – keep up the great fleet building work!
5. Quality of the racing was ridiculously good
The first two days we were more concerned with not flipping over than racing. Watching the top boats compete in winds of 15-20 kt. with gusts into the 20s was mind blowing. They were consistently keeping the boats flat and fast. Chutes came out like it was nothing. It looks like magic to me, and I know its not, but it gives us bottom feeders something to work for in the coming months and years.
6. The new Iron Man
Tom Grace has raced in every single Jet-14 Nationals since 1975. 1975!!! But more than that, Tom is just the nicest guy you will ever meet, and he’s incredibly important to Jet sailing at Lake Norman and in North Carolina. I’m looking forward to many more years of competing with him and Paula Pacheco – someday we will pass them on a run.
7. My wife and crew Paula
Sharing a boat with your spouse in 20 kt is a good way to explosively release all at once those things that you’ve buried deep inside of you. Paula, thank you for introducing me to sailing, for teaching me all I know, for trying to stay positive after I make yet another bad start (“Say FAST, not F@#!”), for sticking in there when your body says no, for putting up with my whining and complaining, for not telling me where to go, and for being my partner in sailing and in life.
Racing sailboats is a great classroom for life. Thank you all for letting me share these experiences with you.