March 13-14, 2010
by Joe Walter

I got to the lake early, around 0730, to set up for the 2010 Champions Regatta. The weather was cool and the winds were already building with clear skies. It looked like it would be a beautiful day for racing. Defending champ and local helper, Reichard Kahle called around 0830 to let me know he was on his way with the marks, chase boat, and other supplies. The rest of the skippers began to stake out a spot on the water-soaked lawn and rig their boats with B-rigs.

Frank and Linda Angel set up their scoring table halfway up the shore where the finish line would be. We just needed the marks and a chase boat. That's when the call came from Reichard. "Joe, we have been in a crash." he said. Seems a nice lady in front of him and Danny Thomas, who was riding with him, slammed on her breaks to avoid hitting a squirrel and CRASH! Thankfully, Danny and Reichard were unhurt. However, their boats were heavily damaged in the back of the van.

Danny wasted no time as he got his toolbox out and began making repairs to his boat in the ditch along the road. A 6-inch gash ripped the deck along the Port gunwale. More cracks and holes scarred the Starboard side. CA and clear packing tape did the trick and now Danny only needed to be rescued and taken to the lake. Reichard looked to be out of the regatta at this point.

I sent two of my race staff, Jim Donohoe and Bill Coates, to meet up with them and bring back the gear and Danny. Then I called for a Red Flag postponement. Nobody complained. After all, this is the Champions Regatta and it would not be the same without these two champs.

By 0900, the guys arrived with the gear and everyone pitched in to get us back on track. By 0930, we were ready for the skippers meeting. The course was a long windward/leeward with offset marks. The start was in the NE corner of the lake. The wind was blowing stead from the SW at 10-12 knots with gusts to 16. It was still early and expected to build throughout the day. There would be two very long laps of the course, with the finish halfway up the final third windward leg.

Just before starting the first heat, I got a call from Reichard. He was done with the wreck and was heading home to get his other boat, but he would still be late. Tony Rieck got off to a great start with back-to-back bullets in the first two heats, while Danny struggling to get his damaged boat to perform finishing in 15th place. Alan Perkins could not get started after breaking a jib sheet with just 20 seconds to the bell.

David Brawner had a few uncharacteristic mishaps that resulted in some tangles and redress for a few. Despite the unforced errors, he sailed quite well, including a bullet in the third heat. Danny finally got his boat working and began to move up through the fleet with 6 straight top 4 finishes, including bullets in the 9th and 11th heats. Perkins also recovered from his slow start and put together a steady streak of top 5 finishes. Other notable skippers were Dave Ramos, Chris Kakavas, and Baron Bremer. Rieck dominated the lake until Reichard finally made it to start the 4th heat. There would be 5 lead changes by the end of the day.

By the end of the day, six skippers had scored 2 bullets each out of 14 heats. They were Reick, Bremer, Thomas, Kakavas, Ramos, and yes, Reichard "SQUIRREL" Kahle. Perkins and Brawner scored the other bullets.

Oh, speaking of the end of the day, by heat 12 there had been 6 or 7 dismastings, several holes in hulls and decks, three torn sails, one snapped-in-half jib boom, and two drop-outs. So with the wind now blowing 18 with gusts to 25 knots, I thought it best to call it off. Well, you should have heard the screaming. Nobody wanted to quit. Still, I was going to hold my ground and end racing for the day, until Jake Leo said to me, "I drove 900 miles to race." So back in the water we went for two more heats and more damage.

Before throw-outs, Baron Bremer had a 1.2 point lead over Danny Thomas with Perkins, Kakavas and John Bottensek in 3rd thru 5th spots. With 14 long heats in the books, we packed up for the day and got ready for dinner at Gilligan's Seafood. The private room allowed for great food, conversation and fun. The bowls of hushpuppies place around the tables soon became ammo for a friendly food fight between the Yankees and the Dixie boys. The Florida skippers would never act so childishly. We just traded our hushpuppy ammo to Dixie.

Sunday came an hour earlier thanks to Day Light Savings. It was colder as well and the wind was blowing just as hard as the day before. I was not going to stop racing even if it blew 50. If they didn't care about wrecking their boats, neither did I. Sailing began at 0930 on the same course, but with a slight right slant to the line. The top mark moved out about 15 yards to compensate for the right shift in the wind.

Reichard, who finished Saturday in 6th place despite missing the first three heats of the day, put his stamp on the regatta with three bullets in a row. By heat 18, he had moved into 3rd place and was looking to put his name on the Sir Francis of Graham trophy for the 7th time in 8 tries. Unfortunately, the wheels came off when he broke a jib sheet and he scored last place.

Meanwhile, Thomas had had enough playing around with 3rds, 4ths and 5ths and posted four bullets in the last five heats, including three in a row. There simply was no catching Danny now. That did not take away from the great battle for the remaining trophy spots between Bremer, Perkins, Ramos and Kahle. Just 4 points would separate them in the end with Perkins taking home 2nd and Ramos edging out Bremer by just 0.6 points and Kahle getting 5th.

Just about every skipper suffered some kind of damage, while others were down to their last suit of sails. Four skippers would not finish. They were David Brawner (two destroyed rigs and a hole in his deck), Chris Kakavas (broken bow block), Scott Vernon (multiple breakages), and current World Champ, Rick Gerry (severe back pain hampered him from walking the shore any longer).

Despite the harsh conditions, the skippers sailed as cleanly as possible, when they had control of their boats that is. I want to thank all of these great champions for their skill, stamina, patience and sportsmanship. I also want to thank my race staff and volunteers, Frank and Linda Angel, Jim Donohoe, Bill Coates and Jerry Fernald. And a big thanks to Reichard for planning the dinner, ordering the lunch and ALMOST getting the gear to the lake on time.

As for the squirrel, he survived; but Reichard vows to take his revenge on him and his whole family.


Pos Name Sail # Score  
1 Danny Thomas 1405 88.6  
2 Alan Perkins 14 126  
3 Dave Ramos 05 128.4  
4 Baron Bremer 81 129  
5 Reichard Kahle 67 130  
6 Tony Rieck 82 134  
7 John Bottensek 11 164  
8 Jake Leo 10 172  
9 Robert Greer 52 175  
10 Bob Dudinsky 95 182  
11 Mark Rinehart 66 202  
12 Chris Kakavas 36 230 Broke down after heat 15
13 Jerry Cobley 25 248.6  
14 Al Sellers 60 264  
15 Scott Vernon 80 289 Broke down after heat 15
16 David Brawner 53 306.4 Broke down after heat 12
17 Rick Gerry 63 358 Stop sailing after heat 5

Doc Greer posted photos here.

Frank Angel posted a few more here.

When I get time, I'll have some more photos from Dee Dudinsky.