A friend of mine was visiting from Mexico this past weekend and we got the opportunity to crew on an R33 catamaran that was competing in the Saturday Night Races hosted by Del Rey Yacht Club. I haven’t raced a whole lot and my friend had never raced at all, but our skipper, John Papa (a father of ten), was kind and understanding, so we happily raced around the course — finishing dead last.

I have been on boats where the skipper can be quite “intense,” shall we say? But there was none of that for this race. In fact, it was so mellow on the boat, I’m pretty sure my buddy fell asleep on the downwind leg, but he was wearing sunglasses and wouldn’t admit anything.

As we were chasing pressure on the right side of the course and the rest of the fleet was getting smaller in the distance towards the left, I began to think about the upcoming Homeport Regatta, which will be held Saturday, November 10th.

The Homeport is a race designed expressly for novice and beginner racers who have an interest but not enough understanding to feel the confidence to enter a race on their own. There is no yacht club affiliation required, no admission and no question too stupid to ask the helpful on-hand mentors.

Many local sailors have entered the racing fray through the Homeport tunnel, taking advantage of the knowledge base that is typically present for the event. Some of the best sailors in the area volunteer to walk fledgling skippers through the array of sometimes confusing rules and intimidating starting sequences that are associated with yacht racing.

“I was assigned two outstanding mentors, Dave Epstein and Gerhard Klose,” said Duncan Cameron of his experience with the Homeport years ago. “They somehow managed to pretend not to notice our ignorance and got us pointed in the right direction. Thanks to them, sailboat racing became less mysterious and intimidating. We even managed to win the Homeport with their coaching.”

The sailors behind the Homeport Regatta are in the business of demystifying the sport, with the hope of generating greater participation in the long run. While the sport enjoys great popularity in much of the world, particularly in Europe, there is often sullen talk of how it fares on the American front. It’s for this reason that so many come out in support of the Homeport.

Most committed racers are of the mind that once an inexperienced racer begins to understand the rules and strategy more clearly, interest in continuing will follow.

“In 2005 Jim Durden invited me to drive his Martin 242, Zip, for the Homeport Regatta,” said Lido racer Kelly Cantley. “I had been racing as regular crew on Schock 35s and sometimes Martin 242s, but had no experience on the helm. Jim was a very patient coach tactician and main trimmer during our couple of afternoons practicing, and we won the regatta.

“I’m thankful to Jimmy for giving me a chance to do something outside my regular job on the boat. It opened up great new opportunities for me. I’m still doing foredeck on a Schock 35, Power Play, and I’m still learning something new from every boat I get to race on.”

The week leading up to the race there will be two free 7 p.m. seminars offered — Tuesday, November 6th, “Intro to Racing and Safety”; and Thursday, November 8th, “How Races Are Run and Sailed”; at the Marina Venice Yacht Club at Marina City Club. For directions on seminar nights call (310) 508-5237. For more information about the Homeport and to download the Notice of Race and Entry Form, visit www.asmbyc.org or www.mvyc .org/.s

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