The 2023 Hobie 18 and Hobie 17 North American Championship was held from 31st July to 4th August at Lake Quinault in the Olympic National Park about 3 hours east of Seattle in Washington state, USA.

Lake Quinault is a large freshwater lake surrounded by tall mountain ranges abundant in subalpine forest which cover 1,000,000 acres and the waterway is a great sailing location as there are no other boats on the lake. All competitors stay in the Rain Forest Resort and RV Campground and are within 100 yards of the boats and shoreline. Accomodation options include cabins, motel style rooms, studio apartments, an RV area and camp sites.

Next to the RV and campground is the World’s Largest Spruce Tree at 191 feet tall, with a 58 feet circumference and estimated to be 1,000 years old.

The Olympic National Park and nearby townships of Forks, La Push and Port Angeles are famous for being the locations of the Twilight book series written by Stephenie Meyer about vampires and werewolves.

Each day during the regatta the mountains were covered in mist in the early morning which burnt off by about 11am and the mountains heated up and sucked in an idyllic thermal breeze each afternoon allowing four races to be comfortably sailed each day.

In the Hobie 18 fleet there were 25 entries from 3 countries (USA, Canada, Australia). This was the largest Hobie 18 fleet in the last 20 years. 18 teams were mixed crews (male/female) and one female skipper (Brishen Holmes-Slattery – 20th overall). Two crew members were 14 years old.

Zoe Freer 4th overall and Elianna Sutcliffe 7th overall. Notable entrant in the Hobie 18 fleet was three time Olympian and seven times catamaran world champion John Forbes from Australia sailing with his wife Caroline Forbes. John normally sails with his daughter Bronte but unfortunately Bronte couldn’t make it to this regatta so Caroline stepped in to sail a regatta for the first time in their 37 year relationship.

15 races were held over four days with only one drop race. Interestingly, if there had been two drop races the top 12 places would not have changed.

The new licensed Hobie Cat manufacturer Starting Line Sailing made available again new sails for the Hobie 18 class and were kind enough to release a new colour combination just for this North American Championship called Quinault Sunset which many teams took the opportunity to purchase just prior to the event.

John & Caroline Forbes sporting their koala caps

John & Caroline Forbes won eight out of the fifteen races but it could have been more had John not hit the first mark of Race 1 whilst leading the fleet and lost 10 places whilst doing the 360 degree penalty. No other team dominated like the Forbes’ with four different heat winners in the other seven races.

“The wind direction was a competitors dream with oscillating shifts a breeze that increased over the remainder of the afternoon”
The first US team was husband and wife John & Della Hoag in second place overall. The first Canadian team was long time Hobie 18 sailor and regatta organiser Paul Everden & Elianna Sutcliffe in 7th place which included a heat win in Race 11.

The weather conditions at Lake Quinault during the event were a catamaran sailors dream. No wind in the morning with low fog and mist on the mountains until the mountains warm up and the breeze kicks in at about 1pm. The wind direction was a competitor’s dream with oscillating shifts and the wind strength increasing over the remainder of the afternoon. This allowed the Race Committee to hold four races each day of about 45 minutes per race. Each day the winds ranged from 6 knots up to 16 knots by the end of the day offering competitors a variety of conditions so it was not all the same from one day to the next.

John & Caroline’s dominance in the Hobie 18 fleet came from their superior upwind speed and height which no other team could match. The Forbes’ and training partners Richard & Zoe Freer started nearly every race at the pin end even if it wasn’t the favoured end. This was to avoid any trouble at the often crowded boat end of the start line where many teams gathered as they tended to want to get to the right side of the course. However Forbes and Freer often debunked the right side theory by banging the left corner to either be leading or be in the top group at the top mark in almost every race.

In the Hobie 17 fleet there were 13 entries all from the USA including one female skipper. The H17 North Americans was won by Phil Collins (not the drummer!) who has previously won thirteen Hobie 17 National Championships. Last year’s US national champion Bart Beck placed 3rd in this year’s event.

The Hobie 17 now uses both original Hobie brand sails and the new style Class Association approved sails. Approximately half the fleet used original sails and half used the new sails with no noticeable difference between the two types, which makes sense as the new sails are made from the original Hobie computer file and produced at Class Association approved sail lofts.

The dates for next year’s US Nationals or North Americans event will be published in the months ahead.

by John Forbes