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An interview with Jason Sanchez on the 2022 Bluster on the Bay

by David Schmidt 11 Jan 16:00 GMT January 14-16, 2022
Dinghy park action at Bluster on the Bay © Image courtesy of Bluster on the Bay

If you're a multihull sailor in need of some warm water, good breeze, and a chance to air out the sails during the dark days of winter, the sixth-annual Bluster on the Bay (January 14-16, 2022) should be on your radar. The regatta is being hosted by Hobie Division 8 and Red Gear Racing and will take place on the waters off of Melbourne, Florida (specifically, on the Indian River Lagoon south of the Eau Galle Causeway).

The regatta is open to Hobie 14s, Hobie 16s, Hobie 17s, Hobie 18s, Hobie 20s, Hobie Waves, Nacra F16s, and Nacra F18s, as well as Nacra 15s, Weta trimarans, and A Cat classics and foiling A Cats.

I checked in with Jason Sanchez, chair of the Hobie Class Association of North America, via email, to learn more about this exciting multi-hull regatta.

Can you please tell us a bit about Bluster on the Bay, it's history and culture, and the kinds of teams and sailors that one can expect to find here?

This is our 6th year holding Bluster on the Bay. Bluster on the Bay is a three-day open Multi-hull event. The idea to hold this annual regatta came from a few local Hobie sailors and I. We wanted to have an event that had more than just sailing if you attended. We wanted competitors to see more than just the resort while in St Pete.

The first, second and third year the event was held, we chartered a trolley from the city of St Petersburg for the Friday of the first day of racing. The trolley came to the resort and picked up groups, took them downtown where there are bars, and restaurants all down central avenue. On Saturday, the second day of racing, we held a banquet at the resort, which includes live music, bar and of course a raffle. Sunday, the last day of racing, we provided burgers and hotdogs while we presented the awards for all the classes.

Providing a fun event on and off the water is what has led to the success of the event for the past years and hopefully years to come!

Prior to starting Bluster, we attended a regatta for two-three years down in Islamorada, Florida, called TradeWinds. The location was awesome, the sailing conditions were just as good! Water was warm, winds were typically up, and many came from all over to attend. The last year (2016) we attended, we were greeted by new ownership of the Islander Resort. The new owner was Guy Harvey the famous artist. The rooms went from about $180 per night to over $350 per night. This quickly became a deal-breaker for many of us. With the cost of the rooms, plus travel, plus the entry fee etc. it just wasn't worth it.

So, a friend and fellow sailor, Fred Weidig, his wife Melissa and I were having drinks...and came up with the brilliant idea to have the regatta here in St Petersburg, Florida.

St Pete is essentially the central part of Florida along the [State's] West Coast. The first thing Melissa said was "It will be freezing here in January" and thus "Bluster on the Bay" was born for January 2017. We knew we took the chance of it being cold, however if you are a native to Florida we have a saying: "It's winter first thing in the [morning], spring by 10-11, and summer by noon". Certainly, better conditions than most parts of the country in mid-January.

By trade I am a general contractor and commercial swimming-pool contractor. I had recently remodeled a commercial pool for the Magnuson Hotel and Resort at the base of the SkyWay Bridge. I had been quite familiar with the property and became close friends with the property manager. I proposed the event to Steve, the hotel manager, he loved the idea! The resort was perfect for the event. The hotel is on open Tampa Bay, they have a beach, they have a deep-water marina, they have a large vacant piece of land for boats, trailers, and the rooms were very reasonably priced! It was a perfect fit.

I had a local graphic artist put together a really cool ''Notice of Race", with the Skyway Bridge in the background and a wind god blowing "blustery" air. We put the NOR on all social media outlets, emailed to all classes of one design. The event was a huge success at 81 boats! For a first annual multi-hull regatta, run by some rookies to regatta management we pulled it off.

The sailing gods did give us a little help by sending some very high winds to an event down in Key Largo where 50 or better A Cats were to be sailing. The event was blown out and they all headed north to the Bluster. The A Cat sailors along with Hobie 16s, Hobie Waves, Nacra 16s, 17s, and 18s created a really successful fun event. The resort was ecstatic! The staff and non-sailing guests were amazed and in awe as most had never seen these boats, especially up close.

The comradery amongst all the sailors is indescribable. Most sailors in the multihull group have sailed many different boats before landing on the boat they sail now, some have gone back to boats they sailed in the past.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter off of Melbourne, Florida in mid January? What are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

Bluster on the Bay was scheduled for the same weekend (MLK Weekend) for 2022. Unfortunately, due to Covid and the loss of patrons through the year, the Magnuson [Hotel and Resort] scaled back all staff and the ability to serve the event.

