In a city where tradition and indigenous culture are as rare as its own water supply, to see events move successfully forward through time, slowly forging a heritage, is encouraging. In the Southern California yacht-racing world, sailors turn to the Midwinter Regatta as a place to measure the length of their racing roots in this area.

Since 1928, when Ford’s Model A was the new car on the market and there were only 48 states in the country, the Midwinter Regatta was up and running. The regatta attracted racers from the Great Lakes, the Atlantic Coast and the rest of the Pacific Coast. Today, organizers of the Midwinter pride themselves on the fact that it is the largest regatta in North America.

According to the Southern California Yachting Association, the regatta was hosted this year at 33 clubs, February 16th and 17th from San Diego to Santa Barbara and all ports in between. Races were held in 80 classes for sailboats, yachts, radio-controlled models, land yachts, powerboats and outrigger canoes.

“This is the tune-up event that kicks off the 2008 season,” said Midwinter chairman Bill Marting. “It’s a community event that unites sailors throughout Southern California and Arizona.”

For Marina del Rey racers, a few boats headed over to King Harbor in Redondo to compete in the PHRF (Pacific Handicap Racing Fleet) classes, while most of the Marina contingent filled the one design fleets and stayed local, hashing it out on the Santa Monica Bay.

The largest one design fleet on the water was the Martin 242 class, in which Mike George came out on top sailing All In as he so often does. Although it looked more than promising for the cast of Strange Crew who were tied with All In at the end of day one with seven points and began the second day with a bullet, giving them a decent lead. But George came back with a second-place finish in the final race with Strange Crew only mustering a ninth, allowing George and company to win with an overall total of 14.

In the storied Star Class, the Frank Borzage Perpetual Trophy was given to the father-son team of Ben and Parker Mitchell, who dominated the fleet with a fusillade of firsts and seconds. Ben is a world-class Star sailor who has competed at the highest level of the sport. He has sailed with and against legendary sailors and he continues to be a formidable competitor. For Mitchell, this would be his second time receiving the brass — he won it previously in 1993.

Sean Borzage was on hand to present the perpetual trophy his grandfather, Frank Borzage, dedicated in 1930 for the Southern California National Midwinter Star Championship Series. Frank was a Star enthusiast when he wasn’t making Oscar-winning films back in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

And while the Mitchells accepted the oldest perpetual trophy the regatta had to offer, John Staff accepted the newest — the Sport Boat Perpetual. Staff, on the heels of winning in the ASMBYC (Association of Santa Monica Bay Yacht Clubs) Champion of Champions Regatta sailing his Viper 830, Plankton, has now put his name on the Midwinter’s plaque.

In the J-80 class, Avet, skippered by Curt Johnson, just back from Key West Race Week, where he finished sixth out of 19, was on track and winning again on his home waters.

Cuvee Caliente won in the Mumm 30 class and Rich Festa and son were dominant in the Open 5.70 class sailing Havic. Like the Mitchell father/son duo in the Star class, the Festas were untouchable. They had four bullets and one third through the weekend.

To illustrate how charmed their weekend was, on the last race of the day they were over early and subsequently caught hassling around the starting pin, but by the weather mark they were in first — they then controlled the fleet throughout the rest of the race, winning with ease. It was as if the racing gods simply would not allow another boat to beat them.

For complete results, http://midwinters.scyaweb.org/2008mwr/.

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