2015 Corsair National Championship and Rendezvous - Confessions of a Cruiser/Racer As Reported by Deb Schaefer On Board the F-28, Big Storm
Jim Frederick and I are Racers and Cruisers. We purchased both of our Corsair Trimarans with this objective in mind. We raced our First Corsair National Championship on our Corsair F-24 MK 1, Summer Storm way back in 1994(?) and every Corsair Nationals held in Florida after that until our last win on board our F-28, Big Storm in 2002. We would spend the week prior to every Nationals cruising the Intercoastal Waterway and the Gulf between Mobile Bay, AL and Panama City, FL. But, It's been a while. We longed for the smell of salt water as we crossed the border from AL into FL, the feel of the sugary sand between our toes at Pensacola Beach, the sight of the Emerald Waters at Santa Rosa Sound and Destin, FL, and we looked forward to the always surprising visits by the playful porpoises.
Big Storm Anchored Off the Beach, Pensacola Nationals 2002 Photo by Deborah Schaefer
We've raced many Nationals since our Hobie Days in 1981 to the present. Been there. Done that. We are not the Hard Core Racers we once were. So, when Don Wigston promised to "Up the Fun Factor” for the 20th Anniversary of the Corsair Nationals and Rendezvous, he had us hooked, right from the get go!
We arrived at the shipyard a full week early to try out our new Calvert Mainsail and to Cruise the ICW, just as we had done in year's past. Unfortunately, Severe Weather and other issues conspired against us. On our first night, we took Stan Hall with us to experience the Seafood and Raw Oysters at Peg Leg Pete’s and Pole Dancing at the Island Bar. Sadly, the bras which hung from the ceiling for many years were taken down. The Hobie Sails were no longer affixed to the wall. We spent the first week tied up at the Pensacola Shipyard, where we met some of the other Cruiser-Racers and joined them in a nightly Gourmet Tour of all the best Seafood Restaurants in Historical Pensacola and Pensacola Beach....the Oar House, Sam's Seafood, Joe Patti's, and Peg Leg Pete's (3 times)! Fortunately, on Saturday, April 25th, we were safely tied up at the dock when a Killer Storm swept through Mobile Bay to decimate an entire fleet of monohulls and beach cats, with tragic consequences.
Deb and Jim at Peg Leg Pete's, Pensacola Beach Photo by Stan Hall
Tuesday, April 28th: Registration and Cruising Clinic: Fortunately, we were blessed with beautiful Florida sunshine and sea breezes for Corsair Race Week. We picked up our Goody Bags filled to the brim with Corsair shirts, hats, clear Race Document Holders from North Sails, smart phone dry bags with a free nav-app download from Memory-Map, Cozies from Smyth Sails, Surf Necklaces from Coral Sunrise, Souvenir Water Bottles, Drink Bucks and other goodies supplied by generous sponsors and the Corsair Dealers. During the scheduled clinic, Linda Wright and Randy Smyth shared with us their vision of the Cruising Program from beginning to end. We were totally psyched! The clinic was followed by the Sunset Social and Dinner at Hemingway's Restaurant on Pensacola Beach...Great Meal! Great Drinks! Great Friends!
Our Fearless Leaders, Randy Smyth and Linda Wright at Pirate's Cove Photo by Stan Hall
Wednesday, April 29th: Cruise to Alabama: We cruised at our leisure from Pensacola Bay to Pirate's Cove Yacht Club in Alabama. We were dressed for bear, wearing several layers of foul weather gear to face the chilly northerly 13-18 knot breeze on Pensacola Bay. But, the offshore breeze left the Bay flat, docile, and fast. We set our full main and screacher for the reach to the mouth of the ICW. Stan Hall and crew were at a considerable disadvantage on their F-27, Minnows, loaded down with 6 crew, 3 tents, all their cruising gear and all Stan's shirts ( all on hangers ) . Jim and I were also sailing in cruising mode, but there was only two of us, so far. We managed to stay ahead of the Sprint 750 that joined us.
