The 22nd Hobie 16 World Championship held on Captiva Island in Florida, USA was a regatta at which 60 completely, new Hobie 16 catamarans, were built in Australia, and shipped to Florida. They were provided by the Hobie Cat Company for the use of competitors in the championship. Around 500 competitors from 25 countries, across six continents, competed in the regatta. Following each session, the fleet would return to shore and teams would switch to a different boat for the next session.
The first series which was contested by a 54-boat fleet with skippers aged 45 years or older, and crews. The series was dominated by Australians with seven teams from the country, two teams from the USA and one from Germany making up the top ten.
The twelve-race series was contested over four days, in varying wind conditions from 5 -20 knots with heavier breezes in the morning and winds tapering off into the afternoon. The series was won by Rod and Kerry Waterhouse from Sydney, Australia, the team finished with a 2nd and a 5th, on the final day. Six points behind the Waterhouses was the American team of Mark and Grace Modderman. They had finished outside of the top ten places in just one of the twelve races. Taking third place was another Australian team, Darren Smith and Claire Bisgood, just four points behind the Americans.
The second series to hit the water was the Great Grand Masters (65 and older), the Grand Masters (55 and older), the Women and Youth divisions, all on the beach at the same time. It was a three- day series which began on November 6 and went through to the November 8. The Grand Masters (GM) and Youth (Y) divisions went out on the water together, for two back to back races, each division with its own start. They then returned to shore with the Great Grand Masters (GGM) and Women (W) taking the boats back out, to the signals boat, to compete at the same time, but also with separate starts.
Racing started promptly at 9:00 AM for the first session (Y and GM) on day one. Two races were sailed in easterly winds of 8-10 knots. Unfortunately, as competitors headed to shore for a session change, with the GGM and W to head out, the wind died, and an onshore postponement was called by the race committee.
At the close of day two in the youth division, Vladimir Sola Dias and Marc Selfa (CUB) had put on an impressive performance and lead with three wins and a 5th. They were followed by Patrick Butler and Caitlyn Epps (AUS). In the GM division, Masters International Cup winners, Rod and Kerry Waterhouse (AUS) led, followed by Murray Peterson and Haylee Williams (AUS). In the GGM division, Phil Sanchez and Susan Sattler- Augustin (USA) lead the field, followed by Mike Montague and Kathy Ward (USA). The Womens division was headed by, Caterina Degli Uberti and Giulia Ancillotti (ITA), followed by Kat Porter and Sarah Isaak (USA).
On the final day of the series, there was an onshore postponement, while the race committee waited for the wind to fill in. Just two races were completed on the final day. The GGM and W divisions were the only divisions to compete in the final two races. When racing did get underway a light seven knots of wind blew in from the north- north west. The GGM division, was a battle of UFDs, with several of the leaders were scoring UFD. Mike Montague and Kathy Ward (USA) won this division followed by Wally Myers and Diane Bisesi (USA).
In the Womens division, Pamela Noriega Negrete and Katia Real Lopez (MEX) won both races on the final day but Annie Gardner and Sarah Kraft (USA) continued with consistent performances and held onto the lead they had established the day before and took out the win. In the Youth division, Vladimir Sola Dias and Marc Selfa (CUB) held onto the lead followed by Patrick Butler and Caitlyn Epps (AUS).
The GM division was dominated by the Australians, Rod and Kerry Waterhouse (AUS) finished first to win their second title of the championships. They were followed by Murray Peterson and Halyee Williams (AUS).
Next up was a two-day Open Qualifying Series from which a limited number of places into the Open World Championships are allocated. There were two ways to qualify for the Open World Championship: sailors either earn a pre-qualified slot from their home country, generally through a national championship; or by entering the on- location Open Qualifier Series. The Open Qualifier is two days of racing, following the conclusion of qualifying races a limited portion of teams advance into the Open World Championships.
43 boats competed in the Qualifying Series. The first day got underway following a one and a half hour, onshore postponement to allow a squall of heavy rain and 35 knot winds to pass. Once the inclement weather cleared racing started in 20 knots of wind from the NE.
The first two races were sailed in the 20-knot breeze but during the session change over, the wind moderated to 12-16 knots for the remainder of the day, and five races were completed in spectacular conditions. Most races were started under the U flag however, the fleet got a bit anxious in the final race of the day prompting an appearance of the black flag. After day one of racing, Yamil Saba and Gonzalo Cendra (VEN) lead, followed by Andrew Keag and Helen Warneke (AUS) in second, and Emilio Vales and Joaquin Ruiz (MEX) in third.
