Recent circumnavigators Peter and Margie Benzinger were two of the many volunteers who helped at this year's record-breaking WesMex International Small Boat Regatta. In their case, they offered their time, and thier boat, as one of the two committee boats for the event. Here's their story:
WesMex 2017 – A Visitor’s Perspective
By Peter Benziger, Captain, S/V Peregrina
Racing sailboats is a fantastic way for young people to gain valuable life skills. As a boy growing up on Long Island Sound, 60 years ago, I learned to sail racing “Bluejays” and “Lightnings” at the Noroton Yacht Club in Connecticut.
So, it was only natural that my wife, Margie, and I jumped at the opportunity to volunteer Peregrina, our Tayana 47, as a committee boat in the 2017 WesMex Small Boat Regatta earlier this month. The event was organized by the Vallarta Yacht Club. This is the 12th year the club has hosted the event.
Over 240 boats participated – competing in five types of one-design sailboats: Optimists, Lasers,420’s, Hobie Cats and Windsurfers.
During the event, we met some fantastic kids and their supportive families and coaches. I was really impressed by the participants and began to think about some of the benefits of racing sailboats for young people.
Getting ready to race requires lots of responsibility and preparation. Every morning, the kids would be working on their boats; cleaning, checking the knots, adjusting tension, repairing damage.
Kids also learn the importance of safety. This young girl is putting some extra air in the flotation bladders which keep her boat afloat in the event she capsizes.
The kids in the WesMex regatta came from all over Mexico. It was wonderful to see them introducing themselves and making new friends. In a three day regatta, there is no time to be a wallflower. Even in the midst of serious racing, the kids had a sense of fun!
RULES AND STRATEGY
Once you know the Racing Rules, they will help you formulate a strategy. Strategy is probably the most important aspect of winning races. Sailing fast is just not enough. Variables such as wind, current, waves and tides must be factored into your game plan. Kids have to take all these items into consideration; implement a strategy and then, constantly, modify their tactics as the variables change.
One of the most challenging parts of the race is the Start. Timing is everything. Racers must quickly evaluate a number of conditions affecting their position and implement a series of tactical moves to place themselves in front of the fleet.
The kids have to watch out not to “foul” another boat, not to cross the line too early, to show restraint when needed and to anticipate how long it will take to arrive moving fast when the staring horn sounds. There is a lot of stress on the starting line and the kids must learn to manage it. Below, you see how close the Laser Class lines up at the start of their race.
We tried to get in three races each day whenever possible. Thus, the kids were in the boats 5-6 hours a day and WOW did they get tired! Below is a young competitor who finished getting his boat into the parking lot just in time before falling asleep on the stern.
WINNING & LOSING
The hardest part of sailing is learning how to win and, much more frequently, how to lose. Usually, there are only trophies for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place so the vast majority of participants go home with only the knowledge that they did better, or worse, than hoped for. But, for the winners, there were smiles and cheers all around!
And, for a select few, this regatta had international implications. At the end of the awards ceremony, a Race Committee delegate came up to the stage and called the names of five boys and girls who had qualified to participate in the 2017 Optimist World Championships in Thailand!
What an awesome future is in store for these incredible young sailors! What a fabulous experience for two “old salts” like ourselves to be a part of it all! Thanks to Vallarta Yacht Club and WesMex 2017 from Margie and Peter aboard S/V Peregrina.
We are grateful to Peter, Margie and all our volunteers for making WesMex the leading regatta in Mexico year after year.