2021 Thistle Nationals blog

Friday, August 6 

With late surges, Inghams take top spots at 75th Nationals

Sam Ingham, Jonathan Duffett and Tanya Cuprak celebrate their victory.

Wow, we made it to Friday and the last day of racing. Seemed like the week went both faster than a blink and slow at the same time. A good sign.

Sailors woke to very different conditions this morning as a southerly breeze built over night and was pumping 10-12 as the sun came up. In Cleveland, that means flat water and fast sailing. You couldn’t ask for better conditions.

The only thing was, they didn’t hold, and instead, built to a solid 13-15 by the time the first races kicked off on both Championship and Presidents courses at 10 am.

DW: Will, walk me through the day on the Championship course.

WW: We had great breeze on the way out to the course and could tell it was amping up as Race 1 went into sequence. A big right shift came in near the top mark and the fleet enjoyed a nice run downwind on the first lap of the windward-leeward-triangle course. But the real fun began on the second lap reaches as we had huge breeze and some phenomenal planing trips on our way down. 

The wind built for the second race and after a general recall the fleet got off the line under a Z flag. The first lap of the course played out similarly to Race 1, but things went up a notch on the reaching legs. We saw a boat in the leading pack capsize at the jibe mark, and I witnessed a middle crew on another boat get ejected head over heels backward into the water as a puff hit, followed by that boat going over as well.

A lot of carnage out there, but those who stayed up had a hell of a ride. Can’t wait to see the TracTrac speed stats on that one. 

Sam Ingham picked up right where he left off on Wednesday to climb his way into first place, posting a 2 and a 5 today to complete a 1-2-2-2-5 scoreline over the last five races to claim the championship. Well done to Sam, Jonathan Duffet, and Tanya Cuprak.

Not to be outdone, Mike Ingham went 6-1 today to move up into second place. Class President Tom Hubell tells me he believes this is the first time a father and son have gone 1-2 at Nationals. Our statisticians will work to confirm, but hats off to the Ingham family for showing us how it’s done.

Rounding out the top five are Ed Adams, Brain Joyce, and Greg Griffin. All three of those boats raced consistently well all week long in varying conditions to earn their spots, so congratulations to them on a great regatta.

View more photos from Day 5.

Tell me about the day over on the Presidents Course.

DW: Well, 13-15 quickly turned into a steady 15 with gusts to 18, 20 on our course, and maybe even a bit more at times. The water stayed relatively flat and boats really had to work hard upwind. The right paid off big, but it was possible to go too far right as the biggest shift in that direction came near the very top of the course. 

Reaches were absolute screamers for us too, with many middles doing their best Stretch Armstrong impressions, pulled in all directions by sheet, guy, and the need to get their weight both out and back.

We had a few breakdowns, a fair number of capsizes, and I can tell you my skipper missed the hiking strap and went out of the boat after a crazy auto-tack just above the leeward mark. Not sure how, but he kept his hand on the rail and we pulled him back in in short order.

Race one saw a general recall, followed by the presence of the Z flag for the rest of the day, which was enough to keep the fleet honest at the start. Both races took about 75 minutes, give or take based on your position. 

At the end of the day, the Presidents Division was competitive, first-class racing with plenty for folks to celebrate and plenty of lessons to take back to their home clubs. The final results were as follows. Congratulations not just to those at the top of the leaderboard, but to all competitors.

1. Craig Koschalk

2. John Shockey

3. Greg Eiffert

4. David Reddaway

5. John Norton

Beyond the awesome racing, great sportsmanship, and good times that we saw this week, we also need to give a major, major thank you to the Cleveland Yachting Club for hosting.

Not only was this a national championship, it was a world-class regatta on all fronts, from the great job done by PRO Matt Bounds and his race committee team, to the 100+ local volunteers on and off the water, to regatta sponsors like Key Bank, to the platinum-level Sailors for the Sea Green Regatta Initiative that took a lot of hard work and attention to detail and will help ensure we can race for generations to come. Something for us all to be extremely proud of.

Congratulations to regatta chairman Fred Hunger, his wife, Marilyn, and their incredible team who worked tirelessly for more than two years to bring to fruition an event that somehow exceeded expectations across the board and will surely go down as one of the best Thistle Nationals yet.

Folks, mark your calendars. We’ll see you in Jacksonville next May!

Thursday, August 5

Griffin maintains nine-point lead going into final day of Thistle US Nationals

View more photos from the Mt. Gay pool party.

The breeze never arrived on Day 4 of the 2021 Thistle National Championship presented by KeyBank, so PRO Matt Bounds postponed racing for the day. With two races planned for Friday, August 6, the final day of the regatta, competitors enjoyed a sun-soaked lay day on Thursday, lounging at the Cleveland Yachting Club’s pool bar, heading out on Lake Erie and exploring local attractions.