"Look. It's a Bird, It's A Plane , No, It's the Blue Angels!" said Stan Hall. Photo by Deborah Schaefer
The Blue Angels Give us a Show Over the Pensacola Channel Photo by Stan Hall
Keeping the red day markers to starboard and the green marks to port, the sail on the ICW was both fun and challenging as it twisted and narrowed at the Perdido Bridge. We began stripping off layers. The channel opened up again at Perdido Bay and the wind built for the beat north! It was a 3 hour sail in all. The trickiest part was tying up to the finger dock at Pirates Cove, but Randy, Linda, and many helping hands were on the dock to provide assistance.
Skipper Stan Hall and Team Minnows from Michigan Photo for Stan Hall
At 5pm, Randy Smyth gathered his flock, waving the "Follow Me Flag" and inviting us all to join him at the "It's 5 O'clock Somewhere Party" on the deck. It was a trip down memory lane for us. Pirates Cove Yacht Club is a blast from the past. Well weathered by years of hurricanes and party goers....it's a survivor from the Aquarian Age!!
Pirate's Cove Yacht Club, Alabama Photo by Deborah Schaefer
Thursday, April 30th: Cruise Back to Fort McRee: Many of the Cruisers stuck around for Pirate Cove's infamous "Eggs on the Bun" Breakfast, but we made our own breakfast early. We led a small fleet of Corsairs east around Hatchet Point to our favorite anchorage at Ingram's Bayou.
Triagain Explores Ingram's Bayou Photo By Deborah Schaefer
Totally pristine, this bayou is twisty and turny but deep enough that you can sail all the way back to its inner most sanctum with your centerboard down. On board the home built F-22, the Canadians, Jim MacKenzie and Paul DeViet tacked and jibed "Raise a Little Hull' all the way in and out.
The Farrier F-22, Raise a Little Hull Explores Ingram's Bayou Under Sail Photo by Deborah Schaefer
Jim and I enjoyed the tranquility of the bayou for a time before setting off for Fort McRee at the mouth of Pensacola Pass. We joined the other Corsairs already anchored off the beach. Anchoring in the current was a bit of a trick, but our old friend, Marty Mitchell was there to save the day! We spent the remainder of the day exploring our little island paradise and taking photos.
Big Storm Anchored Across from Fort McRee Photo by Deborah Schaefer
Other sailor's visited the abandoned Fort McRee on the other side of channel. Very Cool, but be sure to carry a flashlight or head lamp....the Fort can be dangerous in the pitch black.
Fort McRee Race Headquarters Photo by Stan Hall
Be sure to check out Ken Kmetz Drop box photo file and video attached:
For the video, go to Ken's YouTube Channel at:
Anchored at Fort McRee Lagoon Photo by Ken Kmetz
Randy Smyth Gathers the Sailors Waving the "Follow Me Flag" Photo by Deborah Schaefer
At 5pm, Randy Smyth walked up and down the beach waving the "Follow Me Flag" and inviting the sailors to join him for the Rigging and Rope Seminar on the Beach, followed by the Beach BBQ (included in our Social package), Cold Beer and Wine provided by Calvert Sails. Thankfully, our Crew, Phil Ghiotto arrived on the Dinner Boat.
BBQ Buffet on the Beach Photo by Ken Kmetz
At dusk, Randy gave us a clinic on Fire Building 101. We had a lovely evening Singing Sea Shanties by the Seashore, thanks to Nevin Dawson and Norman who found all the words on their cell phone apps. I sang, "We're Stuck in Burnham Harbor" while Nevin used the same tune to sing a very Aussie version of "We're Sailing to Australia". We sang every sea shanty those sailors ever knew plus a few Girl Scout Songs. Meanwhile, Randy and Linda passed out sticks and marshmallows for roasting. Stan Hall's Crew finished the evening entertainment with "The Man Song"....Very Funny.
