Top of the world for Gardner, again

Published on November 20th, 2019

Americans Annie Gardner and Sarah Kraft emerge as the top women at the Hobie 16 World Championships in Captiva Island, Florida; for Gardner it had been a long time coming. Report by Carol Cronin for Sailing World.


Fifteen years since sailing her last Hobie 16 World Championship (and 34 years after winning Olympic windsurfing silver), Annie Gardner arrived in Captiva Island, Florida, adequately trained, with eyes wide open to the possibility that a younger generation of female Hobie 16 sailors could be faster. What she may have been missing in youth, however, Gardner, had two Hobie 16 World Championship trophies (1991 and 1995) to qualify her as a favorite.

The three-day women’s portion of the Worlds was sailed in conjunction with the Great/Grand Masters and Youth championships the weekend before the Open Worlds. Winds were mostly light, which played into her and crewmate Sarah Kraft’s favor. Twenty-five women’s teams from five countries were represented, and Gardner says the competition was “pretty tough.”

Still, she was ready and relaxed as she could be.

Gardner and her husband, Eric Witte, are cruising the world on a custom 47-foot catamaran named El Gato, but when they learned the 2019 Worlds would be in Florida, they decided to step back into racing.

“Eric had worked at Hobie Cat back in the ’80s, and I’ve had one since I was in my teens, off and on,” Gardner says. “So we thought it would be fun, because we’d see a lot of people that we hadn’t seen in a long time. It’s really quite a nice family, the Hobie family.”

The Hobie Cat Company provided 60 boats for the regatta, keeping four on reserve in case of breakdowns. “After a race, you come in and rotate,” explains Gardner, adding that everyone knew ahead of time which heat they would sail and which boat they’d rotate into. “So you can watch the other team rig it,” she says, “if you’re on the beach sitting one out.” – Full story.

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