Fleet 204 from Syracuse, NY has a long reputation for running large and fun regattas on their local lake. In 1976, they started the “Madcatter” regatta and had 14 attendees. Some years later they added a preceding event – a tune up event called the “Madhatter”. Get that? It’s a crazy Alice in Wonderland theme but the name has stuck. The Madcatter also has a reputation for sometimes being chilly but the reality is that it’s usually well attended and a fun party and attendees come from long distances to attend every year. OK sometimes it’s cold, more about the torpedo heaters later.
2016 was the 40th anniversary of the Madcatter and the fleet set a goal of having 100 boats for the 40th anniversary. They ended up with 108. How did they do this? Lots work by a tight-net group of volunteers that pulled together and made it happen. Web, social media, and e-mail pings to all past attendees. A reputation for food, a beer truck and a social atmosphere. At the Madcatter, you can win the party, “based on mostly scientific evidence and the un-biased opinions of people who knew”.
Fleet 204 is also very fortunate to have a close relationship with their local Hobie Cat dealer, Boat Works Ltd. and this clearly pays off for everyone. The dealer is not just a sponsor but a sailor and a participant in every phase of the regatta process. The dealer is a fleet member. The dealer is known to be on-site, ready to make repairs and offer new gear for those who are under-prepared or are ready to improve their rig. Boat Works set up a full dealer store – from side stays to gloves to dry tops to wet suits to charter boats – for the event or casual sailor. Demo products were available for everyone to try. The new Hobie Eclipse – a pedal-driven stand-up paddle board – got a lot of attention. Sailors were stripping down to aerobic attire to pedal the Eclipse across the lake. There was a line. This is really a perfect example of how a dealer and a local fleet can work together in a symbiotic relationship.
Torpedo heaters. If it’s really cold, for years, there was only one (1) in the men’s dressing room. As of 2012, the ladies now have their own heater, but you get the picture.
This year’s Madcatter Sat/Sun was mostly a light wind event. Traditionally, there was a Friday distance race. It has always been sailed. This year most sailors were on a shorter course due to light wind. A reward was concocted and awarded for being “204-ish” to a pair of new sailors who sailed around a prior year’s course that didn’t technically exist this year but was an admirable accomplishment to complete (aka “um, where are you going” and “long”).
Traditional buoy racing was held Saturday and Sunday and three races were completed for the 108 boats. During the wind postponement on Saturday an impromptu rules seminar was held on the beach with sailors wearing cardboard boat suits as the models. There were 11 F18’s, 8 H14’s, 62 H16’s, 6 H17’s, 2 H18’s, 1 Getaway, 15 Waves and 3 “Vintage” boats participating.
The wind was light, the racing was close and quite challenging. The fleets were large and full of very talented sailors. Many sailors traveled long distances to attend, participants came from Arizona, California, Kansas, Puerto Rico as well as all over the north-east. The 16A fleet was the largest with 47 teams competing and it’s fitting that the winning team was two local fleet members one of which actually attended the very first Madcatter in 1976.
I look forward to coming back next year and wonder what they will do for the 50th?
By Rich McVeigh