Mueller is all smiles in sailboat race

NAWILIWILI — Tess Mueller, exchanging deck-hand chores for duty on the stick of Fast Company, wore a big smile after piloting the Olson 30 across the finish plane Thursday when the Nawiliwili Yacht Club opened the four-race Wahine series.

Chris Jordan, normally handling the helm for OZone, and doing duty as the NYC communicator, said eight women skippers moved the fleet over the start line in “beautiful Kauai conditions” with winds in the 6-to-12-knot range out of the east-northeast, and “gentle waves” lapping the six-mile course.

“Notably, the boats seemed more quiet than usual, with an air of civility that is occasionally lacking when the men are on the helm,” Jordan said. “Bonjolea II with her usual Bonnie Tiffany on the wheel of the Sydney 36 looked good. In fact, she looked so good that maybe we should make this an opposite-gender race and have her husband Doug steering.”

Mueller pushed Fast Company to a port tack and grabbed an early lead over the pack where the recently-married Emily Buck handled the stick of Double Expresso.

“They (the ocean fleet) were short of crew so OZone gave up her husband, Dave Cuevas, to sail with them,” Jordan said. “It bodes well for their relationship that there was no yelling or fighting.”

Alison Fornari skippered OZone.

“At one point heading upwind, the conditions were so good, Alison appeared to reach a state of nirvana,” Jordan said. “The boats all looked beautiful sailing downwind under the colorful canopy of their spinnakers.”

Mueller broke out her smile as Fast Company grabbed top honors by sounding the finish horn on an elapsed sail of 1 hour, 11 minutes, and 16 seconds, correcting to a 1:11:42 PHRF — more than three minutes ahead of Kato, which crossed on a 1:14:01 elapsed sail and corrected to 1:14:49 PHRF.

“Kato, who had Shandra on the helm, had a clean bottom,” Jordan said. “Just before the race, Shandra’s husband Adrian Bertsch jumped in the water and cleaned the boat bottom so she could sail faster.”

OZone (1:14:49 elapsed, 1:15:17 PHRF) filled in the third spot, and Bonjolea II, crossing first overall with a 1:09:59 elapsed sail, settled for the No. 4 spot after correcting to 1:15:19 PHRF — two ticks behind No. 3 OZone — on the leaderboard.

Papa A‘u, with Victoria Aiu on the helm, sounded the finish horn on a 1:19:28 elapsed sail and corrected to 1:16:25 PHRF for the fifth berth. But she additionally corrected to 1:08:41 Club for top honors in that class, followed by Bonjolea II (1:08:55 Club), and Weatherly (1:11:22 Club), which was handled by Astrid Andersson.

“This was a very fun race for all,” Jordan said. “The race was followed by a delicious salmon dinner provided by the crew of Speedy, who was handled by Kristina, our Wilcox Health System’s Intensive Care Unit nurse from Finland.”

The second race in the four-race Wahine Series gets underway Thursday, with the first flags flying at 5 p.m. The public is invited to view the race and network with the NYC Race Committee at the Nawiliwili jetty parking area.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.

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