|the 2019 Wayfarer
Report by Paul and Dawn Miller
last updated 13 Feb 19 at 2114 hrs
An Old Boat and A New Adventure
"What the hell is that?!" That was the greeting we received shortly after arriving at Lake Eustis Sailing Club for the Midwinters, our first Wayfarer regatta. Admittedly, the comment from Uncle Al was justified. He was staring at our old jib, which is an 80's mylar thing that has fully delaminated and is heavily mildewed, plus it's blown out and the leech is as floppy as a piece of string cheese in the Florida sun. It is, frankly, an embarrassment and an eye sore. A lot of people came by to laugh at it or pity us. Some even offered to loan us a jib so they wouldn't have to look at it. As a way to power the boat it was a disaster, but as an icebreaker it worked! Welcome to the Wayfarer Fleet!
Jim Heffernan asked us to write our impressions of our first Wayfarer regatta, so here goes. Secretly, we think he was hoping we could provide filler for the Skimmer and clearly he doesn't know us well. Dawn is a recovering scientist and I'm an introverted engineer and neither profession is known for their writing skills. We'll do our best to make the other articles look professional.
A quick background about us: Dawn and Paul met sailing International Canoes on San Francisco Bay about thirty years ago. For those not familiar with ICs, they are 17 feet long, about as wide as a doormat, sloop rigged and sailed single-handed. ICs have a seat that slides out seven feet to windward to keep the thing usually upright. Sailing them is a blast; they are quick, exciting and as a bonus, you get to practice your swimming skills. I recall one fellow commenting that he won a race simply because he only capsized three times. Good fun, but now that we are older and wiser (or less agile and frighteningly clumsy) we decided that we wanted something more sedate than Canoes but more exciting than our 28-foot ketch.
Our criteria for our next boat was: classic, trailerable behind our little car, double-handed, had a spinnaker but no trapeze, built of wood (we're gluttons for punishment), and had a good class culture that would be interesting and fun to be part of. The Wayfarer checked all the boxes! (You can ask us sometime what our second choice was.) While we were stewing our decision, Uncle Al decided to bring his boat to Annapolis for a wooden boat race. We offered him a room for a couple nights, and by twisting his arm, plying him with beer and Dark and Stormies, and threatening bodily harm we were able to coax him into talking about Wayfarers. Well actually, it didn't take much prodding. He talked more than a politician on the eve of an election but we soaked it all up! After that, the search for a boat was on! It took almost two years but we got word of one in Michigan that fit the bill. After a few emails with Wayne Loescher we reached a deal and drove out last June to get W971!
We were smitten at first sight! Built in '64, she is in great shape and is a time capsule of when she was last restored in the early 80s. After getting her back to our new home in Connecticut we started sailing her in our informal Wednesday night series. About 50-60 dinghies show up to race using the Portsmouth Yardstick. The RC put us in the fastest of the six classes alongside the Highlanders, Flying Scots, Hobie Cats and Ideal 18s. Good company, but difficult to get clear air. We didn't have a spinnaker yet, which hurt our competitiveness but we started updating the boat and had a ton of fun.
Our next goal was to have a reasonably competitive boat for the Midwinters that also retains its classic style. At the top of the to do list was a new jib and a spinnaker. At the Newport Boat Show we met a nice salesman from North who convinced us their UK loft had fast Wayfarer sails and they offered a boat show discount! We tried to play hard to get but were clearly easy marks and the sale was clinched. The new sails arrived right after Christmas.
When the time finally arrived for the Midwinters, Dawn drove down while I had to work in Miami for a couple days before the regatta. That brings us back to, "What the hell is that?!"
After we assured Al that the hideous jib would be hidden away again soon, he introduced us to Marc Bennett, who took us under his wing and helped us bring the boat's tuning in to the 21st century. Out came the drill, knife, file and saw and Wednesday afternoon plus all day Thursday was spent tweaking this, moving that, pinning something, and occasionally hopping up and down screaming. The last had nothing to do with the boat but was when we met some unfriendly locals called fire ants. Each time we thought we were done Marc or Al would say something like, "If you did one more thing…". One of the last steps was to figure out a way to keep the spin sheets from dropping over the bow. An epoxy glue brush seemed to fit the bill (bristles forward). Not elegant, but as someone commented, we could always claim that we didn't actually hit the other boat, but merely brushed them…
Eventually Jim saved us from more boat work by calling us to the Wayfarer Annual General Meeting. We've been to a lot of sailing meetings, and this was one of the nicest. It was well organized, civil and they got stuff done! Awesome! The NC-machined rudder and centerboard concept interests us and the Worlds at Lake Eustis in 2022 is a must-do!
After a chilly 37°F night in the tent (funny, that wasn't in the Florida brochure) we put the sails up and went out for the first race on Friday. On the way out we put the spinnaker up for the first time and figured out that it was the first time we were sailing together in a dinghy regatta since 1992. Time flies. We had low expectations for ourselves and we met them admirably! The first two races we were out of phase in the shifts, I couldn't figure out how to tune the 1983 main and our crew work was as coordinated as the Keystone Kops but we were still smiling and having a good time. The last race on Friday was a stunner for us. Apparently most of the fleet decided to give us a break and we found ourselves in the top three! The rest of the regatta was more of the same; at one leeward mark we managed to tangle the spinnaker, its sheets, the jib sheets and even the main sheet in to a big ball that stopped all sail trim. That required special skills and was quite entertaining! In another race I gained notoriety as the only skipper to drive their boat over early in the entire regatta. When I commented it was because I underestimated the current sweeping us over the line, Dawn's reply was something related to being on a small lake with no rivers flowing in it. I'm not sure what she was getting at. At other times we were lucky and found ourselves near the top. Very inconsistent but always entertained.
At one point the RC abandoned a start with about 30 seconds to go due to a large wind shift. That good call plus the good line sets and square courses made us think that the race administration was among the best either of us had experienced. Similarly, the catering was simply phenomenal. We never went hungry and the food was tasty and inexpensive!
Of course, enjoying a regatta and a class really comes down to the people and everyone in the class and the club were super-friendly and very welcoming to us. We could list every competitor and say they were great, but that would take up too much space. We spent much of our time with the other woodies and newbies (the mother/daughter team Peg and Maggie were awesome) and enjoyed every minute. Needless to say, we are happy to be back dinghy sailing and very happy to be Wayfarer sailors!
We have a list of another dozen things to improve W971 (and Dawn said something about us getting on "a program"?) and we are looking forward to our next Wayfarer events, perhaps the Chesapeake cruise or the HOT regatta (Dawn stopped by Lake Townsend on her way home and was impressed), and the Midwinters in 2020 is already on the list. In the meantime, if any Wayfarer sailors are in the Mystic, CT area, Dawn would be happy to show you around Mystic Seaport Museum, where she works in the Boathouse, or I can show you around the Coast Guard Academy, where I torture cadets. If you have your boat with you, you are welcome to sail in our Wednesday night series and cruising in southern New England is excellent! Perhaps someday we might interest the fleet to come to our home waters and sail in the Newport Regatta (dinghies to 12 Meters) or cruise to Block Island, Narragansett Bay, Martha's Vineyard or even Nantucket!