I quickly put out feelers to many of the sailors to see where we could hold the event. Mark and Lisa Herendeen stepped up and offered up the venue in Melbourne, Floida. The city is up and coming, with a new waterfront district, new hotels, new restaurants, really a great place on the east coast of Florida. The original location of the event is almost directly across the state, west of Melbourne.

The temperatures for January are always a guessing game in the central region of the state. We are just south far enough to not get the really cold air however north enough to get the high winds and cool air from the cold fronts that make their way down. Temps can be in the 40s however typically warm up during the day. Water temps typically hover around the mid to high 60s.

This year we have had a very warm winter with temps reaching 84 degrees over the past two weeks. The warm air has also kept water temps in the low to mid 70s. Best-case scenario is that the event is just ahead of the a cold front. The front pulls energy from the south, brining in the warm air, and really nice winds, usually 15-20 knots. Worst-case, the cold front comes through during the event and we then have a northerly, cold air, and very windy out of the north, usually 20-25 knots.

Do you see local knowledge playing a big or small role in the regatta's outcome? Can you please explain?

Many of the sailors that attend the Bluster are great sailors. Local knowledge that plays a big role in the event and many around the state of Florida is knowing the tides. The tides are probably the biggest variables at the location, wind being the second as the wind affects the tides in many ways.

I'll never forget, in the first year we had the event, a large group came down from upstate New York. Later that night, while participating in holding up the bar and telling war stories, one of the sailors asked me, " how did you know you could make that mark" I replied " I knew the tide would push me leeward enough to lay it". That sailor has since moved to Florida and now lays those marks to weather......All in all, sailors that come down to sail in the event are from all over. Many understand the conditions within the first race or two, and typically do well.

At the end of the day, being a good sailor is being able to understand and adjust to the conditions.

If you could offer one piece of advice to visiting (and local) teams, what would it be?

This is the first event of the year for many teams and individual sailors. This event was created to bring people together for the first time of the year. Rekindle the comradery, dust off cobwebs, and prepare for future events.

My advice is to take advantage of aspects offered by all the competitors. This is our 6th year hosting the event. This coming year the A Cat Worlds will be held in St Petersburg, Florida, in April, the Hobie 16 World Championships will be held in Spain in May. This event, along with three others in the following months, is both competitive however practice for much larger events.

How many teams are you expecting? Do you have any teams that you are eyeing for podium finishes? What about any dark horses who you think could prove to be fast, once the starting guns begin sounding?

We are currently expecting 60 teams/registrants. There are some great sailors that have registered in all classes.

This being a Worlds year for both A Cats and the Hobie Class, there are some teams that are coming out of the woodwork to come and compete! Some very good sailors, [including some] past and present Olympic sailors!

Given that this is a multihull regatta, what kind of course shapes can competitors expect? W-Ls? Triangles? Bay-tour style courses using islands?

This being an open multihull event, we typically run a triangle or upwind downwind course. Many times, we use an inner A and outer A mark. The faster boats go to the outer and the slower to the inner.

In the event there are a good number of spinnaker boats, we may utilize a reach mark to separate the fleet and allow each class to finish with primarily their own.

Can you tell us about any efforts that you and the other regatta organizers have made to try to lower the regatta's environmental footprint?

I have attended regattas around the country for a period of time. We are seeing more and more efforts being made to do our part as a sport amongst the many.

I recently attended a US Sailing Hobie Wave event in Corpus Christy, Texas. They broke all the competitors into teams by using colors. Every day, a color (team) had beach cleanup duty. We all met down at the beach, we all picked up trash for an hour or so. I was on a team that had a day at the latter end of the event. While picking up trash, a police officer was nearby, he said to me " this is the cleanest this beach has been in years" he continued with a thank you for going out of our way to help clean up. In addition, we all used a single-source water jug. Even on the water, chase boats had containers to fill your jug, versus [using] individual water bottles.

We are using some of these ideas at this year's Bluster in Melbourne! We have set up clean up teams (ten members from each class) for a daily beach cleanup to help do our part.

Is there anything else that you'd like to add, for the record?

I would like to add that this event and 95 percent of sailing events are volunteer driven! Sailing is a great sport, sailing multihulls is an even greater sport!

With the introduction of the foiling multihull in the America's Cup, multihull sailing has seen some growth, however Covid certainly put a damper on a lot of events over the past year. We are hopeful that this year, this event, and others here in Florida will be the beginning of sailing again on a fairly normal level.

I would also like to add the importance of supporting the individual classes. The classes are run by organizations that consist of volunteers, volunteers that share the love for the sport enough that they spend their off time organizing events. Individual classes typically have annual dues. These dues are used for a plethora of things such as youth support, fees to larger organizations such as international classes, which all play a role in keeping the overall picture of multihull sailing alive.

It is important to state that anyone is welcome to attend our event or any event, from multihull sailor or even just volunteering!

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