An interview with Brian Gleason on the 2022 Charlotte Harbor Regatta

An interview with Brian Gleason on the 2022 Charlotte Harbor Regatta

by David Schmidt Feb 1 08:00 PST
February 4-6, 2022

Action at Charlotte Harbor Regatta Racecourse in the Hobie 16 class © Brian Gleason/Charlotte Harbor Regatta

Florida is home to many great winter regattas, but if you’re a One Design sailor, chances are you’ve caught wind of the Charlotte Harbor Regatta, which takes place February 4-6, 2022, on the waters off of Port Charlotte, on the southwest coast of Florida. The event is organized by Charlotte Harbor Regatta, Inc., with various events and activities taking place at Port Charlotte Beach Park, Charlotte Harbor Yacht Club, Isles Yacht Club and Charlotte Harbor Community Sailing Center.

The event, which held its inaugural race in 2009, is currently open to Weta, F18, F16, Hobie 16, A-Class Cats, 2.4mR and Harbor 20 trimarans.

I reached out to Brian Gleason, Regatta Director of the 2022 Charlotte Harbor Regatta, via email to find out more about this exciting (and gloriously hot) One Design Regatta.

Can you tell us a bit more about the Charlotte Harbor Regatta, its history and culture, and the types of teams and sailors you can expect to find here?

The Charlotte Harbor Regatta began in 2009 as a cooperative effort among area sailing and boating clubs to promote yacht racing on Charlotte Harbor.

In 2011, the organizing committee was tasked with organizing the 2012 Worlds of the International Association for Disabled Sailing (IFDS). We have raised over $75,000 in funding from businesses, individuals and government to build over 300 feet of low freeboard floating docks with crank lifts to accommodate mariners with disabilities.

The docks were then donated to the City of Punta Gorda, Charlotte County and the Charlotte Harbor Yacht Club, which operate and maintain five floating dock systems around the Peace River and Charlotte Harbor for boaters of all levels.

Subsequently, we hosted the 2013 Laser Midwinters and the 2015 F18 America’s Regatta.

2020 marked the tenth anniversary of the Charlotte Harbor Regatta.

The regatta [now] serves as a fundraiser for local youth sailing clubs, raising over $100,000 to fund grants for boats, equipment, scholarships, and more.

Over the years the regatta has included 13 classes including S2 7.9s, Sunfish, Lasers, Melges 24, 2.4mR, Flying Scots, Hobie 16s, Hobie Waves, F16s, F18s, N15, Weta trimarans, [and] Port of the 20s.

The level of sailing ranges from Olympic level to local club level sailors. Following the IFDS Worlds, the CHYC [Charlotte Harbor Yacht Club] has hosted over a dozen 2.4mR class regattas featuring international Paralympic level sailors. Many of these sailors also participate in the Charlotte Harbor Regatta, which takes place during the same period.

National champions have competed in several classes and the F16/N15 class has been a training ground for young, future Olympians and Olympic hopefuls.

Weather-wise, what conditions can sailors expect off Port Charlotte in early February? What are the best and worst weather scenarios?

Depending on the cold fronts, the weather can range from mild, low 80s with winds of 4-15 knots, to mid 40s with winds over 30 knots.

Like all sailing venues we also get the occasional windless day, but quite a bit over the years.

We had both. The first regatta we had 35 knot gusts that broke carbon fiber masts on two Melges 24s. In the mid 2010s we had a front that knocked half a dozen F18s out of the regatta and caused a suspension of racing for three classes on another circle.

Why is the regatta only open to single and two-seater monohulls and multihulls and not to large One Design classes such as the Melges 20, J/70, Melges 24, etc.? ?

The regatta is open to all One Design classes on request, with a minimum of five boats. We tend to attract classes that travel easily or have local boat numbers to support a departure. We organized up to three circles with nine courses over three days.

Do you think local knowledge plays a big or small role in the outcome of the regatta? Can you please explain?

Despite its name, the Charlotte Harbor Regatta technically takes place on a wide, tidal stretch of the Peace River, just before it empties into Charlotte Harbor about a mile to the west. Due to the tides, the windward and leeward legs can see dramatic changes in currents even during a race.

A deep channel runs through the courses, but the water level drops to five or six feet in places closer to shore, where the treeline can sometimes create dead spots depending on wind direction and sea breeze fills at different times of day and in varying concentrations.

Knowing these local characteristics can make all the difference, especially on light windy days.

If you could give visiting (and local) sailors/teams one piece of advice, what would it be?

Come early, learn the idiosyncrasies of the port/river, and enjoy the laid-back lifestyle of the southwest Florida coast.

Charlotte County is a small community with national hotel chains and wonderful AirBNB and VRBO hosts. Charlotte County has Gulf of Mexico beaches, miles of blue trails, and water sports rentals available for kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding, and personal watercraft.

How many sailors/teams are you expecting this year? Do you have any sailors or teams that you are considering getting on the podium? What about the dark horses that you think might turn out to be fast, once the tee shots start to sound?

We are expecting over 40 sailors in seven classes over two circles, but this could increase.

We have many returning sailors every year, so there are some familiar faces in the winner’s circle, including skippers Jeffrey Scholz and Christi van Heek in the Harbor 20 class, US Paralympian Dee Smith in the 2.4mR class and Kenneth Hilk and Greg Thomas in The Hobie. 16 class.

John O’Donnell, owner of WD Schock, maker of the Harbor 20, finished fourth in 2020. He recently bought a home in Charlotte County, joined the board of CHR and is working to bring a Harbor 20 Nationals in Charlotte Harbor from 2023. .

Obviously, organizing and running a big regatta in the midst of a still ongoing pandemic is not easy. Can you tell us about the main logistical and organizational hurdles you had to overcome to make this happen?

The main challenges we have encountered during the pandemic have been low registration numbers and fewer race committee volunteers. We have canceled the 2021 Regatta due to these factors and they remain challenges as we prepare for the 2022 Charlotte Harbor Regatta.

We are taking all necessary precautions, including reducing the number of social events to one dinner on Saturday and an outdoor barbecue awards lunch on Sunday.

Is there anything else you would like to add, for the record?

Charlotte Harbor Regatta would like to thank Charlotte County, co-sponsor of the regatta, for supporting yacht racing in Charlotte Harbour. The county recently built a $750,000 sailing center at Port Charlotte Beach Park, the site of the regatta office, multihull launch site and social events. The center is leased to the Charlotte Harbor Community Sailing Center, whose president, [a] former Sunfish National Champion and winner of the 2018 US Sailing Community Sailing Award, is a founding director of CHR and a competitive racer in the 2.4mR class, of which he is past president.

I would like to thank other sponsors, including WD Schock, manufacturer of the Harbor 20, and the Punta Gorda/Englewood Visitor and Convention Bureau and the dozens of volunteers who form the backbone of the race committee and spend much of the rest of the year sail local club races to keep yacht racing alive year-round on Charlotte Harbor.

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