© Photo by Patrick Reeg

Story By Eric Hood – Imagine this 101 MC Scows, championship racing and Crystal Lake, Michigan one of the world’s nicest lakes. That was our setup for this year’s MC National Championship. This regatta was almost three years in the making with preparations by Regatta Chair – Kelly Winter and her team of over half of the yacht clubs family membership joining in to help get ready for and to run the championship. The efforts simply put were incredible. Every single detail you could think of was handled with servant volunteers at every turn this past week on the water and off the water. More about that in a bit further down in the article. Let’s get right to some results.

© Photo by Patrick Reeg

© Photo by Patrick Reeg

I will break this down into results right away. Then conditions for the races. Some key learnings for the races. Also, race highlights, social activities and future class news.

Incredible line-up of sailors. Average age is falling in our class which is great for our future as we see a large younger group of sailors joining our class. For full results go to www.2016mcnationals.com

Cam McNeil Race 1,  Frank Reeg Race 2 & 4, Scott Harestad Race 3, Andy McDonald Race 5, Scott Slocum Race 6 and Eric Hood Race 7

Top Youth: Frank Reeg with crew member Jonathan Prins.
Top Woman: Emily Oltrogge
Top Master: Scott Harestad
Top Grand Master: Matt Fisher
Top Mega Master: Mike Keenan
Top Old Salt: Ed Schindler

1. Frank Reeg Spring Lake, MI 30pts
2. Cam McNeil White Lake, MI 43 pts
3. Scott Harestad Spring Lake , MI 53pts
4. Ted Keller Torch Lake, MI 61pts
5. Brian McMurray White Lake , MI 70 pts
6. Eddie Cox White Bear YC, MN 72 pts
7. Tony Pugh Crystal Lake, MI 74 pts
8. Michael Considine Chicago Yacht Club 85 pts
9. Daniel Guidinger White Bear YC, MN 88 pts
10. Scott Slocum Rush Creek Yacht Club, TX 91 pts.

Seven races were held and one throw-out was included. Only the top 10 teams stayed under a sum total of 100pts or less with the 101 boat fleet. Tough sailing pretty big numbers except for the first few boats. Joke around the parking lots was 2 boats out of 101 really had it figured out. So 2% of our total brain power had it figured out this week on the race course. The rest of us in the 98% category are all safe and in good company even though we did not totally figure things out like Frank and Cam did.

Certainly this was the big news of the week in all respects. Many of us arrived early at Crystal Lake for setup, practice and more. If you do not know Crystal Lake and have not ever seen the pics just do a google earth on Frankfort, MI and you will see just how pretty this lake is , how large this lake is and how close it is to Lake Michigan which usually has some influence on weather conditions. So this week for the early birds we had three days of 15-30mph winds. I went ripping around on the lake for a couple of hours with about 15 others boats on Wednesday and it was so much fun especially downwind surfing on the waves. The beauty as you can see by regatta pictures of the “hurt your eyes blue water” is just spectacular. So all that said it felt like and some long range weather forecasting suggested we would have some solid breeze. Day 1 for the nationals came and we had light 4-7 mph WNW winds a very unusual wind direction. Races 1 and 2 were held in these conditions. Race 3 saw a huge swing to the left and a little more velocity but still huge oscillations back and forth during the race. For Day 2 more WNW and  WSW winds same velocities , same similar timing. Locals from Crystal Lake Yacht Club all agreed the conditions were not normal Crystal Lake conditions that normally bring really nice SW winds off  Lake Michigan and NW winds off the big lake. No what we had for two days and the first six races were winds from a huge system that pushed through from the west and roared through those three days of big wind just before the regatta started. The light winds were simply the back side of that big system. For the final and critical Day 3 Race 7 to determine the championship we saw a completely all new weather system come in with rain and east winds. Race 7 took over an hour to get going with some big swings but it finally settled in around 130 degrees for a direction and about 5-7mph wind speed.