Camping on the Dunes at Fort McRee Photo by Stan Hall
Anchored at Fort McRee as Tide Goes Out Photo by Ken Kmetz
Sunrise at Fort McRee Anchorage Photo by Stan Hall
Friday, May 1st: May Day, May Day, May Day! Race One: Our skipper got us up Way Too Early, giving me time to cook a full English Breakfast before we headed out to the start line at G "145" on Pensacola Bay. Loaded down with all our cruising gear and a tent, we knew that we would be at a disadvantage for the 19nm Race east on the ICW to Juana's Pagoda in Navarre. The High PHRF Fleet had the First Start. In our fleet, there were 5 Cruiser/Racers who shared the same disadvantage. On board Big Storm, we were 5th across the Start Line, but we worked our way into 1st, ahead of the F-27 Curb Service as we raced into the bridge.
The F-27, Curb Service is Hot on our Heels! Photo by Deborah Schaefer
Unfortunately, Jim forgot that in a northeasterly breeze, there is no breeze under the Bob Sikes Bridge, which makes it necessary to sail high of the rhumbline and shoot through the opening with boat speed. We lost 5 boats at the bridge. In the High PHRF fleet, our closest competition for the series would prove to be John Collin's F-27, Curb Service, Jim Chambers, Corsair F-24 Mk II, SnowFox, and Mike Parsons, Corsair F-24 Mk II, Little Wing...at least these were the boats we could see and cover.
Jim Chambers Drives the F-24Mk II, SnowFox Race 1 Photo by Deborah Schaefer
But, we were not aware of Jim Mackenzie's F-22, Raise a Little Hull, which was 5 minutes behind us, buried in the fleet, or so we thought. The one-sided beat soon turned into a reach and then a run with minimal sail changes for the fast sail to the Navarre Bridge. We managed to pass our nemesis, Curb Service and SnowFox, under our chute. The SI's for the finish were confusing at best. 1:55:22pm: We crossed the finish line at G "95" and managed to douse our chute before running out of water. We were first to finish in our fleet, but 5th to finish on corrected time. The Canadians, Jim Mackenzie and Paul DeViet, won the first race by 4 minutes corrected on their hot home built F-22!!!
Anchoring 35 Corsair Trimarans off the beach at Juana's Pagoda, all at the same time, proved to be a challenge. The trick was to set your bow anchor first without fouling your neighbor. Then you back into the beach and set a stern anchor. But our crew, Phil Ghiotto , proved worthy of the task...and Marty Mitchell assisted. But, the strong north easterly was causing the bucking trimarans to drag their stern anchors from side to side. Randy Smyth had the best solution for the restless boats.....With bow and stern anchors set, he advised us to set up fenders and spring lines so that we could raft off each other's boats. With everyone pitching in, this worked like a charm!
Corsair Fleet Rafts Up at Juana's Pagoda Photo by Deborah Schaefer
Juana's Pagoda, Navarre Beach Photo by Deborah Schaefer
That evening, Corsair Marine sponsored a Buffet Dinner and Spectacular Door prizes for the Racers. This was followed by live music on all the decks and libations. I called it quits with the first band, but my Jim decided to cover our Canadian Competition, Jim Mackenzie and Paul DeViet, at the bar....well let's say they covered each other. They were later seen stumbling down the beach, in search of Big Storm. Would this covering strategy work for the Long Distance Race back to the bridge on Saturday?
Sunset at Navarre Beach Photo by Ken Kmetz
Saturday, May 2nd: Race Two: The hot breakfast buffet at Juana's Pagoda was included as part of our Social Package. And then we were off the beach for the race back to the Bob Sikes Bridge for a 10am start. After a 25 minute postponement, we were off and running for the 12.3 nm spinnaker run down the ICW. On board Big Storm, we were having a really good race until we made one fatal error...we jibed to leave government mark G "129" mark to our port side. Too late, we realized that although it was a mark of the course in Race 1, G "129" was not a mark of the course in Race 2. Any unnecessary jibes cost dearly. We lead the High PHRF fleet most of the way, although we were overrun by some of the faster boats from behind.
