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2016 Region IV Championship
2016 Region IV Championship
Published: Monday, 02 January 2017 13:20
2016 Ensign Region IV
October 6 – 8
Ensign Fleet 30 at Austin Yacht Club hosted the 2016 Ensign Region IV Championship Regatta on Lake Travis. After years of drought induced low-lake levels, the reservoir finally filled in 2016. In fact, it had filled so much earlier in the year that the regatta had to be postponed from the originally scheduled dates in June due to the onset of flood conditions. Better late than never, ten local Ensign skippers and their crews were joined by Dick Baxter aboard Crusader of Fleet 2 from the Houston Yacht Club.
Day One: Never Give Up
The opening day of the 2016 Ensign Region IV Championship Regatta brought light and fickle winds. It was the kind of day that frustrated even race winners. You might have an early lead of half a leg over the rest of the competition and end up finishing buried halfway down the fleet. Or you might follow a promising finger of wind only to be left standing still when that little wind died and a new breeze, such as it was, filled in for your competitors. Two or three boats that were seemingly well to leeward might overtake you in the final fifty yards to the finish. Even a lead of 50 boat lengths simply was not safe. So, boats well back of the fleet could work and struggle and hope and keep their cool and find themselves in the improbable position of making a late run for victory. When all was said and done, we had completed three races – at least they would count as such in the final standings – and we had three different winning skippers: Tom Groll, Frans Dahmen and Bill Hawk. And all three boats did well enough in the other races to claim the top three spots at the end of the day, separated by one point each.
Day Two: Tom Groll
Although early forecasts for the day had suggested the potential for some strong winds out of the north, those had successively weakened until the prediction was for a more modest 8 knots out of the northeast. At least it would be an improvement over the previous day. Given those expectations, sailors headed out to the course area to begin getting a sense of actual conditions on the water, which was a mild breeze out of the east, with some dark clouds looming over the hills to the north. As the official start time for the first race began to draw close, however, the wind shifted about 70 degrees and a glance up the lake showed dark water with apparent white capping. Sure enough, a minute or two later it was gusting over 25 and most competitors dropped their genoas and headed towards the nearest sheltered cove. After mulling over the situation, race committee raised AP over H, hoping the edge of the front would soon clear and provide a little better conditions for racing. That turned out to be a sound call, and before long, the fleet was again under way, this time with gusty conditions in a 15 knot prevailing breeze out of the northeast.
It was a day dominated by one boat that could seemingly do no wrong. After a bad start in the first race, and having to go the “wrong” way, all seemed lost. But fortune smiled and they found themselves benefiting from a big shift that lifted them up to the weather mark right back in contention. And for the rest of the day, if there was a lifted tack, they seemed to be on it, if the wind shifted to the left side of the course, there they were. Excellent boat handling and excellent decision making were a potent combination that was simply unbeatable on this day, and so they picked up three straight wins. With their nearest competitors struggling and almost everyone having at least one hard luck race on the day, the gulf between first and the rest of the fleet widened considerably. Tom Groll and his crew of John Bartlett and Reed Kleckler, had all but claimed victory with one day to go. Also notable for the day was the performance of Jonathan Baker, who had a rough opening on the previous day but picked up a couple of 2ndplace finishes and a 3rd to move back up near the top of the fleet.
Day Three: The Battle for Second
Although technically speaking, there was a small possibility for one or two other skippers to unseat the regatta leader, it would have taken a small miracle (getting two firsts on the final day while having Tom Groll abducted by space aliens). Nevertheless, there was a real battle in play for second with Frans Dahmen one point ahead of Jonathan Baker going into the final race day. And Bill Hawk was a handful of points further back; with a strong finish and some help, he could potentially sneak in as well.
The wind was still coming from the northeast, but much more mild than the previous day, averaging only around five knots. While Bill Hawk did what he needed to do, starting with a bullet (his second of the regatta), Jonathan Baker finished right behind. As luck would have it, (good or bad, depending on your perspective) Dave Gamble slipped in ahead of Frans Dahmen, effecting a swap of 2ndand 3rd places. Tom Groll was not abducted and his conservative mid-fleet finish secured the Championship.
After an adjustment of the race course, competitors were again underway, but moments later the fleet was becalmed. A few sporadic patches of wind were not enough to continue the race, which was abandoned. And so the final standings stood, with prizes awarded to the top four finishers.