Going into the finale, defending champions Greg Griffin, Mark Reddaway and Amy Thompson from Jacksonville, Florida carry a nine-point lead over Sam Ingham, Jonathan Duffett, Tanya Cuprak from San Francisco, California. 

Friday’s forecast for Rocky River, Ohio, calls for southwest winds at 10-15 mph. 

Wednesday, August 4

After the split, it’s moving day at 2021 Thistle National Championship

View photos from Day 3.

Well, another awesome day of racing here on the south shore of Lake Erie. Today was a carbon copy of Tuesday with an onshore that piped up around noon and carried us through a big afternoon of two races.

The fleet is now split into Championship and President’s divisions, each competing on their own courses. Championship fleet scores carried over, while President’s reset for the final three days of racing.

DW: Will, you guys made the cut. What’d you see on the course today, and who’s making moves?

WW: It was a challenging day on the Championship course. Many of the top boats had at least one bad race and fell off the pace, while a few boats that were hanging outside of the top pack going into today were able to move up big time. \

Two that stand out are Sam Ingham and Ed Adams. Ingham went 2-2 and moved into second place, nine points off the lead and five points ahead of third. Adams posted a 3-1 and is now tied for third with Mike Ingham, with Adams winning the tie breaker. Rounding out the top five is the family boat of Brian Joyce, Sean Joyce and Braden Joyce, who dropped down from second after a 28-5 today. Greg Griffin held steady with a 7-4 scoreline to stay in the lead by nine points.

Sam Ingham said the key to their success was playing the shifts from the middle today, and it clearly paid off. 

David, what was happening on the President’s course?

DW: The wind filled in pretty evenly on the President’s course just in time for our 12:30 p.m. start. Boats that went right made out, as the wind shifted from due north to 20 or 30 degrees as the day wore on. Like yesterday, folks who prioritized clear air did well.

We raced two triangle-windward-leewards in 7-10 knots with a peak or two maybe reaching 12. The line for the first race was pretty tight, and a good number of boats were over early. The first leg of the triangle allowed for a deeper angle than yesterday, which kept things interesting. And we hit the river ahead of the Championship fleet, which no one was mad about!

As for results, we started from scratch today, and racing was very competitive. Here’s where things stand in the President’s division:

1. John Norton

2. John Shockey

3. Craig Koschalk

4. David Reddaway

5. Michael McBride

Tonight is the Caribbean-themed party with rum drinks, jerk chicken and steel drums on the pool deck. I’m hoping for a Caddyshack-type scene, and we’ll do our best to get you a special report tomorrow!

​Tuesday, August 3

Racers enjoy champagne conditions on Day 2 of 2021 Thistle Nationals

View more photos from Day 2.

Will Weible (skipper, 3144) and David Weible (crew, 3464) are Cleveland Yachting Club locals covering the 2021 Thistle National Championship presented by KeyBank.

DW: Alright, Will. Day 2, and we’re really getting into the groove here at the Cleveland Yachting Club for Thistle Nationals. 

The wind is light and variable this morning as we wait for the onshore, so let’s cover some other bases here. What’s stood out to you so far?

WW: The first thing is yesterday’s debrief. After a long day on the water with two races, some of the class’ best sailors spent upwards of 30 minutes sharing insights for getting around the course in really challenging conditions — light winds and lots of leftover chop. 

DW: I was lucky enough to catch some content from Fred Hunger and Mike Ingham that I’m taking back to Chicago Corinthian YC with me. I love it when the best sailors are so willing to share their knowledge and help make the class even more competitive. 

WW: What stood out to you?

DW: A lot. The Commanders Weather Report turned out to be spot-on, which always helps. Also, the CYC volunteers are doing a hell of a job getting boats in and out of the water, especially after a long day on the water. Hats off to them. 

On the social side, CYC’s R fleet treated competitors to an incredible steak dinner last night. The perfect feast after a big day. There were some pretty decent get-ups for last night’s Western theme; Jack Finefrock sported a particularly impressive ensemble.

And, of course, the best part is reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. It’s been a few years since I’ve had the privilege of racing in the fleet, and I’m always reminded of just how great the people in this class are. 

On Saturday night, there was an impromptu ILYA-MCSA reunion for the younger generation of Midwest Thistlers at a bar up the hill. And I’ve had the chance to meet folks like the Kitchins from Jersey, the Glovers from Detroit, and others from Oregon, Annapolis, and all over the country.

WW: With a two-hour postponement this morning, there was also a lot of on-shore activity. On the business side, the class held its annual meeting, which allowed all to celebrate the continued vitality of the class after 75 great years. Aside from that, there was quite a bit of pickle ball, spike ball, and Wimbledon-style four square on the grass near the regatta tent. 

