Bixbys win Windmill U.S. Nationals
Published on July 21st, 2014
The 2014 Windmill U.S. National Championship was held July 17-20 in Westerville, Ohio. Thirty seven teams from California, Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio, Washington, and a large contingent from the mid-Atlantic gathered on Hoover Reservoir, located in the heart of Ohio northeast of Columbus. Seven National Champions competed, many of them multi-class and repeat National champs.
Coming inland for the first time in four years of Nationals, storms blew through in the early week dropping temperatures to the low 60s the morning and low 80s during the day making camping for competitors more bearable than normal summer heat — like a Cape Cod day.
Friday, July 18 was clear, cool and sunny and wind decreased because of the passing storm the southwest prevailing winds inverted bringing and odd 10-8 mph easterly wind veering inconsistently 30° to either side of the course. Teams that presumably won the start on the favored left pin end were left hung out to dry as the right side filled from the south. In Race Two, the opposite breeze filled from the right frustrating many. Regardless, three past national champions persevered and despite shifty conditions it seemed as if the top 10 boats could be interchangeable attesting to a high skill set avoiding and/or fighting through log jams.
Highlights of day one were John and daughter Alli Coleman of Port Matilda, PA punching into the top with a fourth place in Race One. Seems someone did some tuning this season. Improved speed and performance was marked. In Race Two, Alan Taylor and crew Erik Arnesen of Greensboro, NC also placed fourth. And, out-going Class President, Lon Ethington and Meg Gimmi of Tampa, FL had a bullet in Race Three. And, in Race Four, Chris and wife Nancy Demler of Lebanon, Ohio (by way of Massachusetts) had their best race with a third.
Saturday, July 19 was again clear, cool and sunny however the fog from 82° water depressed the wind until the clouds opened and the land heated somewhat. Postponement continued past noon for breeze to build from the north. To bide time, the Nationals meeting was held during the postponement building.
Thanks went to outgoing president Lon Ethington for four years of service, almost single-handedly and literally rebuilt the class, retooling used boats to make good affordable boats available to new sailors. His tenure was long extended by the members rather than reshuffling executives as in every normal organization — which is a testament to his work. Without the headaches of leadership, Lon and Meg will be allowed to focus racing which they’re very good at.
Incoming president Ralph Sponar of Pasadena, MD, with the support of his wife Sandy and son Matthew, will bring energy to the class which should make transition seamless. Boat-builder and past national champion from Deerfield, NH, Larry Christian will take on the position of Class Measurer, filling the shoes of stalwart Roy (and Marcey) Sherman who have relocated to Seattle, WA. Alan Taylor will continue as webmaster with enhanced duties bringing the class newsletter “the Jouster” electronically as Vice President.
Later in the day, breeze filled from the north as expected. Again with oscillating conditions, the pin end and the west shore appeared favorite. Race five was the cathartic point in the regatta allowing teams to lock own their standings for the most part, but oddly how the worm turns. Dave Nielsen of Auburn, CA and long-time Windmill skipper crewing, Glenn Strohl of Greensboro, NC proved otherwise — leading from start to finish for a memorable bullet. Mike & Dixie Mickelson, who have sailed their Windmill together for 51 years, came rolling off the west shore for a 3rd in the 6th race to close out the day. Many sailors in contention acquired their throwout in race six (if not in Race One) as racing time limit ended to go into Sunday.
For the last day of sailing, a light northerly breeze came down the reservoir seeming to favor the west shore again with a square starting line for W4. Needless to say, going west was not recommend as the breeze filled from the Northeast. Although a similar cast played at the top of the fleet locking down there positions, many teams with mid-pack standings acquired their throwouts. But, as the race committee wrestled with a similar light easterly breeze from day one, abandonment was rightfully declared to end the Regatta.
Eight-time National Champion (North Sail St. Pete) Ethan and wife Trudy Bixby of St. Petersburg, FL put together an almost flawless performance to win. Former Nationalschamp Arthur and son Max Anosov placed a solid second. Former National champ John and wife Anne Dannenberger of Severna Park, MD placed a solid third. Defending and 5-time National champ and Regatta Chair Craig and wife Cindy Tovell of Columbus, OH placed a solid fourth. Regular National contender and multi-class champ Larry Christian and crew Alex Gould locked down fifth place.
All in all, the turnout, food and festivities, race management, difficult racing conditions and especially camaraderie made this event special and memorable. The regatta foot-note citing bolstered numbers from last year’s Nationals were 18 family teams. And, because of the low entry cost of the Windmill and the simplicity of whisker pole without chute the Class hull built on spec was sold on-site and 3 more competitors are considering purchasing new Johanson boats. Awesome.
Rock Hall Yacht Club (RHYC) will be hosting 2015 Nationals at Rock Hall, Maryland — a wonderful rustic fishing and rural port across the Chesapeake from Annapolis on the Delmarva Peninsula which has hosted many nationals – Thistles, Highlanders, and three Windmill Nationals. Class website: www.WindmillClass.com.
Report by Craig Tovell.