The Corsair F-31R, Belafonte Drives Over Us in Race Back to the Bob Sikes Bridge Photo by Deborah Schaefer
The Corsair F-31R, Belafonte Drives to the Finish Photo by Deborah Schaefer
We crossed the finish line first in our fleet at 12:24.06. But, we were beaten on corrected time by both of the F-24 MK II's, SnowFox and Little Wing, and the F-27's Curb Service, and Tritium. Jim's strategy to cover the Canadians in the bar may have worked after all.....they finished 5 minutes behind us on corrected time.
John Collins F-27, Curb Service Behind in Race Two Photo by Deborah Schaefer
Race Three: The Race Committee had 3 Buoy Races scheduled for the afternoon, but it would take the fleet an hour to motor-sail to the starting area located in Pensacola Bay. Meanwhile, I read the Sailing Instructions and looked at the diagram. The Course 1 description was plain enough (Windward, Offset Mark and Leeward), but I was still a bit confused about the finish line. We were expected to round the leeward pin on the downwind leg, douse the chute and finish upwind. The RC managed to get the first start off at 2:19 pm. We had a decent start. We played the correct side of the course. We barely stayed ahead of John Collins F-27, Curb Service and Mike Parsons on F-24 Mk II, Little Wing, racing into the downwind mark. We rounded the mark on port, dousing the chute and shooting up across the finish line first in our class. We got the gun, but then we stalled on the line....OH NOOOO! Now the entire fleet was forced to round us and the mark! Little Wing and Curb Service finished 1st & 2nd on corrected time. Big Storm finished 3rd on corrected time.
On Board Big Storm, Phil Ghiotto Trims the Chute Photo by Deborah Schaefer
Race Four: The Race Committee was able to squeeze in one more windward leeward race in the time allotted. This race would be a throw out for us. We made too many mistakes. Both of the F-24's beat us boat for boat. Mike Parson's F-24 II, Little Wing took first place on corrected time, followed by Jim Chamber's F-24 II, SnowFox, and John Collin's F-27, Curb Service. The Canadians beat us too!
We limped into the Pensacola Shipyard with our collective tails tucked between our legs. We were exhausted. Then we scrambled to get our showers in before the Corsair Banquet at Pensacola Yacht Club. At PYC, we drowned our sorrows in alcohol while we enjoyed the gentle sounds of the Steel Band. Posted on the Upper Deck was a change to the Sailing Instructions thankfully eliminating the tricky upwind finish. YES!
The Door Prizes were awarded after dinner. These included a $900 Furling System from Colligo Marine, Two 30% off Coupons from Calvert Sails, Backpacks form North Sails, Insulated Cooler Bags from Harken, and Mylar Duffel Bags from Schurr Sails. Then Linda Wright awarded Special Photos/Certificates of Recognition and beautiful keepsake Delta/Leewmar Anchor/Bottle Openers to almost everybody. The Sailors walked away with lots of booty! Back at the shipyard, we offloaded all the cruising gear. For the first time all week, we could actually see our water line!
Sunday, May 3rd: Race Five: The marine forecast called for a 5 knot easterly switching to southeast at 10 knots. The Race Committee was determined to get 4 races in on the last day of racing. They did this by keeping the course length down to 3 nm or less and 1 hour in length. The RC called for a Windward/Leeward twice around. Big Storm won the start in the High PHRF Fleet. Lap 1, we played the right side of the course, and we had a good chute set. Wisely, the RC shortened course. We won our class boat for boat and on corrected time. The dying breeze may have helped to put some separation between us and the F-24's behind; SnowFox, Little Wing, and the Farrier 22, Raise a Little Hull.