DW: All made possible by the PRO and race committee, who continue to do an excellent job of making the right calls at the right time and communicating well. Many thanks to them. 

The onshore picked up around noon, just like Commanders Weather Report said it would, and competitors made their way to the course for the final race before the cut dividing the Championship and President’s fleets for the rest of the week. The onshore picked up to a reliable 7-10 with flat water. 

WW: Pretty ideal conditions, it was a beautiful day. We were in the first start, and felt like we got off the line well, but couldn’t find our lanes on the first beat. The reaches helped us out, but we chose poorly again on the second upwind. 

It was a tough day for us after a good one yesterday, but we squeezed into the cut, and we’re looking forward to the rest of the week. How was your race?

DW: This is the first time I’ve sailed with Kevin Tschantz out of Leatherlips YC in Columbus, Ohio. He’s a guy who really knows how to sail and is a blast to spend the week with. I’m re-learning the boat after close to a decade away, and our forward is pretty new to sailing in general but learning extremely fast. Kevin is bringing us both along and making the boat go fast. We’ve been getting better with every race and expect that trend to continue.

We’re looking forward to scores re-setting in the President’s fleet tomorrow and taking advantage of our remaining time here, both on and off the water.

Leaders after Tuesday’s racing:

1. Gregg Griffin

2. Brian Joyce

3. Mike Ingham

4. Brent Barbehenn

5. Fred Hunger

See current results.

Check out the regatta website

View photos by Tim Wilkes.

Follow the racing on Trac Trac.

​Monday, August 2

Sailors vie to make the cut on Day 1 of 2021 Thistle National Championship

View Day 1 photos by Tim Wilkes.

After Sunday’s wild weather, Monday in Cleveland dawned with sunny skies, and competitors made their way out to the course for an 11:30 a.m. start to kick off the first day of racing for the 2021 Thistle National Championship presented by KeyBank.

To avoid the complications of having all 96 boats start at once, the fleet is split into four divisions. In each start, only two divisions compete. The series follows a round-robin structure to ensure each division races against the other before the cut on Tuesday evening. Starting on Wednesday, the fleet will divide into Championship and Presidents divisions for the remainder of the regatta.

Racing started in 7-10 knots of oscillating breeze with plenty of leftover chop from the night before. Boats that performed best navigated the chop upwind, focused on boatspeed, and kept clear air above all else. Downwind, reaches on the first lap’s triangle were tight, and a second leeward leg saw boats play both sides of the course.

The race committee did a great job managing traffic and got a second race started shortly after the first. The course remained favored to the left, and conditions became increasingly challenging as the wind continued to diminish. 

On shore, sailors enjoyed post-race Moscow Mules and feasted on steaks prepared by members of the Cleveland Yachting Club’s R-fleet. With one race scheduled for Tuesday, many competitors have high hopes of advancing to the Championship fleet. 

Results at a glance 

Race 1

Start 1

1. Ed Adams

2. Brian Joyce

3. Greg Griffin

Start 2

1. Mike Ingham

2. Brett Barbehenn

3. Doug Kaukeinen

Race 2

Start 1

1. Gregg Griffin

2. Brett Barbehenn

3. Wayne Pignolet

Start 2

1. Brian Joyce

2. Matthew Sessions

3. Lloyd Kitchin

—David Weible

Sunday, August 1

Thistle Nationals kicks off with juniors and womens championships, 75th anniversary race

Will Weible (skipper, 3144) and David Weible (crew, 3464) are Cleveland Yachting Club locals covering the 2021 Thistle National Championship presented by KeyBank.

View photos by Tim Wilkes Photography.

DW: Will, we finally made it: Thistle Nationals 2021 at the Cleveland Yachting Club. How does it feel to be here?

WW: The wait was totally worth it. The island came alive this weekend, as nearly 100 Thistles arrived, checked in and got the party started. Volunteers worked around the clock to get boats measured in, and racing commenced with the juniors and women’s championships on Saturday afternoon. Andrew Gallagher team on Shameless (3854) topped the seven-boat junior event, while Erica Beck Spencer’s team on Ellie (4024) won the 12-boat women’s event. (See complete results.)

By Sunday morning, the fleet was ready to head out for the 75th Anniversary Race, with all boats on one, massive starting line…

A line of waterspouts greeted racers heading out for the 75th Anniversary Race on Sunday. (Photo: Susan Backus) Watch video by Harald Bransch.

DW: Until Mother Nature intervened around 11:00 a.m. as everyone headed out the river. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a water spout, let alone six or seven simultaneously.

