Dating back to 1962 and on into the mid-’90s, the California Cup Regatta brought together an elite collection of boats and racers from the Southern California area in a prestigious sailing event that was by invitation only. The “Cal Cup,” as it is more commonly known, attracted the premium pedigree of the So Cal racing scene.
Maxi-sleds — ultralight displacement flyers in the 68-to-70-foot range and built for speed —gathered together for some friendly — but highly competitive — local racing.
There were 16 Cal Cup races held through those years, with all the local rock stars participating, but towards the late ’90s various boats were sold and relocated, bringing the tradition to an end.
Unlike many other high-profile racing events, where there are a slew of classes and a myriad of designs on hand, this event was small and focused. A handful of purebred large-scale speedsters gathered to compete in a dignified and distinguished competition.
The past regattas attracted some of sailing’s royalty, including Paul Cayard, Dennis Conner, Ted Hood, Lowell North, Jim Kilroy, Kenny Watts, Dick Deaver, Ken DeMeuse, Bill Ficker, Malin Burnham, John Kostecki, Tom Blackhaller, John Bertram, Jeff Madrigali, Gary Weisman, Dave Ullman, Stan Miller, Burke Sawyer and Robbie Haines — oh, and Bo Derek too.
Last year, after a nine-year hiatus, the Cal Cup was revived. Longtime Marina del Rey racer Ed McDowell and Grand Illusion, a Santa Cruz 70 with more Cal Cup victories than any other boat, took home the brass, ushering in another era of the storied race.
Saturday and Sunday, May 17th and 18th, the purebreds gathered again in a fluky faint breeze to hash it out on the Santa Monica Bay.
Around 1 p.m. Saturday, ten of the most glamorous, graceful and swift sloops on the West Coast, including Ragtime, Taxi Dancer, and Skylark, drifted slowly in the high pressure weather system waiting for some breeze.
“The high pressure that invaded So Cal did the Cal Cup regatta no favors,” said host California Yacht Club’s Tom Leweck, who spearheaded the resuscitation of the esteemed regatta. “The race committee was forced to postpone the first start on Saturday until 2 p.m. and could only get in one of the two races scheduled.”
Mike Campbell and Dale Williams, skippering the long, lustrous Peligroso, out of Long Beach Yacht Club, handled the fleet rather comfortably on Saturday’s initial contest, but they couldn’t maintain their grip through Sunday’s races. They eventually finished second behind Holua in the overall standings.
“The racing was okay on Saturday, but [the wind] was fading badly after just one race, forcing PRO [principal race officer] Bill Stump to send the boats in after just one of the two races scheduled,” Leweck says. “To compensate, the warning signal was moved up an hour on Sunday in an attempt to get in three races. But after two races the wind shut off again, sending the boats in early on Sunday with only three of the four scheduled races completed.”
Like Grand Illusion’s home-court win last year, Brack Duker out of the California Yacht Club read the local conditions correctly and drove Holua to the top of the standings in the 2008 edition. Duker had won the Cal Cup three times before in his Santa Cruz 70, Evolution, and now has done it in a newer SC 70.
“It was a tough day for the tacticians, and a lot of credit should go to Dave Ullman on Holua, who called tactics for Brack, and Bruce Nelson who was his principal trimmer,” Leweck says.
These types of situations are considered by many to be the most challenging that a tactician can face. To read the shifts in such light conditions requires the highest level of instinct and sensitivity.
“There were more than the normal number of wind shifts, but there were also large voids in the wind patterns,” Leweck observed. “Boats just a hundred yards apart were frequently sailing in winds of different strength and direction.”
The top three finishers were Holua, Peligroso and last year’s winner, Grand Illusion.
For full results, www.calyacht club.com/.