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An interview with Lisa Herendeen on the 2024 Bluster Regatta

by David Schmidt 9 Jan 16:00 GMT January 12-14, 2024
Racecourse action at the Bluster Regatta © Lisa Herendeen

If you’re into racing fast multi-hulls on warm water in winter, put Hobie Division 8’s Bluster Regatta on your radar. The three-day affair (January 12-14) begins on Friday, and will take place on the waters of Melbourne, Florida’s Indian River Lagoon. Nearby Riverview Park will serve as the regatta’s nexus, and competitors will use Scurrah’s Landing as their launch point.

The event is open to A-Class cats (displacement boats and foilers), Hobie 14s, Hobie 16s, Hobie 17, Hobie 18, Hobie 20, Hobie Wave, Formula 16s, Formula 18s, Nacra 15s, Nacra 17, Nacra F20 Carbons, and all open multihull classes.

2024 will mark the eighth time that this annual event has been scored.

I checked in with Lisa Herendeen, regatta chair of this year’s Bluster Regatta, via email, to learn more about this enticing multi-hull event.

Can you please tell us a bit about the Bluster Regatta, its history, and the origins of its colorful name?

Bluster started as Bluster on the Bay in Tampa, Florida. In 2022, we partnered with Jason Sanchez and Hobie Division 8 it to host Bluster in Melbourne within [the] Indian River Lagoon shortening the name to “Bluster”. It remains a great three-day multihull event on the flat protected water of the river. Jason Sanchez started Bluster on the Bay with a few local sailors and this is the 8th year of the event.

When [our] host hotel in Tampa started undergoing a large remodel and could no longer [accommodate us], we were offered the chance to host and show the same great community events and entertainment of Downtown Melbourne, on the Space Coast. Although the freezing temperatures were the exception and not the norm for our area in January, typically, it is a great escape for those traveling from the north to get a break and go sailing in the winter.

The timing was great because Hotel Melby in Downtown had recently held their grand opening in Melbourne and partnered with us to offer a discounted room rate to sailors traveling to our location to compete.

At the same time, the City of Melbourne has been focused on revitalizing Riverview Park and were thrilled to see south expansion get a major non-motorized event with a large draw including sailors from Canada.

The focus is to engage sailors both on and off the water. Last year we had record cold temperatures and brutal winds on Saturday abandoning racing that day for safety then scramble last minute to find a fun adventure for 70 sailors. A local pub called Lumberjack Ale Axe House hosted us for an ax-throwing competition instead.

Hence, my understanding of where the name is derived from because you never know what type of conditions to expect in January and it can be quite blustery.

After several hours of good camaraderie and fun, many sailors began to meander all through downtown finding various other watering holes including a great country western bar... so there was no shortage of entertainment and fun.

Bluster Regatta remains the single largest outdoor watersports recreational event in the history of Riverview Park and Downtown Melbourne, and the largest sailing event in Brevard County in over 25 years.

What kinds of sailors does the race tend to attract?

This regatta attracts weekend warriors, long-distance sailors in races over 500 miles, Olympic hopefuls and collegiates. Last year we had a range from beginners to two-time silver medalist from the early 1990s Olympics.

We are expecting many classes of catamarans including both super high-performance foiling and classic A Cat, WETA, Hobie 16, Hobie Wave and an open class of F18s and a Nacra 500, the last two of which have spinnakers.

What kind of entry numbers are you seeing ahead of this year’s Bluster Regatta? How does this number stack up against previous recent editions?

Last Bluster we had 70 boats registered. We are hoping to achieve similar participation, but we do know last year’s weather may have scared a few from participating.

And a few teams had opportunities to train in regattas in Australia, and Canada but they have committed to 2025 already.

We are considering a rescheduling to early February or March so we increase [our] chance of avoiding high velocity wind and cold temperatures, but expectation remains well above 50 [boats], which really good.

Building on that last question, are you seeing any significant bumps or declines on the individual class level? If so, any idea what might be driving this?

The A Cat, Hobie 16 and Hobie Wave classes have seen continued growth or stability in attendance.

The F18 class seems to have declined over the past couple of years seeing those formula class boats in many distance races and at world championships.

