Sarasota Sailing Squadron, Sarasota, FL

The 2015-16 Sarasota Viper Winter Series kicked off on Friday December 11 with 15 of the 24 registered teams attending a full day clinic, hosted by North Sail’s Zeke Horowitz. Zeke took the teams through all aspects of rigging, tuning and tweaking the setup on a Viper. After a group lunch, the teams took to the water for some drills and practice races with Zeke coaching and filming from a RIB. The wind was sub ten knots, so the teams worked on light wind speed and crew work. Once back ashore, Zeke had a sit down video debrief and Q&A session using footage from on the water to help solidify the core concepts of trim and boat handling.

Day one of the Winter Series started with sunny skies, 80-degree weather and 8-10 knots of breeze from the east, with plenty of shifts to see teams go from zero to hero and back again. After one abandoned start, Danny Pletsch and crew took the first bullet in a race that saw teams able to work both sides of the course as the breeze settled in. The remaining three races of the day saw the breeze peaking in the low teens with some full hiking moments, and a few quick rides downhill. Zeke Horowitz picked up wins in the second and third race and Danny Pletsch took the final race to end the day in the lead with seven points, with Horowitz having nine points and Peter Beardsley with ten points. The balance of the fleet had some great racing with lots of gains and losses in the up and down breeze.

Sarasota Sailng Squadron Winter Viper Series - Venue Drone Shot

Drone’s-eye view of Sarasota Sailing Squadron with Vipers galore.

Sarasota Sailng Squadron Winter Viper Series - Drone Shot

Sailing in the warm waters off Sarasota

The close of day one saw the 75+ competitors gather for a great meal and drinks along the north seawall of the Sarasota Sailing Squadron. A beautiful Florida winter sunset gave way to the annual Sarasota Holiday Boat Parade of Lights as the keg was lightened and stories of the day were told. As is tradition in the Viper Class, those at the top of the leaderboard gave a debrief and took questions from all the crews on what they saw out on the water and what they felt were the keys to going fast.

Day two got underway with a 10 a.m. start sequence with the breeze in 10-12 knot range from the northeast. Danny Pletsch came out of the blocks quick again and took race one. By the second race the breeze was on and the crews dialed on rig tension as the conditions turned to “max fun” mode with full hiking uphill and full blast planning down wind. With gusts coming up towards 20 knots and the Sarasota Bay water temps still well above 70 degrees, it was a great day to be on the water. Zeke Horowitz and crew had a stellar day, adding only seven points to their score line and, after discarding a fourth from Saturday, they took the event top honors with twelve points. Danny Pletsch was a close second at fifteen points. The top five was rounded out by Peter Beardsley, Lee Shuckerow and Henry Amthor.

Brendan Healy_Zeke Horowitz_Ian Coleman win Sarasota Viper Series 2015 #1

Brendan Healy, Zeke Horowitz, and Ian Coleman winning Sarasota Sailing Squadron’s 2015-16 Viper Winter Series #1

The second event of the three event Sarasota Viper Winter Series with be January 9-10 and currently has 28 teams registered with 30 boats on the line being a strong possibility.  The final leg of the Sarasota Series will be sailed February 6-7. Teams in the Winter Series can discard their worst 35% of scores, so missing a single event does not preclude teams from winning the overall title for those who decide late to avoid the winter blues and race with their friends in Florida.

The Sarasota Sailing Squadron’s Winter Viper Series represents the first three components of a five-event Viper Florida Winter Circuit. Sailing in Sarasota will be followed by, the EFG Winter Cup in Miami March 5-6, and the EFG Viper Pan-American Championship sailed as part of Bacardi Miami Sailing Week from March 11-13. It should be noted that Vipers from across the U.S. and Canada were in Sarasota last weekend and even more are expected in Miami in March.

Results and registration for two remaining Sarasota regattas: http://www.regattanetwork.com/event/11371

Information and registration for EFG Winter Cup: http://www.viper640.org/events/efg-winter-cup-2/

Information and registration for Bacardi Miami Race Week: http://yachtscoring.com/emenu.cfm?eID=1548