There are many well-regarded races coming out of Marina del Rey yacht clubs throughout the course of the racing season — Del Rey Yacht Club’s Berger/ Stein Series, South Bay Yacht Racing Club’s Champagne Series, and the King of Spain, to name a few.

But Cal Race Week, hosted by the California Yacht Club, Saturday and Sunday, June 2nd and 3rd, is becoming not only a major local event, but an important race in the entire Southern California yacht racing scene.

For the third year in a row, Cal Race Week boasted higher participation numbers than the previous year and more entrants than ever before, which organizers attribute to its budding out-of-area popularity. This year, two additional boats sailed up from San Diego to race in the Fast 50 class, making one-third of the boats in that group from San Diego.

“I think what happens is that people come up and have a good time both sailing and at the yacht club and they start talking about it with their fellow competitors and suggest making the trip,” said regatta chair Marylyn Hoenemeyer. “People spread the word.”

In addition to being a prestigious regatta on its own, it also doubles as championships in certain classes within the context of the event. For the Martin 242s, the largest class in the contest, it acted as a Pacific Coast Championships, and the J-120s used it to stage their North American Championship.

Paul Zambriski from King Harbor took home first place for the regatta and the 242 championship sailing 9 Lives with very consistent scores in all five races. He snatched the victory on the second day from longtime fleet participant Lee Lewis on Old Yeller by just two points.

“Looks like it’s time to toughen up for MdR M242 owners if they want to keep the trophies at our local clubs,” said fellow 242 sailor Denise George of the recent growth of the fleet to nearby Redondo. “King Harbor sailors are raising the game to a whole new level.”

In other sections of the course, there were Olympic hopefuls, brand-new fleets, and famous television/radio personalities sailing in the moderate conditions the weekend offered.

While the 242 class was the largest of the day, with 16 boats, a close second was the Star fleet, with 14 on the line. With the Olympic trials coming to Marina del Rey later in the year, it could be suggested that some of the racers in this class had more at stake, or at the very least are watching the shifts and conditions a bit more closely.

Santa Monica Bay sailing is notorious for its shifty conditions and Saturday’s racing was typical in that regard. Olympic hopefuls John Dane, who finished first in class, and Erik Lidecis, who finished fourth, were in attendance getting some valuable practice time in on the body of water that will play a crucial part in one of the most important races of their lives.

Next to the Stars, one of the oldest one-design classes in the country, was a new fleet, one of the newest one-design classes in the country — the Open 5.70. The first 5.70 arrived in the U.S., Marina del Rey in fact, not even a year ago and now the fleet is five boats strong.

These modern Finot designs, equipped for fast downwind sailing, brightened up the smoggy day with every hull in the fleet a different color. New owner Nick Vale steered his lime-green Boracic to victory with ringer crewman Jerome Sammarcelli, who is responsible for the 5.70 fleets’ arrival in the U.S.

And the celebrity sighting of the day was an easy one, as this one came in first in her class. Radio, television personality and author Dr. Laura Schlessinger at the helm of her J-145, The Doc, dominated the Fast 40 class with four bullets and a fourth.

Apparently when Dr. Laura isn’t shaming single mothers and admonishing deadbeat fathers, she’s a pretty adept sailboat skipper. Who knew?

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