The Schock 35 National Championship, hosted by the Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club, were held off the coast of Venice Friday through Sunday, August 24th to 226th, in conditions that were at times challenging for their variable nature and at other times for their flat-out power.
It was tight one-design competition for the 35-foot racers armed with full crews of nine in the short chop of Santa Monica Bay.
“The first two days we were unbelievably lucky,” said P.R.O. (principal race officer) Craig Yandow. “We had fairly stable wind and there was plenty of it.”
But Sunday was a different story. What competitors had in abundance on Friday and Saturday, in the way of wind, was replaced by a six-to-eight-knot breeze that was all over the clock. The committee struggled to set up a course and get the fleet racing.
“We had wind that started around noon from 185 [degrees] and it probably marched over to about 290, it settled briefly at around 220 — so we got a race off,” said Yandow. “We saw almost 270-degree shifts.”
For the last race it blew 16 knots, so the racers got a good blast to wrap up a weekend that was a highly competitive national championship.
The favorite going into the regatta, based on points in the high point series, was Mako, skippered by Dave and Don Michaelis and, sure enough, they held their ground through the eight races and came out on top of the pack.
While they had some minor issues with a small collision on day one, forcing them to do a penalty turn, they were pretty consistent through the weekend, scoring four bullets — twice as many as anyone else. That said, they went into Sunday’s racing only one point ahead of Steve Arkle’s Power Play.
“We’ve been battling with Steve all season long,” said Don Michaelis of Sunday’s first race and most important contest of the regatta. “We got a great start and pretty much led everybody around the course.”
The Michaelis team has been doing well over the course of the year with Dave and his father Don sharing helm duties. It’s a particularly interesting team, in that the elder Michaelis is paralyzed from the chest down and the boat is fitted with a special chair for him to steer the boat.
Don was a racer before he was shot in a mugging in the 1980s, but has continued sailing and now is the Schock 35 National Champion.
But it was no runaway for Mako. The level of competition is high, even within the class, and if a team makes a few mistakes, it will pay dearly, especially in an event as important as this one.
“In our fleet, there is no back- of-the-fleet,” said fleet captain and sixth-place finisher Fred Young. Young explained how the sixth, seventh and eighth finishing boats of one race could just as easily be first second, and third in another.
“That doesn’t happen unless everyone in the fleet are just really good sailors,” he said.
The top five finishers of the regatta were:
first: Don/Dave Michaelis — Mako;
second: Steve Arkle — Power Play;
third: Bruce Bennett/Bob Marcus — Code Blue;
fourth: Mark Hinrichs — Strategem; and
fifth: Richard Fish — Outlier.