With the sounds of noisemakers fading in the memory of New Year’s Eve and the confetti now swept into the bin, it’s time to take a peek back into the archive to choose some of the most relevant nautical moments of the past year.
February: Speed record falls in Marina to Puerto Vallarta Race — After 22 years, the Marina del Rey to Puerto Vallarta speed record finally fell. Doug Baker’s Magnitude 80 sailed the 1,125-nautical-mile course from the shores of Los Angeles to the tropical mainland of Mexico in three days 15 hours 51 minutes 39 seconds — at an average speed of 12.8 knots.
“The conditions were great, no doubt about it,” Baker said. “Couldn’t have asked for anything better, from start to finish. I’ve been doing this since ’81, and I’ve never had a better year for conditions.”
April: Muddy Feet Regatta turned 50 — The Muddy Feet Regatta was one of the first races to take place on the waters of Marina del Rey — before it was ever called Marina del Rey. This year the Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club celebrated the 50th anniversary of this storied youth racing contest. The Muddy Feet is a race that represents what’s good about the sport of sailing and the anniversary speaks to the evolving history of the relatively new Marina.
May: Catalina Island suffers massive brush fire — The tiny picturesque seaside town of Avalon on Catalina Island was nearly demolished by a massive brush fire that raged for days and left 4,750 acres of land black and singed to bare earth.
Hundreds of Los Angeles firemen worked tirelessly to control the blaze and save the island jewel.
“The problem with this fire was logistics,” Los Angeles Fire Department Inspector Ed Lozano told The Argonaut. “Getting all the men and equipment over to the island and supplying all the units — it’s a lot of work.
“We have a plan for Catalina and we implemented that plan and it worked fairly well.”
July: Endangered Blue Whales descend on Santa Monica Bay — In never-before-seen numbers, enormous blue whales were being spotted in the Santa Monica Bay by teams of boaters and a very interested scientific community. Due to a relocation and abundance of a tiny shrimp-like organism called krill, the feeding source for the whales, blues were being spotted by the dozen.
“This is the first time in ten years we’ve seen them close to Point Dume and Point Vicente,” said marine biologist Dr. Maddalena Bearzi, founder of the Ocean Conservation Society in Marina del Rey. “Usually they don’t come so close to Santa Monica Bay. They usually stay near the Channel Islands, where they have their feeding grounds.”
October: World class sailors battle for an Olympic berth in Marina del Rey — California Yacht Club hosted the Star Class Olympic trials and 19 of the finest sailors in the United States gathered to compete for one spot on the Olympic team. Fifty-seven-year-old John Dane III and his son-in-law Austin Sperry, 29, raced a perfect race to win the right to compete in the XXIX Summer Olympic games held in China.
“They may well have sailed the perfect race,” stated the final race report. “Within 90 seconds, he’d worked bow-out on the regatta leader, George Szabo and his crew Andrew Scott, forcing them to tack off to the right where there was less pressure.
“Dane rounded the top mark in second, with Szabo well astern, and used his excellent speed to overtake the race leader to get the gun and the Star Class Olympic berth to Qingdao, China.”