Read the Article

2016 Contender World Championship Regatta

What: Sailing race showcasing 34 Contender boats, a single-handed dinghy

When: Monday-Friday, noon

Where: Racing area will be located within three miles of Walton Lighthouse, located at the entrance of the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor

Best viewing: At the end of the Santa Cruz Wharf

Santa Cruz >> Although he sails off the coast of Santa Cruz a couple times a year, and has called the Santa Cruz Yacht Club home since 1990, Gil Woolley said there will be no “home-court advantage” when he competes in the 2016 Contender World Championship Regatta beginning Monday.

The 78-year-old resident of Palo Alto references his age as being one factor. This week’s regatta also features three former world champions — including last year’s winner, Simon Mussell of Great Britain — contributing to what was already considered a first-class field.

Still, Woolley is excited to compete and show off his home club to skippers from Denmark, Italy, Australia, Germany and the Netherlands, as well as the United States. Hosted by the SCYC for the first time since 1986, the Contender World Championship Regatta will showcase 34 boats in a series of races over five days.

“They’re very strong sailors and they figure things out faster than I do,” Woolley said of the elite competition. “I’ll enjoy it, though. I love watching them go. But I’ll be near the back of the fleet, I’m sure.”

While Woolley has years of experience sailing the area, most of the competitors in this week’s regatta got a taste of the conditions last week when the U.S. national championship was held in Santa Cruz. Twenty-seven boats were registered for that event — all of which will compete in the world championship.

Florida’s Ethan Bixby took first place, defeating Australia’s Jason Beebe and Italy’s Davide Fontana in what could yield a competitive advantage heading into this week’s racing.

“It’s certainly encouraging,” said Charlie Roskosz, event chairman for the world championship.

Conditions won’t be similar, however. While last week’s national event was held in light winds — less than 10 miles per hour until the final day, Roskosz said — sailors early in the week are expected to see winds 20-22 mph, with gusts up to 30 mph. Later in the week will be more moderate, with winds around 15 mph.

“So it’s tough to make a judgement,” Roskosz said when asked to gauge the field.

Still, it should produce fast conditions for the Contender — a single-handed, high performance dinghy measuring 16 feet in length and equipped with a trapeze. The event will feature two races each day — if conditions permit — beginning at noon.

Although lighter winds could force the competition away from the shoreline in search of stronger gusts, Roskosz said the best viewing point will be at the end of the Santa Cruz Wharf.

Woolley was left watching in ’86. As the lone member of the SCYC who will be competing this week, Woolley said he was unable to race the last time the world championship was held in Santa Cruz because of work.

“So this is a long time coming,” said Woolley, who’s been sailing a Contender since 1972 and competed all over the world, including last year’s event in the Netherlands.

Woolley is said to be the oldest sailor in this week’s event. For this particular series of races at his home club, he’s certainly the most experienced.

“They’re still amazed someone my age can sail a boat,” Woolley said. “I’m amazed, too.”

Contact Andrew Matheson at 831-706-3272.

By Andrew Matheson, Santa Cruz Sentinel