The Upper Key Sailing Club Finn Midwinters offered a warm and welcoming club atmosphere and some unexpected, freezing, and unwelcoming weather conditions in the 25° N tropical climate zone. On the first day, a northerly front lowered the temperatures down to 54F and picked up the wind gusts to 30 knots, creating unmanageable launching conditions for the pandemic thinned-down Finn fleet. No races were given on the first day of the regatta, but those who made it to the club enjoyed the Finn “talk,” discussion of the USAFA business, and an upcoming Finn Gold Cup planning.
On the second day, the wind has subsided just as the temperatures did. Still blowing from the North at about 15-18 knots, no one expected the temperature drop to 41F, so far down South. The eager fleet couldn’t sit ashore anymore, though, and with the usual camaraderie and mutual support, all but one lunched their boats at 930 am, ready to start at 10 am sharp.
The Buttonwood Sound, a shallow but relatively wide body of water with three different keys to the North, promoted wind funnels, 40-degree shifts, and sometimes very soft spots, creating tricky sailing conditions. The race committee set a simple, 0.7NM, windward/leeward racecourse with a favorite pin end line. Jack Jennings, USA 81, from the National Marine Sailing Team launched from the pin end and didn’t let go the lead till the end of the first race, with Rodion Mazin, USA 16, showing a good pumping technique and catching up the fleet, after rounding the windward mark in fifth. Dave Martin, USA 64, and Nikita Mazin, USA 7, beefed it up on both upwind and downwind, Dave finally taking the third just a few yards ahead of Nik. Nik and Jack fought it hard for the pin in the second race, Nik pushed Jack over the line, forcing an over early start, but the wind went left so far that Jack still managed to cross the fleet on the port tack finishing the race in second, followed by the reigning U.S. Champion, Rody. Nikita held the lead till the very end, taking his first bullet of the regatta. Nik and Jack took it to heart to fight till the end, finishing second a third in the third race only to find out that both were over early again. In the fourth race, Jack had a better downwind speed and managed to pass Nik, securing his victory in the regatta. Only two boats sailed in the fifth race, and the rest of the fleet had to pack the boats and get ready for the departing flights. This race decided the second and third place faith, with Dave Martin winning over Jack and securing a third place overall. Full results are here 2022 Finn Key Largo Midwinters : Upper Keys Sailing Club (regattanetwork.com)
In the middle of the fleet, a long-time member of the class and a current native of the Key Largo, Jeremy Pape, realized that he needed to practice more and give up on the foiling experience in preparation for the 2023 Finn Gold Cup. “I should get back into figuring out how to properly set the rig, buy a new sail, and get out there more often. Finn is a unique sailboat that gives a chance to sail to anyone regardless of their age, physique, or sailing experience. Still, you have to practice in the various conditions and attend regattas to be successful.” said Jeremy in a short after-regatta debrief. The oldest and the most formidable competitor, Chuck Rudinsky, USA 40, still rocked, rolled, and pumped the Finn in his 70s. Yes, it wasn’t enough to catch up with youngsters like Rody and Nik, but good enough to stay with the fleet, round the top mark in the top three, have a lot of fun, and most of all, stay healthy and active. Chuck, a lifetime member of the USAFA and a generous supporter of the Finn class, showed agility and effort beyond reproach. “Hiking is overrated,” said Chuck, “if you sail smart, you play the shifts right and trim your mainsheet correctly, you can easily sail the Finn competitively when you have more gray hair than anyone else on the racecourse.” Finally, the Miami Finn fleet rookie, Clayton VanNortwick, USA 316, was hesitant to go out at first, stating that conditions were above his paygrade. However, after seeing the fleet having much fun, Clayton launched his boat with some help from Charles Heimler and Mark Mueller. “I certainly learned a lot today! Sometimes you have to put your big boy pants on and go out there. You can practice on your own as much as you want. Still, nothing beats the regatta experience to understand how to handle the boat better.” said Clayton, before the fleet dispersed back to New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Northern Florida.
Big shout-out to all the volunteers, race committee, photographers, and Upper Key Sailing Club members for putting the event on for the Finn fleet. Next year we are looking forward to the UKSC hosting a larger regatta at around the same time following or preceding the 2023 Finn God Cup (https://www.fgcmiami2023.com/).
Next on the schedule in Miami are the February 29-30 Miami Finn Fleet Midwinter Regatta (https://www.regattanetwork.com/event/23235), March 20-24, Miami Sailing Week (https://www.regattanetwork.com/event/23235), and finally, only 10 hours away, 2022 Finn North American Championship in beautiful Fairhope, Alabama (https://www.regattanetwork.com/event/23903).
Only 50 folks have renewed their membership for 2022. Check your membership status here (http://www.finnusa.org/usafa-documents/) and update your membership here (http://www.finnusa.org/join-the-class/). Don’t wait till tomorrow! We need your support today.
Pictures by Sam Enos