At the completion of racing on November 10 (the second day of the qualifiers) ten races had been completed in the series, in perfect, flat water yet breezy conditions ranging from 12-20 knots. Yamil Saba and Gonzalo Cendra (VEN) won the qualifying series followed by Emilio Vales and Joaquin Ruiz (MEX) and Andrew Keag and Helen Warneke (AUS). A total of 30 teams advanced from the series into the Open World Championships, which began with 96 teams competing for the world title.
The next four days were set aside as the semi- final round, where the 96 qualified teams rotated through the available boats. After four days of competition the fleet were to be cut to 56 for the two-day finals.
The next day, November 11, the semi-finals commenced. Three races were completed in winds that started at 10 knots but slowly faded through the day to 6. Once racing got underway, oscillating shifts challenged sailors as they tried to pick the favoured sides of the course in the difficult conditions. Following the third race, the wind dropped completely prompting an early end to the day. Over the three races numerous teams added starting penalties to their score cards from UFD and BFD infringements. Some teams had raced in one race while others had sailed two, so current positions in the semi were unclear at the close of the day.
Early on day two the wind looked promising but quickly faded to less than 4 knots. The race committee made a valiant effort to find wind, but it wasnt to be. The light breeze shifted direction all day and stayed below 4 knots. Ultimately the race committee flew AP over A cancelling racing for the day.
Excited sailors woke to windy conditions on day 3. The first race was contested out in 20-26 knots with a very unpredictable, bumpy sea. The tide was running against the wind which created a confused sea state with waves moving across the course at an odd angle. Rather than surfing waves downwind it was possible to surf waves upwind. The occasional breaking rouge wave kept all teams on alert and capsizes were common on all legs.
Following the first race, the winds moderated to 17-20 knots, and the waves got a little friendlier. A total of three races were completed on the day with a boat rotation after each race. A large shore break kept the beach crews working hard as boats came in and exited the beach at each boat exchange. At this point in the series all sailors had completed three races each. Nicolaj Bjornholt and Michele Jensen (DEN) lead the semi-final, followed by Gav Colby and Worst News (AUS) and Yamil Saba and Gonzalo Cendra (VEN).
The final day of the semis saw four races completed in double trapeze conditions. Shifts and puffs on the course provided plenty of passing lanes and there were numerous lead changes in each race. The wind speeds, combined with the flat water, kept the fleet in a tight group in each race. Mark rounding were particularly congested, as was the traffic on the course, and keeping clear lanes and managing the traffic was the strategy for success. After a great final day of sailing in the semi-finals, a cut party was held that night where the fleet was reduced to 56 teams for the final two days of the regatta. After four days of competition Cam Owen and Susan Ghent (AUS) led the series, followed by Nicolaj Bjornholt and Michele Jensen (DEN), and Gav Colby and Worst News (AUS).
Wet and wild weather greeted the first day of the world championship finals. Early morning storms had generated a very large and confused sea, the wind was up and down, but mostly, blew from 14 to 20 knots. The wind wasnt the issue though, the sea was. Sailing conditions were incredibly, challenging, the waves were large and moving at an angle to the wind. Upwind boats slammed into waves and crews were constantly drenched. Downwind the waves provided some fun surfing on port tack, but starboard downwind was a real slog. Six races were completed with three boat swaps during the day. The leader board shuffled several times and going into the final day, the top four teams all looked to be contenders. Any of them could win the world championship. At the close of the penultimate day Yamil Saba and Gonzalo Cendra (VEN) lead by a small margin from, Nicolaj Bjornholt and Michele Jensen (DEN), and slightly further back was Gav Colby and Worst News (AUS).
The Hobie 16 Open World Championship was set to conclude with one of the tightest finishes in any of the twenty-two, Hobie 16 Worlds ever contested. Any of the top three could win, it was that close. Unfortunately, against their wishes, in the interests of safety for both sailors and team members, the race committee made the correct decision to postpone racing in the morning. They held the fleet on shore while the Race Officer and his team monitored the situation hoping conditions would moderate. But the wind held in the 25-30 knot range all day, with an incredibly large sea that had to be seen to be believed. At 2:00 PM the race committee hoisted the N over A flag, signalling the day had been abandoned, and disappointingly, the event had ended.
After 16 days of sailing, and seven series, just two days were ultimately lost due to weather (one with no wind and one with too much). Captiva Island, Florida had delivered a full mix of conditions in a beautiful tropical venue.
Congratulations to Yamil Saba and Gonzalo Cendra from Venezuela, the 2019 Hobie 16 World Champions. Nicolaj Bjornholt and Michele Jensen from Denmark for finishing in second place and Gav Colby and Worst News from Australia with a magnificent effort rounding out the top three.