As 2007 darkens and the dawn of a new year sheds light, there will be custom diets formulated, anti-smoking patches purchased, unused gym memberships renewed and for local yacht racers, January ’08 brings a clean slate to begin another season of high-level competition out on the liquid race track.

And for everyone serious about racing in Southern California, it’s the first race of the Del Rey Yacht Club (DRYC) Berger/ Stein Series Saturday, January 5th, that kicks off the season and gets the adrenaline flowing once more.

On that Saturday, a little before 11 a.m., a portion of the Santa Monica Bay will be crowded with well over 100 boats plotting their strategy. In the cruiser division (Stein), sailors will be eyeing the conditions of the course, a 12-mile triangle in the bay, while the racing division (Berger) will be thinking more long-range. Their mission is to sail up to Malibu and back, a 44-mile course.

During the pre-start ritual, boats of all sizes lightly bounce around while crews work to clean up last minute details. Skippers sail down the length of the start line to get a feel while crews eye each other and in some cases old rivals/friends talk smack from boat to boat.

It’s serious competition, with some of the fastest and best crews in Southern California coming to compete, but also a yearly reunion of the racing community.

This year, Doug Baker from Long Beach in Magnitude 80 will once again be looking to cross the finish-line first and begin 2008 as strongly as he left 2007. Baker broke the longstanding speed record in the Marina del Rey to Puerto Vallarta Race, won first in class in the ’07 Transpac, first in the Long Beach to Cabo Race (missing the record by less than one hour), and first in Newport to Ensenada, to name a few substantial wins.

Another Southern California legend, Medicine Man, will also be on the start line with some new boats as well.

Nick Barran will be sailing XL, a newly-built Antrim 40. XL replaces Barran’s last boat, which sank in the middle of the Pacific after being holed by an angry sperm whale.

Also new on the Berger/Stein front is the way race organizers are managing the event itself. In the past, competitors needed to wait until the five-race series was complete before trophies were awarded, but they are changing that this year.

“New for this year will be the practice of awarding trophies after the finish of each race, rather than waiting until after the series to award individual race winners, as well as the overall Perpetual Trophy winners,” said organizer Tom Redler. “This affords the opportunity for participants to assemble at Del Rey Yacht Club after the finish of each event, and enjoy the gala after-race fun that DRYC is well known for.”

After the overwhelming success of DRYC’s recent Saturday Night racing series, where the club instituted a number of well-received modifications to standard practices, the club is clearly getting more and more efficient and confident in how it approaches the organization of its races.

Entry forms, as well as Notice of Race, Notice of Series, and Sailing Instructions are available at www.dryc.org or by calling the club at (310) 823-4664 for more information.

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