MC Midwinters were held at Lake Eustis, FL March 12-14. Hoover MC fleet #54 sailors Clark Wade, Richard Blake, Mike Keenan and I made the trip south. Hoover alum Surge Vanderhorst and his son Jack were also in attendance.
To give a quick snapshot of the health of the MC class, there were 85 boats registered,
representing 18 states. The MC is one of the largest one-design classes in the country and big fleet regattas like this are a trademark of the class.
There were COVID protocols set in place by the Lake Eustis Sailing Club that were closely followed. No social events, lunch on the water, masks and social distancing on the dock and on shore.
Lake Eustis is a very large, almost perfectly round, inland lake northeast of Orlando. With very low shoreline profile, it is a great sailing lake. Located almost equidistant from the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, it does get some interesting wind effects. To me it is a big lake that acts like a small lake, because it is really shifty.
This just adds to the challenge of racing in an 80+ boat fleet. Your usual focus is to get a good start and get off the line with a clean lane. Eustis demands that you do all that and get that first shift coming down the lake. Big fleet starting lines have a tendency to lead you towards one side of the course or the other. It can be painful to get yourself in a clean spot on one side and have the shift go the other way. Ask anyone who has raced at Eustis and they’ve experienced it. It’s like being out of the draft in NASCAR and watching 20 cars go zooming by you. The good thing is that there are clues on the water, you just have to be disciplined in looking up the racecourse (and beyond) and sail for the dark water.
Another characteristic of Lake Eustis is it’s either really windy or pretty light. This was the case again this year. We got two races in the first day, with the breeze dropping off in the afternoon. We tried for a third race on the second day, but it was abandoned as the wind shut off on the first leg. And on the final day, the wind did not fill in until after the cutoff time.
I would just like to add that, while big fleet racing can be intimidating at first, it is an incredible learning experience and chance to improve your game. In the coaching I do, I tell people one regatta is worth a month of local racing compressed into two days time. A big fleet regatta is worth more than that. Your starting line skills will get tested, and will improve with the reps. Your strategy should change a bit and lean towards a more conservative approach. Like anything else, the more you do it, the better you get at it. And there’s nothing like the feeling of rounding a mark in the front group and saying “wow, look at all those boats behind me!”
See you in 2022 at Lake Eustis.