Prior to Berger/Stein Series, hosted Saturday, January 5th, by the Del Rey Yacht Club (DRYC) in Marina del Rey, it seemed a sure bet that sailors would be entering into severe conditions if they would be racing at all.

Weather reports were calling for extreme rain and wind, so DRYC volunteers were sheepishly shrugging their shoulders whenever the inevitable and often-asked “Think we’re racing tomorrow?” question was posed.

But, like so many times in the past, Mother Nature had the last word and the dire projections turned out to be bogus. It was light and variable with hardly any rain, but the frightening reports caused 28 boats of the original 104 to drop out.

“We were prepared for a Southern California storm, expecting to see winds of up to 35 knots and big swells,” said Frederic Scheer from the Farr 40 Far Niente, who finished first in his class. “The night before brought a lot of noise and excitement, but on Saturday the most we had was not even ten knots during the race.”

The Berger/Stein signifies the unofficial beginning of another yacht racing season and while everyone involved was hoping for a relatively clear day with winds in the 12-to-18-knot range, to kick off the year with some exciting racing, they had to settle for five to seven and a means by which to test their light wind abilities.

“Not having sailed in Southern California for over 15 years, it reminded me of when I moved to Southern California from San Francisco,” said Tim Lane from Annapolis, Maryland, who was sailing one of the faster catamarans in the contest. “It is easy to maintain speed when there is plenty of wind, but when you lighten up the wind and combine it with the swell, like we had for the Berger #1, it showed that I was a little rusty with that skill set.”

Lane and Scheer were fortunate in that their boats are built for speed and can harness horsepower from available light winds. For the sailors in the Stein race (the cruising class), competitors were racing the 4:30 p.m. cutoff time more than each other. Only four boats out of 17 finished in time to be counted.

“We all went out expecting rough seas and rain, but nothing developed,” said crewmember Jeanne Dominguez from Bravado. “We fought hard to compete in the race, but only one boat made it to the finish line [in our class] before the time cutoff in the Stein race. Bravado, along with a few other intrepid sailors, stayed until the end hoping for that last gust of wind.”

In the Stein race, Stu Coleman’s Reliance came in first in the over-30-foot spinnaker class with Celerity in second and Elixir in third. In the over-30 non-spin, G-Rated came in first and was the only boat that finished in the class. In the under-30 division no one made the cutoff.

As expected in the Berger race, the always formidable Doug Baker in Magnitude 80 from Long Beach took line honors, and the equally high profile Medi- cine Man, also from Long Beach Yacht Club, won on corrected time in the AA Class.

This year’s Berger saw a brand-new division called the XS Class, which consisted of two Reynolds 33 catamarans and two beach cats. Although there were six other multihulls in the class that didn’t make the start, apparently this new division can consist of nearly any type of boat. It uses the Portsmouth PHRF (Pacific Handicap Racing Fleet) ratings because it calibrates ratings for both monohulls and multihulls.

In the Class A, Far Niente took first, with former Pendragon chief Mike Priest calling tactics. Skipper Frederic Scheer was delighted to begin the year with a big win.

“The game was to make its way through the swells, kelp, debris and then find some wind,” said Scheer. “Mike was brilliant at finding the wind — we were able to turn the Malibu mark in pole position. The wind really died in the afternoon and a lot of competitors withdrew, but the wind came back around 4 p.m. and we had an opportunity to reach eight knots and cross the finish line 26 seconds in front of XL.”

In the Sport Class, the Hobie 33 Magic Light came out on top. In Class B, Trust Me once again won in its class. Curt Johnson, in Sport Class B, sailed his trusty Avet to another win, although he was the only one in his class to finish. Friction Loss took first in the Class C and Spyro the Dragon, an L7 trimaran built and designed by multihull expert Mike Leneman of Multimarine in Marina del Rey, was victorious in the ORCA (Ocean Racing Catamaran Association) fleet.

For full results, www.dryc.org/.

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