Following an outstanding 3 day practice/clinic put together by Ethan Bixby, coached by Mike and Roy Ingham, and hosted by Clearwater Community Sailing Club, the 2023 505 Midwinters started on Friday January 20 with moderate winds under bright skies. Though not quite the very big and very competitive 2022 Midwinters fleet, most of the usual suspects were accounted for.
Race 1 went off in flat water and northerly-ish marginal trapping conditions, and to absolutely no one’s surprise Ethan Bixby and Chris Brady jumped out to an early lead and held it. Peter Scannell and Ted Huebner (subbing in for John Dunlea who was at a combination falconry exposition/ecstacy rave in St. Barts) found instant mojo and rolled in for second, followed by Robert and Sabrina Bartlewski. A pile of boats followed them in in a clump.
Race 2 started with a touch more breeze, with Robert and Sabrina performing rabbit duties. It was a very good race to be the rabbit as a rightie rolled in, they took advantage and were never challenged for an awesome race win. Peter and Ted sniffed out the rightie as well for their second deuce. Australian/American combo Craig Cobbin and Matt Merchant rolled in for third, with another large clump of boats just behind. After two it was the Bartlewskis and Peter/Ted tied at 4 each. Sabrina deserves special mention here – big skills and big smiles the whole way through. Amazing sailing from the father/daughter team.
The breeze bumped up a bit for race 3, which along with Clearwater’s weird tide cycle kicked up a super enjoyable not frustrating at all steep chop. Kirkpatrick and Longson squeaked past Ethan/Chris and Barney Harris/Paul von Grey at the top mark and were able to extend. Scannell/Huebner and Harris/von Grey used some ninja-level speed and shift calling to leapfrog into second on the second beat, pushing Bixby/Brady back to fourth.
At the end of day 1, Scannell/Huebner and their brace of twos held the lead with 6, with Bixby/Brady and the Bartlewskis tied on 12 points, and Ingalls pere et fils tied with Kirkpatrick/Longson at 13.
Cobbin/Merchant started blazing in Saturday morning’s moderate easterly, leading Kirkpatrick/Longson and the rest of the people they caused to overstand the port layline into mark 1. A bit of leapfrog down the first run put Bixby/Brady in the lead, followed closely by Kirkpatrick/Longson. Keith and Dave found a special pointing gear to shear off of Bixby/Brady, find a lane, and take the lead which they held for their second win, with the Ingalls keeping the pressure on for third. Scannell/Huebner stumbled slightly with a 7, with the Bartlewskis also fading somewhat in the breezier conditions.
Race 5.1 started light, with Team Ingalls leading Bixby/Brady, Harris/von Grey, Kirkparick/Longson and Cobbin/Merchant onto the run. An ill-timed gybe seemed fatal for the Ingalls while Macy Nelson/Nate Barton snuck forward. As the top of the course glassed over and with no provision for shortening course, the committee abandoned.
After a goodly wait bobbing around, what meteorological ace Nathaniel Plant called a “sucker breeze” started building from the north, just in time for the current to go against the breeze for some wonderful chop to go on top of the groundswell. The breeze built well past any forecast strength, putting teams into rake mode for the race 5 restart. Bixby/Brady and Kirkpatrick/Longson used midline starts to pace each other out to the left, with Bixby/Brady using basic layline competence to lead Kirkpatrick/Longson – history’s worst layline callers – around the top with Scannell/Huebner, Ingalls, Harris/von Grey, Nelson/Barton, and crowd favorite father/son duo Art and Johnny Gleason in tow. Kirkpatrick/Longson found a few big waves to get inside of Bixby/Brady at the gybe and led into the leeward mark. Scannell/Huebner had the jets on the second beat to pass Bixby/Brady. At the finish it was Kirkpatrick/Longson, Scannell/Huebner, Bixby/Brady, and the ever-consistent Ingallses in 4th.
Despite the day getting a bit long, the race committee held the fleet out for another. The first beat was a near replay of the previous race’s, with Kirkpatrick/Longson on Bixby/Brady’s transom at the top. Once again, Kirkpatrick/Longson found some low road juju and led into the douse. Nelson/Barton found the gears to stay close behind the leading pair, with Team Ingalls leading Scannell/Huebner for 4th and 5th. A somewhat lopsided beat gave Kirkpatrick/Longson a reasonably straightforward job to defend for their 4th straight race win, with Bixby/Brady gaining a few points over Scannell/Huebner.
Overnight, Kirkpatrick/Longson held a 3 point lead over Bixby/Brady, with Scannell/Huebner a further point back in 3rd, with Ingalls and Harris/von Grey rounding out the top 5.
Sunday’s forecast called for anywhere between medium and super nuking conditions as a front came through. Unfortunately, the upper end came through and at the time of the first race it was mid-20s and rising on the course area and that was that.
Thanks to Ethan for once again arranging everything, and Clearwater Community Sailing Center for hosting. The regatta will likely move back to its more usual February calendar slot next year, and with huge support from all participants the pre-regatta clinic is likely to be back as well.