Sailing is tremendously effective [at] building team skills, and can be incredibly successful when creating camaraderie or bond between people that otherwise may never happen.

The three classes or disciplines of catamarans noted above provide large fleets of competition, and are all very easy to sail. Those classes have maintained a fantastic resiliency, even though—for example, the Hobie 16’s—engineering design is well over 50 years old, and whose bookend compatriot, the international A Cat is an R&D class, so it doesn't always mean who spends the most wins but whatever you build as long as it measures in per class requirements, drop it in the water and race like hell or just sail pleasantly in six knots of breeze.

Beyond all this going back to a previous comment, you hope for the best weather, and plan for social events so that everybody has a great time and with that foundation folks will want to return.

Downtown Melbourne and her Riverview park is a perfect location for small boat sailing with lots of great restaurants bars and shops and the protected flat water of the Indian River lagoon. Downtown Melbourne should play host to more outdoor water sport and sailing events for decades to come.

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

Typical temperatures in Melbourne in January are mid-60s with winds ranging 10-15 [knots] and out of the northeast.

I would say worst-case would be a cold front similar to last year with record lows near 34 [degrees Fahrenheit] and very high winds at 40 [knots].

Best case is mid 70s (very possible) with winds at 15 [knots], which would be an ideal sailing day.

The flat waters of the Indian River lagoon offer protected waters and a usually flat sea state, so we don't expect anything more than three feet and honestly usually the swells are barely one foot and all are wind-driven.

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

Local knowledge is always a plus. Knowing exactly where what little shoals are located and where the wind fills in first and what to anticipate with wind converges around short peninsulas. For example, certain times of the year we almost always wait for a seabreeze to fill-in, and local sailors have the knowledge of timing it.

At every skipper's meeting, and especially for those sailors that come a day or two days earlier, there is always an opportunity for out-of-town sailors to chat with locals about the racecourse conditions they should expect.

And the other side of the regatta’s outcome of course is the social events, which could be as unstructured as just scheduling bars and restaurants that we will be meeting at or an actual food truck that comes to the regatta boat park itself.

We are going to try to have a Q&A session in 2025 that would also help make the regattas outcome a good success in addition to attendance and entertainment.

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

Given the wide expanse of Riverview Park in downtown Melbourne, as well as the protected waters of the Indian River lagoon and easy launch... I would say that sailors should arrive as early as they can and enjoy the conditions ahead of time.

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 or otherwise green-up the regatta?

We do offer a very limited amount of bottled water to sailors because we don't want folks to be dehydrated, but it is very limited and everyone is encouraged at registration and during skippers meetings to carry their own water bottles that can be refilled.

We also make sure that it is very clear that sailors will utilize the use recycling cans. We are planning to partner with waste management and or keep Brevard beautiful in an effort to utilize the regatta to better market their efforts.

While not sacrificing the safety of the competitors in the regatta, we make sure that all of the power boats only move around or have their engines on when they need to. We try to make sure the captains of the powerboats only idle when they are very confident that their engine will not possibly restart putting them in some danger of not being able to navigate at all and certainly not be available to help any sailors in distress.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add about this year’s Bluster Regatta, for the record?

On behalf of all our regatta organizers it is an understatement to say that we are appreciative of all of the volunteers that are not racing. When we raised our hand in partnering with Jason Sanchez and hosting the Bluster locally in downtown Melbourne, we knew the commitment that we were making. We knew the potential value of making the public more aware of the intrinsic and wonderfully real value of Riverview park along with the discovery of all that downtown Melbourne has to offer.

I am currently the Chair for our Downtown Advisory Committee, which plays a key role in shaping redevelopment efforts, and we own rental property.

We have a real interest in seeing the regatta be successful for the sailors, their friends and family as well as the marketing and financial positive impact that it makes on downtown. We own rental property in downtown and in particular within the South expansion in which Riverview park is located. So bringing the Bluster Regatta to downtown Melbourne had lots of important back stories that are still developing as the success of this event continues.

None of this is possible without folks that are willing to volunteer their time and effort and take success from that effort. We hope that this regatta gives birth to some fun wonderful stories that we will all get to tell until we are old and gray, watching a new group of sailors try to do the same thing.

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