Last weekend, March 13th and 14th, the major yacht clubs in the Marina del Rey community put their day-to-day projects, races and/or programs on hold and came together for Opening Day, the ceremonial beginning of a new yachting season.

Dressed in white pants and blue blazers, officials and volunteers from the many organizations and surrounding clubs attended presentations at each of the six main yacht clubs situated in the Marina harbor.

Many were ferried by the Sheriff’s Department Marina del Rey Station and Los Angles County Lifeguard boats to visit the various hosts and hear what each club was about and what they seek to accomplish throughout the upcoming season.

While every Opening Day has its share of bloopers and painful public speaking, through the pomp and circumstance there lies a devoted and long-lasting commitment to the health and wellbeing of recreational boating in Southern California.

The 2010 Opening Day weekend was blessed with perfect weather for the hundreds of visitors that filled the folding chairs assembled on the yacht club lawns or parking lots. Each club began with Color Guard presenters from local military organizations providing a dose of patriotism and dignity, but later live bands, free food and cocktails counter-balanced the sober beginning.

Through the years I have attended more than a few of these events and now sort of know the drill, but I remember going to my first one not knowing what to expect. I was fortunate to be briefed by longtime Opening Day organizer and former David Poe Memorial Yachting Service Award winner Lynn Hammett.

She explained that each of the clubs has a distinct personality and that the presentation is a reflection of that character. For instance, the California Yacht Club is distinguished, pristine and orderly, while the Pacific Mariners Yacht Club has the commodore doing shots of Irish whiskey whenever he or she mispronounces a name, and then a rubber chicken flies in on a string.

The small but proud South Coast Corinthian Yacht Club doesn’t typically introduce its visiting guests and dignitaries as a showing of their unpresumptuous disposition, while the Del Rey Yacht Club ordinarily represents a friendly but stately and conservative identity.

Throughout all the clubs, however, is a welcoming attitude that is proud of their accomplishments and their place in the greater community. Some raise substantial money for charities, some sponsor major youth sailing programs and others have created programs specifically designed for special needs kids.

The amount of effort that goes into the day is evidence in itself that the local yachting community is alive and thriving. With an impending redevelopment, some clubs are worried for their geographic security, but on Opening Day they put it on the back burner and instead serve finger food, Bloody Marys and celebrate the first day of another yachting season.

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