“Ready? Ready?”

“And Mark!”

Upon hearing those words, an “observer” in the national sport of predicted log racing would write down the time it took to arrive at that mark.

And if it matched the skipper’s earlier prediction, the skipper would be a happy man.

Log racing is quite simple in concept.

A course consisting of six or more legs is given, where the skipper predicts — on a day prior to the contest — how long it should take him or her to complete each leg.

Whoever is closest to his or her prediction wins.

Only a tachometer, chart and a compass are used to negotiate the course and no electronic navigational equipment is allowed.

“The greatest thing about the sport, that we tell everyone, is that if something happens to all that fancy equipment, they’ll be able to navigate without it,” said three-time national log racing champion Mel Lurie. “It’s an important sport.

“It teaches real navigation without all the instruments.”

On Saturday, September 24th, the Santa Monica Bay Power Fleet held its last log races of the season with the Commodore’s Challenge and the Vice Commodore’s Challenge, hosted by the California Yacht Club and the Del Rey Yacht Club.

It was broken into two races stretching from the Marina del Rey breakwater down to the Point Vicente Lighthouse and back.

The participants were assigned to hit marks in the form of buoys and/or landmarks such as piers or lighthouses and were also prescribed “blind points” that use no visual references.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Lurie. “The weather was great, it was an interesting course — we went down below [buoy] R10, which we rarely do.”

The races are designed to challenge the competitor’s navigational skills and to keep the events interesting for the local boaters who routinely participate in the contests.

Wind, waves, currents and unforeseen obstacles are what racers are faced with on game day and the skilled log racer must understand how the actual conditions will undermine the original prediction and in turn make the appropriate compensation.

Although it’s quite possible to accurately match a predicted time on a given leg during a race, it is impossible to do it through all the legs of the course.

“There’s hardly a race where someone hasn’t made a perfect score on one leg,” said Lurie, “but nobody’s ever aced the course.”

In Saturday’s competition, the fleet tried marks that had never been used in past contests.

“There’s not many buoys [in the bay],” said Santa Monica Power Fleet commodore Dave Lewis. “One of our concerns is finding new buoys and places to race to.”

Of Saturday’s course Lewis observed, “I wrote the race, so I thought it was interesting. We got to go on some new turf by going down to Point Vicente, which was a different run for us. We normally don’t do that.

“Also, on the second part, we used a different buoy that we’ve never used before. This particular race had lots of different currents out at [buoy] PV10, so that was of interest as well.”

Lewis won the Commodore’s Challenge (the first race of the day), which turned out to be a most appropriate name for the contest, considering that Lewis is actually a commodore.

Herb Dover, the 2004 Yachtsman of the Year, won the Vice Commodore’s Challenge (the second race).

Dover is very active in the Southern California Cruiser Association, which conducts about 12 races a year and has been a proponent of log racing for many years.

“You learn something every time you go out [on a race],” said Dover. “You get to see how the boat handles in different conditions and there’s always something to learn.”

Both the Santa Monica Bay Power Fleet and the Southern California Cruiser Association, which conduct all the log races in the area, are finished for the season, but they are beginning plans for the 2006 year.

There is a variety of races in the works.

Among them are races to Mexico, Catalina and national events held here and in other states.

Although log racing is a thriving sport, local racers are always hopeful that more boaters will see its appeal and become involved.

“We always like to have new members because they add a lot to the scenario,” said Lewis. “They have fresh thoughts about new racing destinations and about other important matters at hand.”

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