— BY LYNNE HAMMETT

The 37th annual Marina del Rey to San Diego Race celebrated the Fourth of July weekend in style and growth.

The annual yacht race is co-sponsored by the Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club (SMWYC) in the Marina and the Southwestern Yacht Club (SWYC) in San Diego.

The year’s event began with an 11 a.m. start Saturday, July 3rd, off Marina del Rey.

With the generous assistance of Pusser’s Rum and a lot of diligent work by the various “volunteers” to the race, this “granddaddy “of our local races enjoyed a 24 percent increase in entries from last year.

In 1967, John Hammett of the then-Windjammers Yacht Club and Dr. Buford Saul of Southwestern Yacht Club — along with several others from both clubs — shared a conversation about putting together a long-distance race over the Fourth of July.

There was great applause and some groans, as there were other local events on the race calendar and this additional event might impact the participation in the other events.

The gentlemen sat and discussed and agreed. This event would be special, so “Let’s go for it.”

And the race has survived.

One year the race attracted 350 boats and you could walk across “G” Basin on boats that had been rafted.

It took several hours to get the “raft” separated and the boats to the start line. That was in the early ’80s.

Since that time the race has attracted a lesser number each year until this year.

Twenty “first-timers” joined the repeaters and eight boats — arriving at the SMWYC and on trailers at the Marina public launch ramp — joined the group from Arizona Yacht Club.

The “first-timers” participated in a special raffle, just for them.

Friday evening, a pre-race party kicked off the event, with the SMWYC Band creating the atmosphere with the assistance of Jamie Jackson and Robert Schmidt, representing Pusser’s Rum, a former sponsor of the event and now a re-joiner.

“The Outdoor Grill” arrived, with barbecues prepared to grill on the spot the event’s famous beef ribs and chicken.

The evening was just a chamber of commerce night and the attendance confirmed SMWYC’s hope — the race was on the rise and 172 dined and danced.

At 7 a.m. Saturday morning, Dave Phelps, district director of the IOBG (International Order of the Blue Gavel, an organization of past commodores) herded his helpers into the galley of SMWYC and set to the challenge of feeding these hearty sailors and sending them off on their journey.

Eighty-six feasted on “Bob Huckaby and Gene Leventhal pancakes” and “Jon Robbins Sausage” and, with the help of both staff commodores and a few in training, the group headed for the 10:55 a.m. warning horn.

Al Berg and Ghost II hosted five volunteers to start the race. Ed Freston and vice commodore Peter Glick, aboard Corsair, anchored mid-channel and made sure everyone was accounted for as 45 boats headed for the start line.

And the journey began.

The PHRF (Performance Handicap Racing Fleet) classes started and did a “Dash to DD Mark.”

A trophy is given to first in each class. The Cruisers — of which there were 33 — were separated by Cruising Spinnaker and Cruising Non-Spinnaker Divisions, and then separated into A and B Classes each.

If you were lucky and caught the correct wind line, you made it.

And, of course, if you misguessed the wind goddess, you “did not finish” (DNF). Thirteen boats did not finish.

Finish time was 10 p.m. Sunday at Southwestern Yacht Club in San Diego.

For those lucky enough to arrive early, SWYC was the ever-generous host, with its staff ready to accommodate all needs of the racers. And then came its barbecue with all the fixin’s and the Pusser’s gentlemen, helping to continue the spirit of sailing, camaraderie and good spirits.

All succeeded at performing their tasks. Admirably.

At 9 a.m. Monday staff commodore Richard Disraeli of SWYC welcomed the assembled group to hear the results of their labors.

On the Water chairman and chief motivator Orlando Duran took the podium and, with the assistance of SMWYC commodore Bob Falisey, announced the results and awarded the perpetual trophies, many of which originated with that very first race that had attracted only about 25 boats.

Many generous vendors supplied a large number of raffle items, ranging from hats to lunches and dinners.

Staff commodore David Phelps, SMWYC, who performed the sometimes challenging duty of event general chairman, thanked the sponsors, the participants, the volunteers and Southwestern Yacht Club for their energy, talents and terrific spirit in rejuvenating this long-treasured event.

His final request was “that each participant bring a friend to enter next year.”

It was a terrific three-day event and those who missed it should plan to spend the next Fourth of July weekend with SMWYC and SWYC to find out that long distance racing is really special.

San Diego Race Results:

PHRF A: White Knight, Zoltan Katinsky, Cabrillo Beach YC;

PHRF B: White Fang, Don Adams, SMWYC; second, USA 92, Al Lehman, Arizona Yacht Club; third, Wind Dancer, P.K. Edwards, Ventura YC;

PHRF C: Obsession, Billy Apps, South Bay Yacht Racing Club; second, Midnight Run, John Dean, King Harbor YC; third, El Tigre, Kari Keidser, Redondo Beach YC;

Cruising Spinnaker – A Class: Mahal, Ron Van Heel, San Fernando Valley YC; second, Crossing the Rubicon, Rod Percival and Family; third, Camelot IV, Jim Dougherty South Coast Corinthian YC;

B Class: Anthem, Michael Parker, Arizona YC; second, Pretty Woman, Jim Douglas, Arizona YC; and third, Illusions, Tom Jenkins, Arizona YC;

Cruising Non-Spinnaker – A Class: Mandala, Harold Pruett, SMWYC; second, Selkie, Walter Burnett; third, Bellezza, Ray Durand; and

B Class: Might as Well, Adolph Liebe, San Fernando Valley YC.

Lynne Hammett is a staff commodore of the former Windjammers’ Yacht Club.

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