I think it goes without saying after having just sailed a very tough 56 boat MC ILYA Championship on Lake Geneva with the same rock solid PRO and Race Management team the week before that there is a substantial difference in 56 boat racing and racing with 101 boats. You may say well sure that makes sense but I am telling you it does change a few things for sure . All confirmed as I visited with most of the top 20 sailors about how they felt things went this past week. Every single one of them had a default word “starts”. In a smaller fleet you can make some starting mistakes and recover. You still can in a big fleet but it certainly is a lot tougher. In my case I missed the line twice and was over once. I felt pretty focused but looking back at the drone videos I could see how the .4 and .3 mile long starting lines were challenging for all. The ends and the middle were somewhat covered up with huge sags in both lines of the mid-line start setup. Other key learnings and speaking from experience of where I was sailing in the 10-50 range most of the time that if you were not top 10 pretty quick you would operating with probably only 90-80-70% horsepower as the air really got choppy in the big fleet with the light conditions. Staying in dark water and clear air was a big deal. Now Crystal Lake has some pretty high hills around the lake but we were racing towards the west and the southwest shore where the tree lines are lowest on the lake. That being said the winds were showing pretty quick on the water. The real challenge was just being in a clear zone as they came to you.   It was a challenge to intercept them if you were not in front or on the outside edge of the front group. Downwind extending off the top mark staying on starboard was the rule of thumb for all seven races. The top 25 boats for the most part would extend off the offset to avoid the huge void of air pressure under the wall of upwind starboard tack boats coming into the mark and the cluster of boats around both marks. Another default word was “patience” and “lead them out”. Patience was just realizing change was coming and not to panic or do anything crazy, stick with the group you were racing until an obvious move and opportunity came along. “Lead them out” I heard young gun Eddie Cox say this several times about approaches with other boats and that you had to “lead them out” and never cross transoms. In light air that is some big wisdom for sure. You stay closer by tacking below, leading out and eventually with an oscillating breeze like we had all week the headers will come and it will pay off with patience being one of your high values.

© Photo by Patrick Reeg

Having sailed in this great class for so long I can testify that finishing well, winning a regatta , winning divisional things , finishing well in the nationals are all huge deals that all of us strive for right ??? We are all trying to get 5-10% better or more each time we sail (or we should be J). I can tell you that winning races at a National Championship is a big deal. I literally was in 50th , about a 1/4mile away when Scott Harestad won race 3. He went crazy and in turn the very large spectator crowd went crazy with cheers. It was really great to see the excitement of one of our sailors as he said at the awards ceremony “to have the best moment in my sailing career”. Watching young guns like Frank Reeg work so hard at practice , practice starts then veterans like Cam McNeil , Ted Keller, Brian McMurray, Tony Pugh and others do the same hard pre-race work to figure things out was great to see. Having a rock solid PRO like Chip Mann along with RC teammates Larry Krause , Rick Trester and bunch of great CLYC RC teams lead us in the trying conditions was nice. They gave us absolutely the best we could have had for the wind that presented itself. The first beats being usually 1.1 miles really helped too setting up the rest of the race with a little shorter legs by showing a “Charlie – flag” at the top mark each time. Warm water was a highlight except the rain in race 7 . No motor boat waves for the most part was great on the big body of water at Crystal. Three days of racing for sure was a highlight. With three days you simply get to settle in and really enjoy the whole event both on the water and off the water. Oh last thing to mention even though they were not really needed except for a few breakdowns would be that CLYC had a ton of rescue boats and certainly had onshore rescue stuff ready at the go as well. Very well prepared for the racing and any conditions that could have come along or developed.

Where does one start. You can visit the website www.2016MCNationals.com and get a sense of how unique this year’s championship was for everyone. Probably the big highlight was going to the Garden Theater in old downtown Frankfort. There in the 100  plus year old theater we watched the drone videos and sailing images from the first couple of days on the big screen . This old theater had a large gathering area in front of the screen where probably 20 rows of seats used to be. Drinks, fantastic food were served and we watched racing. It was great. A bunch of us also took in the Lake Michigan sunset that night right down the street. Back at the club our final night the grill masters were serving up great steaks and Kelly Winters large kitchen team had some exciting appetizers for everyone as they walked around serving you like you were at the Ritz-Carlton. Breakfasts and lunches were first class as well. I am sure anyone whomever wants to run a great national championship would be well served to look at the playbook that Kelly and her massive team put together. It was fantastic. Many thanks from all of us whom were there for sure!!!!!

Everyone needs to look at all the photos. John Cole the class sponsored photographer for this event will have a 1000+ photos coming online soon. Tom Fiola and Jim Bovard already have their images up on www.2016MCNationals.com . The drone videos from Tom Auch are spectacular and are a must see!!!!

Next MC Nationals is at Rush Creek Yacht Club – Heath, TX on Lake Ray Hubbard. Folks this is one of the best one-design lakes to sail in the world. The facility is world class with swimming pool, great decks, great bar and restaurant. They also happen to be the largest MC fleet right now. This will be next June 2017. So a pretty balanced schedule which is exciting for the major regattas. Midwinters in March, Nationals in June, Masters in July, WMYA and ILYA in August. 2017 will be a fantastic year for sure !!!! Stay tuned for latest boat news at www.melges.com and latest class news at www.mcscow.org