Picture this…you’re in the middle of the most incredible dream, sailing under a clear blue sky on the gorgeous Columbia River and SNAP, you awaken to a pitchpole. 2017 Weta Nationals at Cascade Locks, Oregon, July 28-30 was like no other we’ve experienced before. Sustained winds were 20-24 knots with a top recorded gust of 40. This combined with shiftiness as wind funneled over the mountains on each side of the river made for some extremely exciting conditions.
As the racing began, the sailors needed to wear nose plugs as the waves broke over the tramp and in their face for a fresh water sinus wash. At times, sailors couldn’t see or breathe with the crash of the water and spray in their faces. Yet, they kept coming back for more. Over half the fleet had either capsized or pitchpoled and were able to right their Weta without any assistance. What a great testimony to the sturdiness and design of this boat! While other fleets were breaking their masts, sails and many other parts, the Weta Trimarans held their own.
As a family friendly venue, with a great view of racing, fresh seafood, craft beer and many other activities to do including scenic hikes, most of the Weta fleet had more than ample shore crew. Group housing was coordinated and many of the sailors took advantage of this. With the gorgeous view and cool summer temperatures out west, sitting outside socializing well into the evening was an added bonus. On Friday, the day was rounded out with a Weta fleet dinner for sailors and their families on the Cascade Locks Ale House patio. As the day was discussed and the group mingled, excitement filled the air.
Throughout this event, not knowing what the Gorge would deliver, butterflies abounded even with the most seasoned sailors. The only major exception was local 12 year old Laser sailor, Emily Sullenger who was able to hop a ride for two days. She said, “I didn’t want to come off the water. If you haven’t sailed the Weta, get on it. What a fun boat!” Next up, a seasoned professional sailor and sail maker who was racing a Viper went out for a test sail. Upon coming back to shore, he couldn’t stop talking to his fleet about how “rad” the Weta is…Another raving Weta fan!
Our final day of racing gave the fleet a slight reprieve, starting a little lighter around 14kts and building to 20. In order to maximize race management resources, five fleets raced on the same course, Weta Trimarans, Vipers, 505’s, Lasers and Fireballs. The entire Weta fleet was out on the course even if they were doubled up instead, to sail the course and not be scored. After arriving back on shore, several sailors sprawled like a snow angel on the hill spent from adrenaline and excitement.
The overall consensus was “What a great experience! This was one not to miss!” Everyone ended the weekend as a better sailor in many ways, by facing their fears and improving their sailing ability.
Congratulations to our 2018 Weta National Champion, “Mr. Hot n’ Now, Donutz” Jonathan Weston. Rounding out the single handed fleet was Gordon Lyon in second and Marc Simmel in third. Our double handed division was led by Gorge locals, Roland Schulz and Torin Lee of West Coast Sailing. Bob Hodges and his wife, Elise Read shored up second only two points behind, while Stephanie “Stephalicious” Taylor partnered with California sailor, Tim Corcoran to bring home third.
Thank you to the Columbia Gorge Racing Association for hosting this event. A special shout out to our local dealer, George Yioulos and his crew at West Coast Sailing for providing charter boats, parts, Weta swag and a raffle of their store gift cards.
Next up, 2018 Weta Nationals will be sailed the October weekend of Buzzelli Multihull Rendezvous at Sarasota Sailing Squadron. Mark your calendars now!
**Photos by Dick Hitchcock, Christophe Allie, and Stephanie Taylor