Catamaran racing

They are unique looking vessels and those in the Carson City area will have a chance to see them up close this weekend at Washoe Lake.

The fifth annual Full Moon Regatta Catamaran Races will be held Saturday and Sunday. About 20 boats will be featured, with competitors from Northern California and the Reno-Carson City area participating in the event.

Normally, two-person teams race the double handle vessels and at Washoe that task can be challenging at times. Sometimes, it can be downright nasty.

Event organizer Alan Preissler said a broad range of competitors from those who have competed on the national level to beginners will participate.

Preissler said most of the boats competing are from Northern California. There are two new boats from Carson City with racers who have never competed before who are scheduled to participate in the event, Preissler said.

Racing will begin each day sometime late in the morning or early in the afternoon, depending on when the wind conditions are the best. The racers will navigate a triangular three-mile course in a race that should take one-half hour to 45 minutes.

Three races are scheduled for Saturday and two races are scheduled for Sunday.

There are several different ways to navigate the course, so strategy will be a major factor. "A lot of times, racing is like a chess game," Preissler.

Overall finishes will be determined by how the competitors place in their top four races.

So if the competitors fall out of contention in one race, they're still not out of contention for the entire event. With the unpredictable winds of Washoe, Preissler said all it takes is one mistake to be out of a race.

The optimum conditions for the catamarans are 10 to 20 miles an hour. "Less than that, the boats don't go very fast," Preissler said.

But when the winds really pick up, the catamarans can capsize. "It becomes a real battle just to keep the boat right side up," Preissler said. "Washoe's known for that. Boats capsize all the time."

Preissler, though, also said the catamarans are normally easy to prop right back up.

When the winds pick up, the water can become extremely choppy. When the racers have to deal with those kind of conditions, a mist can develop in which they also have to battle.

"It can get helacious out there, three or four feet of chop out there," Preissler said. "Those are the extreme conditions."

In 1997 when the race was held, competitors had to deal with those type of conditions at Washoe. Preissler said racers were being "blown off the lake" that year.

Preissler said that the safety of the competitors comes first and that there is a boat that patrols the event to make sure that everything's all right. He also said if the conditions "get really crazy," then the event could be canceled.

To hopefully create better conditions for the racers, the event has been moved back to September this year as opposed to August in past years. It's typically a little less windy at Washoe in September than it is in August.

Preissler said catamarans are an excellent way to begin for those who are interested in becoming involved in sailing.

"It's just a whole lot of fun," he said. "It's probably one of the cheapest things to race."

Charles Whisnand is the Nevada Appeal sports editor


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