17 competitors were not deterred by either COVID-19 outbreak or the hurricane Zeta, and despite the challenges, the USA Finn National Championship proceeded. 15 boats were able to get on the starting line in light winds, with competitors coming from as far away as Oregon, Michigan, New Hampshire, Kansas, Massachusetts, and Florida. Given the political and humanitarian situation in the country, as well as the unusually active hurricane season on the Gulf Coast, USAFA declared the national championship a success.
Friday, the mirror-like surface of the Mobile Bay didn’t support any sailing, but a casual rocking outside of the harbor and a quick tow back.
Despite the favorable forecast, the race committee decided to not take any chances and give the first start at 9:25 am on Saturday. This decision allowed for three races and by the end of the last race, the wind dropped to a “whopping” three knots with some of the competitors drifting backwards on the finish line. Super shifty conditions with seven to nine knots of wind at the start of the day. The favorite side of the course shifted from left to right each of the upwind legs. Darrel Peck (USA 35), John F Dane (USA 69), and Rodion Mazin (USA 16) tied after the second race sailed a very close battle. Rodion leading the third race all the way to the finish got unlucky and drifted with the current past the finish line, losing the race to Darrel Peck, John Dane, and Michael Mark, who banged the left corner and placed third in the third race. This race was a lucky charm for Darrel who didn’t let go a sweet smell of victory and finished strong with another two bullets on Sunday.
Sunday, the wind shifted to the Easterly direction, with some mild chop, but still not enough pressure to hoist an “O” flag and allow free pumping downwind. In the fourth race, Rodion and Darrel started ahead of the fleet from the pin and led all the way to the windward mark. The left-hand side of the course was favorite, but the shifty easterly wind didn’t hold, shifting more to the right on the second beat. John F Dane, Chuck Rudinsky, John F Dane Senior, and Ernesto Burgeron chose the right-hand side and closed up on Darrell. John F tried to finish ahead of Darrel, but experience and plenty of light wind sailing in San Diego helped Darrel to hold his spot. The last race, a repeat of the fourth one, with most of the folks but Darrel making poor decisions on the racecourse. Darrel secured his 4th U.S. Finn Champion title bringing the trophy back to Oregon.
As usual, thanks to the support of the Buccaneer Yacht Club, Commodore Jim “Doc” Hunter, and the Mobile Yacht Club, the small but friendly group of the Finn sailors was able to compete in a regatta putting aside politics and scare of the coronavirus for the good of the sport, comradery, and good sportsmanship.