An interview with Ben Wells on the 2022 Formula Wave Class Championship Regatta
by David Schmidt Nov 15 8:00 AM PST
November 17-20, 2022
Hobie Waves lined up on the beach in front of the St. Thomas Yacht Club, US Virgin Islands © St. Thomas Sailing Center
In 1994, multihull designers Gino Morrelli and Pete Melvin sketched the lines of a beach cat for the Hobie Cat Company. Their creation was dubbed the Hobie Wave, and it quickly delighted sailors of all levels, all over the world. The mainsail multihull is a simple and rewarding boat to sail, and it can accommodate up to four people. Add it up and the Wave has become popular as a fleet boat (think YCs, resorts, camps, rentals, etc.), but, when placed in the hands of skilled sailors, it’s is also an excellent multihull platform for single-handed fleet racing.
To date, over 100,000 Hobie Waves have been built.
The Formula Wave Class Association was founded in 2018 to provide One Design racing to its members. A look at the 2022 FWCA schedule reveals five different regional events in locations as varied as Yankton, South Dakota and Put-In Bay, Ohio, to Shreveport, Louisiana and Fort Walton Beach, Florida. These regionals lead into the FWC Championship Regatta (November 17-20, 2022), which is hosted by the Gulfport Yacht Club, in Gulfport, Mississippi.
I contacted Formula Wave Class Chairman Ben Wells via email to find out more about this championship-level regatta.
Can you tell us a bit more about the current state of the Formula Wave Class, its culture and levels of competition, and the types of sailors one can expect to encounter at the Championship Regatta this year ?
For those unfamiliar, the Formula Wave Class is about to enter its fifth year of existence. We took the starting point of what used to be the IWCA [international Wave Class Association] and set about building a new class, and have been “making waves” (pun intended) ever since.
Our class is made up of approximately 75 paying members, most of whom are active racers and compete in many of our regional regattas. We see the Wave as an ideal racing boat for sailors of all ages and skill levels – it’s wonderful for novice sailors, and for older sailors who may not want to deal with whatever comes their way. with larger catamarans the simplicity of the boat is quite appealing.
Our goal is to host multiple regattas each year in different regions of the United States, with the goal of building local sailors and fleets in those regions. Sailors earn points at regional regattas, and those who do well enough can earn bragging rights at the end of the season.
This year’s Championship should bring quality racing and close competition. There are a lot of good sailors who live locally in Florida, and we will have a number who will also travel from other parts of the country to try to win the crown.
Formula Wave regattas rarely, if ever, see a single sailor win every race and get away with it. The scores are almost always close until the end. With the cream of sailing for the championship, the navigation promises to be tight and fast!
What kind of entry numbers are you seeing this year? Also, are there any notable geographic concentrations in this entry list?
Starting from [interview] we have 19 registered sailors, and we expect to be around 25 when all is said and done. Since this year’s championship is in Florida, many sailors will likely live in or near Florida. We also have top sailors from other states, so as usual it will be a mix.
Weather-wise, what conditions can sailors expect off Gulfport, Florida in mid-November? What are the best and worst weather scenarios?
We are still hoping for warm sunny days with a nice constant moderate breeze, but of course we never know what will happen until we get there!
Typical weather patterns lead us to believe there should be good sailing winds and comfortable temperatures. Best case scenario is subjective – some like the air lighter and some people perform better when it gets heavy.
Personally, I would like the regatta to have a good mix of light, moderate and heavy air. This way, skill sets are tested at all levels, and the best of the best can truly rise to the top.
Worst case is light/fluky wind where sometimes being in the right place at the right time means winning a race rather than losing it. If there is no wind, that’s too bad, but at least you know and can enjoy the time on the beach with your friends!
Do you think local knowledge plays a big or small role in the outcome of the regatta? Can you please explain?
Yes and no. Local knowledge is always good, whether you’re boating on a lake or the ocean. Sailors and ocean dwellers will be more familiar with the currents, tides and wind patterns in this area, and having this knowledge and knowing how to apply it on water is important.
That said, a sloppy sailor who may have local knowledge could still end up behind another sailor who may not be as familiar with local trends, but who can learn, adapt and race without error. No blown edge, good starts and decision making also plays a major role. A sailor who can combine those two things together will be very hard to beat.
If you could give visiting (and local) sailors one piece of advice, what would it be?
Enjoy! That’s why we do this. That’s why we sail hundreds of miles every summer and invest in new sails, and all the other things sailors do that cost time and money. Yes, this is the championship regatta. Yes, we are all competitive people. But before any of us ran, we did it for fun, and running just added to the fun. At any regatta, anywhere, I think this is something all sailors should remember.
Do you have any applications you are considering for podiums? What about the dark horses that you think might turn out to be fast, once the tee shots start to sound?
I hate to speculate on questions like this, because you never know. Any number of sailors could end up doing well.
When I look at the current roster of sailors, there are five to six names I can choose from, and every day I think any one of them could win it all. As I said before, I expect the competition to be tight, if not for the last race. Wind conditions could also play a role. If we get three days of [16-knot] winds, the top five places will likely be different than if it were three days of a [5-knot] broken.
What kind of post-race/ashore entertainment can sailors expect?
We are keeping a little more low key for this event, but we will have drinks and a meal on Saturday evening provided for the sailors. The FWC management on site will be hosting a Q&A session on Friday for any sailors who would like to know more about the FWC, where we are heading and for any questions in general.
Can you tell us about the efforts you and other regatta organizers have made to try to reduce the environmental footprint of the regatta or otherwise green the regatta?
I love that you asked this question, because it is really close to my heart. As class president, I’ve tried to keep sustainability and clean boating practices in mind, and something our organization embraces.
Last year we hosted the US Sailing Multihull Championship and partnered with local organizations to make it a ‘green’ regatta. We have received a Platinum certification from Sailors for the Sea for our efforts – something we are very proud of. We learned a lot from this experience and will incorporate more of these practices into future events.
For this regatta, we encourage all sailors to limit single-use plastics and to use reusable water bottles that were given as gifts to new members several years ago (or any water bottle from their choice !). Many sailors would have received reusable crockery kits from the Multihull Championship last year, and we hope they will continue to use them as well.
Is there anything else you would like to add, for the record?
We are delighted with the direction of the class and the continued growth of our membership. We see the Wave as a viable racing catamaran for many years to come, and its popularity will only grow. If anyone would like to know more, feel free to ask questions or join us at a regatta somewhere!
I would also like to thank the Gulfport Yacht Club – this Championship Regatta would not have been possible without their partnership, and we are grateful to them for hosting us in November.