WW: The fleet entered a holding pattern near the mouth of the river and was treated to a show of funnel clouds parading down the lake. On the heels of this was a quick but strong burst of rain, which sent the fleet to take shelter across the island to wait it out.

After an hour delay, the skies sufficiently cleared to race, and those still willing headed out in a steady, 15-knot breeze with 4- to 5-foot waves. Their reward was a packed starting line and a fierce windward beat, followed by a raucous reach to the jibe mark. Half the fleet carried TracTrac GPS trackers for the practice race, with the high speed of the day getting clocked at 11+ knots. (View the TracTrac footage.)

DW: Thistle sailing at its best. These boats can flat-out fly, especially on a reach with the chute popped and some humps to surf. TracTrac had anyone back on land glued to the live cast of the race. It’s an awesome tool and will be active all week, including a live track of every boat in the Championship fleet starting Wednesday.

WW: Back on land, the regatta officially got underway with the opening ceremonies. As is tradition in the Thistle class, Scottish bagpipers kicked it off with a parade down the island and dancing, followed by the awards ceremony for Women’s and Junior Nationals–another special part of the week and one of the real keys to the class’ success, growth, and overall great vibe.

DW: After awards, PRO Matt Bounds covered the ins and outs of the week with teams. The crowd of several hundred recognized regatta chairman Fred Hunger and his team of more than 100 volunteers for their top-notch hospitality and an awesome start to the best week of the summer. 

Racing for the 75th National Championship begins tomorrow morning, and expectations are running high throughout the 96-boat fleet. Stay tuned for more updates throughout the week.

Tuesday, July 27

Thistle class celebrating 75th anniversary

Thistles race off Cleveland during US Sailing’s 2014 Championship of Champions

More than 100 three-person teams will descend on the Cleveland Yachting Club in Rocky River, Ohio to compete for the 75th Thistle National Championship, taking place July 31 to August 6.

Situated on an island at the mouth of the Rocky River, eight miles west of downtown Cleveland, CYC is home to Thistle Fleet No. 1 and last hosted Thistle Nationals in 1995 for the class’s 50th anniversary.

Racing begins this Saturday, July 31, as the Junior Nationals (20 and under) and Women’s Nationals get the party started with one-day series to determine their respective champions.

On Sunday, the standard practice race for the Thistle National Championship gets an upgrade. This year, it serves as the 75th Anniversary Race, with all boats starting on one line. It’s bound to be an unforgettable sight for racers and spectators, alike.

Opening ceremonies on Sunday night will officially kick the regatta off, with nightly parties on the island to follow all week long.

The seven-race series for the Thistle National Championship officially begins on Monday, August 2. The large fleet will be split into four divisions for a three-race round-robin qualifying series over the first two days, after which a cut will be made to determine the Championship Fleet and President’s fleets. Boats in the Championship fleet will retain their scores from the first two days and race for the National Championship, while boats in the President’s Fleet will start fresh on Wednesday and sail a four-race series of their own through Friday. Nationals races typically follow “triangle-windward-leeward” courses, with each leg approximately one nautical mile in length. 

In a first for the Thistle class, boats in the Championship Fleet will be outfitted with GPS trackers, allowing spectators to follow the competition live via TracTrac. In addition to live race tracking, Tim Wilkes will be providing daily photos and videos. My brother David and I will be writing daily dispatches to keep you apprised of the racing and happenings on the island throughout the week. David is crewing for Kevin Tschantz aboard Dry Wood B-Fleet (#3464), and I’m skippering Gandalf (#3144). Our brother Ben is also competing — crewing for Fred Bauer on Shadows (#3859).

The 2021 Thistle National Championship is the culmination of the class’s summer circuit. Forty boats from 11 different states competed in the Thistle Great Lakes Championship at North Cape Yacht Club in LaSalle, Michigan two weeks ago. Similar regattas also took place for the Pacific Coast Championship, Atlantic Coast Championship, and Southeastern Championship. This year’s Great Lakes Championship served as a feeder event for those looking for some Lake Erie sailing before the Nationals, with many of those boats dry docked at CYC in the time since, patiently waiting for measurement and weigh-in to begin on Friday.

After a year-long pandemic delay — the 75th Nationals were originally scheduled for 2020 — the Thistle Class is eager to celebrate its 75th anniversary. The prospect of a full week of racing on the class’ home waters has attracted a large and talented fleet, which is sure to make for one of the best Thistle Nationals yet. Stay tuned!

-Will Weible


The Thistle National Championship, presented by KeyBank, celebrates the 75th anniversary of one of North America’s most popular and competitive one-design sailing classes. The regatta takes place July 31-August 6, 2021 at the Cleveland Yachting Club in Rocky River, Ohio.


Regatta chairman: Fred Hunger

Media/PR: Mike Lovett