Race Six: The Race Committee waited for the sea breeze to kick in before setting a new course. The RC set the course length at 1nm for a quick race. It takes only one bad start or one bad chute set to lose a race in tight competition. We had our share of those. The F-27, Minnows was over early. Meanwhile SnowFox and Little Wing were sailing fast and going the right way, finishing 1st and 2nd consecutively. The Canadians also stepped up to the plate. We should have covered them at the Bar!
Race Seven: The Race Committee set another short course. We won the start on Big Storm, but John Collins on the F-27, Curb Service lead us all on a merry chase, crossing the finish line first, just one second ahead of Jim Chambers F-24 MkII, SnowFox. As a final insult, Mike Parson's sailed Little Wing into the finish with rights, forcing us up, to sail wing-on-wing to the finish just 1 second ahead of F-28 Big Storm. But, Jim Chamber's Snow Fox brought home the bacon on corrected time, followed by Little Wing, and Curb Service.
Race Eight: For the last race of the day, the Race Committee set a Windward /Leeward course twice around for a total distance of 4nm. Jim Chambers sailed the correct side of the course in clear air and beat the fleet, boat for boat on his F-24 MkII, SnowFox. John Collins was second across the line on his F-27. We were 3rd across on our F-28 Big Storm, crossing the finish line just seconds ahead of Mike Parson's F-24 MkII, Little Wing. But, in the end, it was SnowFox, Little Wing, Curb Service and our nemesis, the F-22, Raise a Little Hull, finishing in that order.
The regatta was over at 2PM. The fleet sailed enmass into Chico Bayou headed for the Pensacola Shipyard. While the other racers scrambled to get their boats out at the ramp and derigged, we avoided the chaos and tied up at the dock. I pulled 3 cold beers out of the cooler for the three of us to celebrate the end of the regatta. We bid our crew Phil, a fond farewell.
One Last Smile from Our Crew, Phil Ghiotto Photo by Deborah Schaefer
Awards Party: Pensacola Yacht Club was the venue for the Awards. We were treated to an array of tasty appetizers while the final results were being tabulated. Randy Smyth sounded the 5-minute warning. Race organizers awarded Certificates of Merit according to High PHRF, Corsair 750, and Lo PHRF. SnowFox, Little Wing, and Curb Service placed First, Second and Third in the High PHRF fleet.
They also awarded some Corsair Class Trophies to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of Corsair Marine Nationals. We were happy to take home one of these keepsake trophies for the F-28 Class. John Collins/Curb Service was awarded the F-27 "Hall of Fame" Perpetual Trophy as the top finishing F-27. Jim Mackenzie, from Toronto, Canada won an award for distance traveled. There were many other Special Trophies awarded in many categories. Check out the other Race Stories for further race results.
Jim Mackenzie and Paul DeViet, from Ontario, Canada Traveled Far Photo by Deborah Schaefer
There were ”Thank You's” and fond farewells all around and then the Regatta was over...so sad! We took one last barefooted walk on the Beach before one last supper at Peg Leg Pete's. We toasted our Canadian Rivals with one last Beer. Jim ordered his Last Dozen Raw Oysters. We shared one last Bread Pudding soaked in Rum Sauce.
The Day After: We joined other Cruisers, Judy and Ken Levitt, to derig our Corsairs for the long trip home. We helped each other folding up and hauling out. Then we enjoyed one last dinner at the Oar House, as we enjoyed the view overlooking Chico Bayou. We drank one last toast and vowed to meet up again on their turf for a cruise to Martha's Venue.
Pensacola Shipyard in the Morning....the Mocking Bird Calls Photo by Deborah Schaefer
Thank You Pensacola Yacht, and Race Organizers Don Wigston, Karlene Gentile, Linda Wright, Randy Smyth, Bert Rice and all their Sponsors for a Fun Regatta in the World’s Best Cruising and Racing Venue.