To the untrained eye, the conductor of the L.A. Philharmonic is a token showman, waving his baton, shaking his head in engrossed passion and single-handedly steering the large group wherever he wants with just a little stick in his hand.

But, the truth is that his position requires a very deep understanding of the big picture of which he is a part.

He is responsible for all decisions on a moment’s notice and he has to hear everything separately and together, then, decide on the proper adjustments.

This same scenario is true for the skipper at the helm in a sailboat race.

While he or she might seem to simply be calmly holding on to the stick — tiller — jutting from beneath the floor, they are, in reality, keeping track of all of the given elements at hand and making the necessary decisions to, hopefully, put them ahead of the pack.

With wind shifts, wave conditions, crew mishaps, proper course headings and a host of other smaller details to manage, the skipper has his hands full.

It can be an intimidating and daunting position to take on and that’s why the Homeport Regatta is such an important and unique race.

The ASMBYC (Association of Santa Monica Bay Yacht Clubs) Homeport Regatta is especially designed for the purpose of training new skippers and encouraging novices to become more interested in the sport.

It has been a part of the Santa Monica Bay Racing calendar since the 1960s and acts as a means to make yacht racing more accessible and inclusive.

New skipper Steve Smith, sailing Happy Ours, a Catalina 38 from the Fairwind Yacht Club, won first place in the over-30-foot cruiser class this year and was glad for the experience.

“It was different being in charge, as I’ve always worked as a member of the team,” said Smith. “As skipper, obviously your word is law and ultimately you’re responsible for everything, including crew, the tactics for the race and steering the boat.

“That was a little frustrating for me because I’m used to multi-tasking, but I had to focus on driving the boat and just let the crew do their job, it was a new experience for me.”

Smith and the other 18 skippers definitely all had one thing in common — not one of them had any significant experience at the helm.

“They can’t have ever skippered in more than one PHRF (Performance Handicap Racing Fleet) race or two-cruiser races,” said race chair Rick Ruskin. “And it’s very strictly enforced.”

On the heels of last year’s race, which ended in a bit of confusion regarding eligibility, Ruskin was very mindful to ensure that the regatta this year would fulfill its designated purpose.

“This year we had no confusion regarding those issues,” stated Ruskin.

The regatta was co-founded by the late Darien Murray, a longtime Marina del Rey sailor, editor/publisher of The Dinghy newsmagazine and an Argonaut columnist.

The trophy for the event is named after Darien in honor of her relentless spirit and love for the Marina del Rey boating scene.

The Dinghy was produced by Darien single-handedly and was an integral cog inside the local boating community for over 30 years.

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