DEL REY YACHT CLUB junior sailors (from left) Wills Johnson, Simone Staff and Chris Weis  (holding first place trophy in Laser Radial Class) enjoyed sailing success at the US Sailing Junior Olympic Festival. Some of the young competitors have advanced on to compete at a junior championship in Texas.  Photo courtesy of Del Rey Yacht Club

DEL REY YACHT CLUB junior sailors (from left) Wills Johnson, Simone Staff and Chris Weis
(holding first place trophy in Laser Radial Class) enjoyed sailing success at the US Sailing Junior Olympic Festival. Some of the young competitors have advanced on to compete at a junior championship in Texas.
Photo courtesy of Del Rey Yacht Club

By Pat Reynolds
August around Marina del Rey is what it’s all about. Although this area is a year-round boating haven, there’s no doubt that the warmer waters and consistently great weather makes this month prime time. Factor in kids being home from school, maybe a couple cashed-in vacation weeks and you’re looking at some quality time on the water.
A few Marina del Rey boaters did indeed cash in that vacation time and used it to participate in the biennial Transpac – a race from L.A. to Hawaii. The Transpacific Yacht Race or Transpac, as it is more commonly known, is a 2,225-nautical mile competition from Long Beach to Diamond Head lighthouse, east of Honolulu. The event has been happening since 1906 and it is on many a bucket list.
This year about 10 boats from the local area made the journey including Pyewacket, Grand Illusion and Maverick (in the 70-foot sled division). The most talked-about aspect of the event this year was the amount of debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami that many of the racers encountered while sailing the course. Long Beach’s John Sangmeister was looking to break the all-time speed record in his 70-foot trimaran Lending Club, but was involved in no less than seven collisions with floating scrap. Even with the strife, he sailed very fast and missed the record by a mere two and a half hours.
“We hit telephone poles doing 25 miles an hour and we hit several of them, and the effect was catastrophic to the boat,” Sangmeister told a Hawaiian reporter after arriving after only a little more than five days at sea.
Sean McGinn said he, too, saw a telephone pole floating in the middle of the ocean during his winning effort in the Mini 650 Pacific Challenge – a race from Marina del Rey to Hawaii in 21-foot boats. McGinn took 17 days to complete the trek and said seeing the pole was pretty unexpected.
“I sailed right next to it; it was quite the shock,” McGinn said.
While some local racers are reflecting on ocean crossings like Transpac and the Pac Challenge, others are involved in a notable high level round-the-buoy championship. Teams from Washington state to San Diego are competing in the Lido 14 National Class Championship Week – a three-regatta event hosted by the Del Rey, South Coast Corinthian and Santa Monica Windjammers yacht clubs.
The Lido class has been a Southern California staple since the 1950s, perhaps because these simple boats conjure the purity of sailboat racing. To win in this group will be a testament to sailing skills more than all else. This year features the 56th running of the Class Championship. Racing began Aug. 13 and will wrap up Saturday, Aug. 17 with both woman and junior classes.
The juniors have been an active bunch as of late. Five junior sailors from the Del Rey Yacht Club have apparently made quite a showing at the US Sailing Junior Olympic Festival, where they raked in multiple first place trophies and advanced to a junior championship in Texas. In the single-handed Laser Radial class, Del Rey Yacht Club racer Chris Weis placed first and in the 420 Class, Cassie Obel and Annika Garrett also garnered top honors.
“Del Rey Yacht Club in Marina del Rey has made a long-term commitment and substantial investment in training our juniors to be top competitors,” said Virginia Howard, director of the yacht club’s junior sailing program. “Our wins at the US Sailing Junior Olympic Festival are a testament to the commitment of the club’s junior sailors and their year-round hard work.”
Away from the sailboat scene, paddleboarding continues to grow and integrate into the community around Marina del Rey. Recently the Kurmalliance Organization, a group devoted to cleaning up the marine environment, held a clean-up activity with local paddleboarders where volunteers filled buckets with discarded waste. A few were apparently amazed at the amount of refuse that was picked up in just an hour of clean-up. More than 12 5-gallon buckets were filled to the brim.
“I never knew so many plastic things that should be recycled, end up in the ocean and our environment,” volunteer Lisa Ferris said.
Ferris and her co-volunteers were traversing the waters via the newly popular stand-up paddleboards but there’s a less prominent variety of paddleboarding, in which the paddlers lay on their belly and paddle with their hands. On Monday, Aug. 26, folks with this passion will soon participate in the Catalina Classic, an intense and challenging 32-mile paddle run from Catalina Island through the Santa Monica Bay. Hand paddling a surfboard for 32 miles is no day at the beach. Surfer magazine once said of the event:
“Paddleboarding is a sport much like marathon-running, where constant training is needed and a healthy relationship between mind and body essential.”
Organizers are looking for boat skippers with channel experience, seaworthy boats with a minimum of very high frequency (VHF) radio, GPS and complete safety equipment to act as escorts for the athletes. Contact paddle4cause@gmail.com to be a part of the event.

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