As we ventured south down I-275 in Florida in search of mysterious city of Bokeelia, Florida, most of the twenty-five A Cat sailors did not know what to expect. Most of us had never sailed in these uncharted A Cat waters and none of us, besides our host, had sailed A Cats there. We knew that Ben Hall lived down H. Stringfellow Road but that's all we knew. We exited at Punta Gorda from I-275 and headed west toward the Gulf of Mexico.
As we traversed the long two laned road, on both sides of the road, we see the development and clearing of land for new homes and an array of already built homes. Also it is easy to notice that building has come to a screeching halt. As we arrived on Pine Island, it was like going back in time. Scrub palm, a small quaint village, more scrub palm and more scrub palm broken up by the occasional Palm Nursery. What we did notice was no devolpment. How had this happened?? No McDonald's; no Holiday Inn; no giant condos that the rest of Florida is so noted for; No strip shopping centers-as we continued on H. Stringfellow Road and headed North toward Ben and Nan's house. We found the road just before the house and turned right to find a large field right on Charlotte Harbor Bay. What a view---a huge bay with great breezes---just waiting to test those sailors who showed up.
It all started on Friday morning in Ben's beautiful back yard with an all morning clinic hosted by Lars Guck, the reigning U. S. National Champion. All who attended were stuffed full of information and then adjourned to go sailing. As Lars said, "We are burning daylight."
Twenty A Cats hit the water for starting drills and many short course practice races. We raced short race after short race trying to master of the things that Lars had suggested. As usual, the top guys, Ben Moon, Ben Hall, Randy Smythe, Woody Cope, Robbie Daniel, Bob Hodges and Brett Moss just got faster. The rest of us still chased them around the course.
After a day of great practice, we were to gather on Ben Hall's back porch for a debriefing along with snacks and drinks. Some drinks!!!---Ben had provided a top notch mixologist (aka a nurse in her other life) to provide great Mud Slides---and did they flow---and flow---and flow---and flow. Lars was debriefing; but some of us,--- myself included,---hooked up to the blender and the mixologist for some not so quiet drinking. Several times, the rowdy group that included yours truly was asked to quiet down as there were some serious people there---but, boy, were those Mud Slides good---they went down very smooth and it wasn't until the alcohol warmed up in my stomach that I learned that six full glasses of Mud Slides was perhaps overdoing it.
Off we went to dinner---but I was driven as walking upright was hard to do. A great dinner was had at the Lazy Pelican (I believe that was its name.) And off to bed we went looking forward to a great weekend of sailboat racing. Some others actually stayed up and watched the basketball playoffs on TV and the house Woody Cope, Rush Bird and Ben Moon had rented. We had come down in our Motor home and we had decided to stay that night in the large field where the boats were some of the boats were parked which was also adjacent to the house. During the night---2:00 a.m. to be precise---a large bang woke us in the motor home. The wind was whistling through the trees and rigging. I jumped out of bed and rushed outside to find 2 A Cats capsized. Very few of the boats had been tied down and one had capsized on its side while another had flipped over and the boat was turtled on the ground with the mast, broken in several places, right beside it. We rechecked our boats and went back to sleep knowing 2 people would not be happy campers the next day. Saturday dawned bright and breezy---and we found out the Dave Carlson's boat had been blown over---no damage---but Randy Smythe had sustained the broken mast. But, Randy's boat had suffered no other damage and someone loaned him a mast for the day.
At the skippers' meeting---Ben introduced us to the PRO who runs the local sailing center. He introduced us the great young people who had given up their weekend to man the 4 chase boats that the sailing club provided. These young folks were great chase boat people. The wind freshened-( 15 to 18)-and several of us needed help as some capsized and some had broken boats. The teens were right there to help us out and even followed us to the beach for our own safety. What a great group of young people.
Sailing was fast and furious. Ben Moon won 2 races; Woody Cope won one and Robbie Daniel won the other of the 4 races that were sailed that day. Boats were fast and furious rounding the course with wind speeds topping 16 knots at times and wind shifts of 50 degrees. Ben Moon was the most consistent with two first place finishes and two second place finishes.
At the end of the day, we retired to the beach---tired and hungry. Our hosts, Ben Hall, Nan Hall and Carol Webbon and others had prepared a fabulous feast. Two large tenderloins of beef were cooked on the grill and then 2 wonderful fish dishes were available on the food line with fresh salads and great vegetables. We all stuffed our faces and tossed around those various sea stories that are so rampant after a day of catamaran racing. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, dessert appeared. Homemade cupcakes and special ice cream that is prepared right on Pine Island---I can attest to the Red Velvet Cupcakes and the ice cream being truly outstanding.
During the evening---the wind seemed to increase, but we had all learned our lesson from Randy's misfortune and all cats were properly tied down---thus no more damage.
Sunday brought BIG winds and most of us stood around waiting to see if the regatta committee would call us off the beach. Some, myself included, had decided that since we weren't in the running---that going out on Sunday would be fruitless---so we had already started to pack up when the race was cancelled for the day.
Unfortunately, some packed up and left---BIG MISTAKE---as more really great food was spread out on Ben's roomy screened porch. At first, some really good sandwiches appeared then the ribs came out-(yum,yum) and the spicy chicken wings and more snack foods, candy bars, and then out came the cupcakes again....WOW!!!!
Trophy presentation found Ben Moon, representing Division 3, passing out a watch to Ben Hall for hosting a great regatta, flowers and wine to Nan Hall and Carol Webbon for preparing the food and hosting also---and another watch to our PRO for running a great set of races.
Congrats to Ben Moon for 1st, Woody Cope for 2nd, Randy Smythe for 3rd, Ben Hall for 4th and Brett Moss for 5th. Ben Hall had one of his guys at the spar shop create the unusually great trophies that not only had the place on the trophy but the winner's name. A trophy was also handed out to Cheryl Johnson for being top finishing women's sailor.
The Admiral's Cup trophy was presented to Ben Moon---this was also specially created by Hall Spars. Ben Hall awarded the trophy to Ben Moon with the caveat that he return next year and bring the trophy back and defend it. And finally---THANKS TO BEN AND NAN HALL. WHAT A GREAT EVENT---IT IS A MUST ATTEND!!!!
And let me conclude with this thought, that if you didn't attend this regatta---right now---dig out your 2010 calendar---contact Ben Hall for the dates for next Admiral's Cup Regatta and write the date down NOW!!!!
Thanks also to Robert Lee---those are his photos you are clicking on (Link to Robert's Photos). Check the USACA website for all of his photos and the video.