As the last boat crossed the finish line of the Sunset Series last month, there were immediate pangs of loss and separation within the hearts of many of the racers who want the racing season — which ends in September — to continue on into the fall.
For these racers, taking off the month of December seems reasonable enough for holidays etc., but going without racing through all of October, November and December is too long a drought in their collective mind.
Finally, these feelings of longing and wistfulness might now be over. After years of discussing the possibilities and structure of a new race to add to the calendar, racers from the Del Rey Yacht Club have designed a series that not only provides another racing outlet, but has added some innovative elements that they feel will both bolster the sport and make for better and more competitive racing. It’s called the Saturday Races and will run on October 6th, 13th and 27th.
“Society has changed,” said Mike Guccione, who is the primary developer of the race. “Yachting is filled with traditions and those traditions are what draw a number of people to the sport.
“It’s also what’s killing racing. Society changed with computers and the Internet, yet we run essentially the same races today as we did 30 years ago. The fun and social interaction that have always been part of racing is no longer there for many people.”
Over the course of the past two years, Guccione and a band of other like-minded racers have discussed and dissected the issues of yacht racing and how they could improve the sport on a local level.
Guccione is the founder of the Yacht Racers Resource Center (www.yrrc.com/), which most local racers frequent to discuss anything from local events to the state of contemporary sailing. On the site, racers often let their unedited opinions fly and Guccione has been monitoring closely what modern racers are looking for in an event.
From the race times to the trophy presentation, organizers of the Saturday Races have made modifications from what is ordinary. For instance, instead of the usual noon start for weekend races, they will begin racing at 3 p.m. to capitalize on the afternoon breeze and accommodate family obligations and concerns.
They will allow centerboard boats to race against keelboats and there will be a new class set-up that can be custom-made by the racers themselves, which can include whoever they sign up.
“Each competitor can give us a list of who they want to race against,” said Guccione. “Call your buddies and see who wants to race against you. We’ll give trophies to all classes.”
Another aspect of the Saturday Races that organizers are both proud of and excited about is the fresh educational and social ingredient of the concept.
For those heavily involved in the sport, dwindling participation is a constant concern and the group looks to use this event to educate the public about what sailing is. Most people don’t know the first thing about the “game” of yacht racing and that doesn’t bode well when it comes to recruiting newcomers to the sport.
“We will be promoting this race through the Department of Beaches and Harbors, the chamber of commerce and directly to the public,” said Guccione. “Tim Tunks, a great local sailor and former ASMBYC [Association of Santa Monica Bay Yacht Clubs] Sportsman of the Year, will be at the finish line at Burton Chase Park explaining to the public racing and how to get into it.”
This Saturday, Tunks will also be seizing the opportunity to educate attendees about the Star Class sailors who will be finishing their first race of the Olympic Trials. Some of the finest sailors in the world will be sailing by the park.
So far, reaction to the proposed race has been overwhelming. Moments after the race became official, Mount Gay Rum came on as a sponsor and now the buzz about the post-race party is rivaling that of the series itself. In light of some racers’ lackluster feelings for trophy ceremonies, the Saturday Races promise to be exciting, affordable and different than other post-race events.
“We took out the tables and added sofas that face each other,” Guccione stated. “People are more likely to stand and mingle. Then we added group interactive games that promote social interaction. Mount Gay jumped in and is donating tons of giveaway items, free samples, group activity games and their attractive and fun-loving ambassadors to get the party going.”
But with all of the tweaks and refinements, the Saturday Races series is, above all, an excuse to keep racing. It gives the teams that have been working on their game all year a means by which to keep the gears greased and rolling.
“It’s a response to many requests to continue racing after Cal Yacht Club’s Wednesday night races abate,” said one of the series organizers, Tom Redler. “It’s an attempt to keep the momentum that you build up throughout the season going throughout the year, so you don’t have to start cold again with the races beginning in January.”
For more information about participating in the Saturday Races, contact Mike Guccione at (818) 731-1030 or innove8@pac bell.net.