The third installment of the Del Rey Yacht Club’s Berger/ Stein Series up to Point Dume is notorious for light winds and late arrivals to the finish line. This year’s race, held Saturday, May 13th, was yet another light-to-medium-air contest for the most part, so there was enough breeze to keep the racers moving at a slower, but respectable pace.
The Berger/Stein Series is one of the more popular races in the area, with racers showing up from all over Southern California to take part in the long random leg courses that the club provides.
Some of the most competitive racers in the area compete in the series and the finishes often come right down to the wire.
The contest to watch in this year’s Point Dume race was in the PHRF (Pacific Handicap Racing Fleet) A1 class, made up of agile sport boats in the 24-to-30-foot range mixed with medium sized racers in the 40-to-50-foot category. John Staff, one of the Marina’s most dominant sailors, battled every inch of the 34-mile run aboard his Cheetah 30, Wildcat, against Chris Slagerman’s Viper 830, Black Magic.
Both boats are rated equally, so it was a virtual match race through the shifty winds of the day. Staff and Slagerman worked every lift possible, milking every advantage available to eventually finish the race with Black Magic winning with less than one second between them.
“It was a game of playing the lifts all the way up to Point Dume,” said Slagerman. “John Staff took the inside and we had the center — towards the outside — and when we got to the windward mark (Point Dume buoy) he was a few boat lengths in front of us.”
On the downwind run Slagerman and Staff were jibing back and forth working as hard as possible looking for separation. Staff was still ahead and doing all he could to keep his advantage.
“We were trying to cover him,” said Staff. “So we were doing what he did to stay in front of him downwind ñ and at one point we didn’t go with him, which was a fatal mistake. He then went inside towards the beach farther than us and when he came back, he was ahead.”
From that point on it was crucial that neither skipper make any costly mistakes, for if they did the other would pounce. As the downwind leg continued Slagerman began to pull ahead by continually catching breeze closer to the beach. Staff came up short on a few jibes and decided to head towards the beach himself to see if he could grab some of the breeze Slagerman seemed to be finding.
The tactic worked — he made up some ground and as they reached the offset mark he was one hundred yards behind Slagerman. At that point Slagerman and crew ran up on a little traffic rounding the pin and Staff found himself right next to him for the home stretch.
“We had a couple of boats at the mark that we had to call some right-of-ways on and that slowed us down and John caught us at that point,” said Slagerman. “We thought he was going to pass us — when we crossed the line we thought we were ahead of him, but we weren’t totally sure.”
“He got us by a half a bowsprit length,” said Staff. “It was a darn tight race between us.”
In the other classes, Pendragon crossed the line first among the entire fleet and won in the AA class. Trust Me took first in the A2 class. Hitchhiker once again was victorious in the B class. In the PHRF C class, Bombay was the victor after a bit of controversy. In the multihull fleet Hiper was the winner and Faire Warning, Yassoo and Windsong were winners in their respective classes.