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Sailors and Spectators ‘Go for Gold’ in Regatta By Pam Miller

The Venice Women’s Sailing Squadron kicked off the Florida Women’s Sailing Association (FWSA) yearlong celebration of their 50th anniversary by hosting a Fun, Sun, and Sail-a-Brate interclub regatta in late October on Roberts Bay featuring Sunfish sailboats. A picture-perfect day with challenging winds provided excitement for those observing from the spectator boats and work for those manning the safety boats.

Competitors from the Sarasota Luffing Lassies, Dunedin Windlasses and Davis Island Dinghy Dames, along with the Venice Bitter Ends, rounded out a field of eleven sailors. During the rigging process, winds were moderate, and sailors were confident a good day of racing was ahead of them. By the 9:30 a.m. Competitor’s Meeting, the flag at Higel Park was flapping and the sailors knew they were going to be in for gusts, along with heavier winds.

Winds were out of the northeast which allowed the Race Committee of Kim Whiteman, Miriam Staveley, Jennifer Ikeda, and Principal Race Officer (PRO) Ann Carroll to set a long Modified Olympic course. While the racecourse was being set, the sailors launching from the Higel Park ramp had to work hard by continuously tacking to get out of the narrow area between the Venice Yacht Club boats and the Higel dock.

The winds during the first two races were in the 12-14 mph range with higher gusts. The racers quickly learned to pay close attention to the gusts as the sailors needed to hike out of the boats to keep them upright and flat for speed. During the first race, sailor Chris Kelly from Dunedin capsized while doing a penalty turn, and the time required to right her boat resulted in her dropping out of the race with a Did Not Finish score. This was unfortunate as Ms. Kelly finished 2nd and 1st in the next two races but her DNF put her out of the running to place in the top three.

By the third race, wind speed increased to the 15-18 mph range and the gusts were in the low 20 range. In between the races, many of the sailors adjusted the gooseneck setting on the lower spar to allow for the heavier winds. During the first leg of the last race, Lynne Randall from Davis Island experienced a capsize when her hiking strap broke. This was unfortunate for Lynne since going into the last race her score had her in second place.

The wind continued to build as the sailors lined up for the fourth race of the morning. PRO Ann Carroll decided to take another wind reading. After getting readings in the 28-mph range, a decision was made to announce racing was completed. Heading back to shore, all the sailors were glad another race hadn’t started since white caps started to appear on the water and the gusts were more frequent. Sailor Marge Whiteman from Venice commented that she felt like she was surfing back to the Higel ramp.

Getting back into the Higel ramp proved to be more of a challenge than getting out due to the increased winds. Since the wind was out of the east and directly behind the sail, sailors could only approach the dock one at a time and once close had to do a 180 degree turn while sailors from the Bitter Ends caught their boat and loaded it onto a dolly to pull out of the water. This process required other sailors to do circles in the small space by the Higel ramp.

As rookie sailor Jennifer Walker from Sarasota passed the mooring field in Roberts Bay, she capsized, and her boat became turtled. The safety boat manned by Ed and Tina Haase quickly came to her rescue. After multiple attempts to right the boat, Bitter Ends sailor Ms. Haase jumped in the water to assist Ms. Walker in righting the boat.

Shortly after this capsize, sailor Marge Whiteman from Venice capsized a short distance away from the Higel ramp. She said she was calmly sitting in the Higel area watching another sailor go in and “bam, out of nowhere, a gust took me over and into the water”. Ms. Whiteman had a huge thank you for the safety boat crew of Tom Schriewer and Tom Leonard for assisting in her rescue. Her boats upper spar was stuck in the mud so all Ms. Whiteman could do was pivot the boat in a circle and no amount of force was budging the boat into an upright position.

Safety boat Captain Tom Schriewer exhibited perfect boating skills and maneuvered close to Ms. Whiteman’s boat, aptly named Wild Thing, so crew Tom Leonard could loosen the spar from the mud. Once the safety boat had the spar free, they left to assist with the other capsize rescue still in progress. Ms. Whiteman was able to right her boat, but it went right back over. This time her boat had drifted close enough to the dock that she could swim with the boat and keep it clear of the Venice Yacht Club big boats. Once in shallow water, Ms. Whiteman was able to flip Wild Thing upright, and was glad to hand off the boat to the land crew of Sandy Vaughan and Cathy Hill who ably took the boat out of the water.

Once all the sailors were safely back on land, the real fun began. To help celebrate the FWSA’s 50th Anniversary, a costume contest was held with the theme of “Anything GOLD Goes”. The sailors, spectators and volunteers went out of their way using gold lettering and material to create fun and entertaining costumes. Golden hats and shoes were the order of the day.

Prior to the costume parade, a delicious luncheon, catered by Croissant & Co., was held at the Higel Park Pavilion. Interclub chair, Mary Littel, outdid herself with decorating white tablecloths with sailboats surrounded by gold ribbon and confetti.

The winning sailors and costume winners were thrilled with the beautiful, quilted bags and clutches made by Bitter Ends sailor Jill Joos. Her bags have become coveted awards within the FWSA organization. At the end of the day’s luncheon, FWSA Vice President Jennifer Anderson, thanked the Bitter Ends for kicking off the interclub schedule for the 50th year anniversary with a bang.

The Florida Women’s Sailing Association was founded in 1973 and the Bitter Ends, along with nine other member clubs, compete in Sunfish, Optis, Club 420’s and Ideal 18’s racing once a week at their respective clubs.

The Bitter Ends sail out of Higel Park and the facilities of the Venice Youth Boating Association at Venice Yacht Club. They race on Wednesday mornings September through May. Membership is open to the public for women who have experience in sailing. Information about club requirements can be found at

Regatta Race Results:

  • Lisa Earhart, 1st, Luffing Lassies of Sarasota;

  • Susan St. John, 2nd, Luffing Lassies of Sarasota;

  • Jill Joos, 3rd, Bitter Ends of Venice;

  • Yvonne Watson, Rookie, Bitter Ends of Venice.

Costume Winners:

  • The Golden Girls of Marge Whiteman, Jill Joos, Lisa Meacock and Jane Gallagher, 1st, Bitter Ends of Venice;

  • Golden Disco Queen Rosemary McMullen, 2nd, Luffing Lassies of Sarasota;

  • Gold Olympian Pam Miller, 3rd, Bitter Ends of Venice;

  • Golden Goddess Lisa Earhart, runner-up, Luffing Lassies of Sarasota.

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