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An interview with Bill Johnsen about the 2024 Sarasota Bay Multihull Regatta

by David Schmidt 12 Mar 15:00 GMT March 15-17, 2024
Corsair National Regatta at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron, Sarasota Florida © Corsair Marine

While multihulls have become a more mainstream aspect of sailing in recent years, the most starting lines are still dominated by monohulls. Not so at the aptly named 2024 Sarasota Multihull Regatta (March 15-17), which is being organized and hosted by the Sarasota Sailing Squadron in Sarasota, Florida. There's no question that the (warm) water looks downright tempting at this mid-March event, but it's only open to One Design or PHRF-rated multihulls.

So much for the days when the "pickle forks" were the regatta oddballs. Here, five or more identical boats constitutes a class, while anyone else with two of three bows and a valid racing certificate is welcome.

Racing is set to unfurl on the waters of Sarasota Bay north of New Pass. Race organizers anticipate a busy racing schedule, followed by a low-key après shore scene.

I checked in with Bill Johnsen, regatta chair of the 2024 Sarasota Bay Multihull Regatta, via email, to learn more about this exciting multihull regatta.

Can you please tell us a bit about the Sarasota Bay Multihull Regatta's history and the kinds of sailors one can expect to meet at this regatta?

The Multihull Rendezvous was started about 10 years ago. The group previously competed at the St. Petersburg NOOD, but it was challenging to accommodate the large multihulls in such a crowded venue.

Not so much an Olympic-hopeful event but the friends and families that attend are solid competitors and include professionals, as well as class champions.

How would you describe competition levels at this regatta?

The level of competition is high. We draw from many venues with sailors from the North looking for an opportunity to sail after a long winter rest.

At the Sarasota Sailing Squadron, we have strong PHRF multihull fleet that pushes us to become better.

Are there any important changes or updates to this year's event that first-timers and returning veterans alike should know?

Competitors expect high-quality race management from the same PRO [who] has served for this event for its entire life. New this year is the addition of a PHRF sub 0 division to provide for closer racing.

The focus is on the racing. We expect to have 10-12 races over the three-day event.

No entertainment but a light breakfast and dinner on Saturday.

How many boats, total, are you expecting? I realize that these are still early days, but are some classes attracting more boats than others?

We expect 30 to 40 boats. Most sail PHRF but if five or more boats register, they will have [their own] One Design class.

We already have enough boats registered to have a one-design for the Corsair 750/Sprint.

Corsairs are the lead in numbers, but we have a good turnout of Stiletto Catamarans.

I realize that this regatta is mostly bigger multihulls, but are foiling boats allowed to enter? If so, have you had interest from these sailors?

We have had multiple racecourses and included A Cats (foiling and non-foiling), [and] Windrider trimarans in past years, but [we] have focused on the PHRF Multihulls for the past three events, as there are other events for those fleets and our racing area, Sarasota Bay, limits our ability to have multiple race courses.

Generally speaking, what kinds of conditions can sailors expect on Sarasota Bay in mid-March?

Sarasota Bay is a great racing venue. The bay, oriented north/south is about two miles wide and three miles long, which allows for us to set Windward-Leeward courses with 1.5-mile legs.

In March, we typically have a day or two of frontal conditions which bring 12 to 20+ knot winds, and when there is not a front there is a reliable sea breeze that starts around noon and builds to 12 to 15 knots.

What kind of onshore entertainment can sailors look forward, to once the finishing guns have gone silent each day?

We are light on the entertainment side. Usually, beer kegs each day courtesy of our sponsoring sailmakers and dinner on Saturday.

The best entertainment is the post-race conversations, and live bands tend to get in the way.

Can you please tell us about any efforts that the club has made to green-up the regatta and generally lower its environmental wake?

The Sailing Squadron has a filtered water dispensing system for refilling water bottles. We use online registration, and the Notice of Race, Sailing Instructions and other race documents are on Regatta Network (www.regattanetwork.com/event/27231)

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

The [regatta] is a great event. About 2/3 of our competitors are serial participants. We draw boats from the Great Lakes, Texas, Maryland, New York as well as Florida.

There are not many events that focus on multihulls. So, if you want to be center stage, as opposed to the red-headed stepchild, come to Sarasota for a great time.

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