Sailboat racing, like any other sport with such a long history and evolved traditions, has its rooted conventions, codes and formalities.
This “gentleman’s sport” sometimes carries a certain quality of eruditeness that, at its worst, can reek of aristocracy and a resistance to change.
Since this sport is ultimately about speed, there is bound to be progression.
One of the major changes was the advent of the multihull sailboat, whose design abandoned the time-honored weighted keel and replaced it with a concept of a widened beam and other modifications that produced a light-weight boat packing a great deal of power.
The multihull quickly became, pound for pound, the fastest boat on the racetrack and also earned the status of the “red-headed stepchild” in many racing circles along the way.
These new boats adopted a more futuristic look and touted speed over everything else.
Contemporary multis in the 27-to-40-foot range commonly reach speeds over 20 knots — unheard of on similarly-sized monohulls.
From appearance in the 1960s to this day, multihull racers still define themselves as outsiders in their own sport.
For this reason, there is a certain cult appeal for these boats that spurs user groups, Web sites, magazines and independent unsanctioned races for the owners to gather.
This past weekend, the largest offshore multihull race in the United States was held here in Marina del Rey, sponsored by Fairwind Yacht Club and Multi Marine.
Trimarans crept over the water like giant spiders, while over-grown Beachcats darted in and out of the mix before the starting gun of the sixth annual Indian Summer Splash Regatta.
The 37 boats would be racing to Cat Harbor, on the backside of Catalina Island, and back — approximately 35 miles in each direction.
Race organizer and West Coast multihull guru Mike Leneman has been the master of ceremonies for this grass-roots competition since he created the regatta six years ago.
Leneman provides workshops, hikes and seminars on the Saturday afternoon between the two race days, creating an atmosphere of community amongst the racers.
Mike is easily one of the most respected multihull authorities on the West Coast and is well known across the country for his knowledge and dedication to these oats.
He has recently designed his own trimaran, called the L-7, a small trailerable boat that is very fast and comfortable.
In the first few years of the race, Leneman was famous for acting as the committee boat, checking everyone in, pulling up his anchor and waxing the entire fleet in his souped-up F-31 tri, Delta Vee.
Things have evolved since those days, except for Leneman’s winning ways.
This year, he once again won the contest in his trusty Delta Vee, but he clearly cares more about the success of the regatta and the happiness of the racers than his first place finishes.
“We had three days of sunny weather and nice winds,” said a satisfied Leneman. “We had a great hike/man overboard (M.O.B.) demonstration, where someone demonstrated the M.O.B., while we all watched from above, from on top of a cliff, to get an aerial view.”
Last year’s T-shirts for the event read “A gathering of the multihull tribe,” and that is exactly what Leneman is cultivating with this race.
It’s a place where West Coast multihull owners can get together in a friendly environment and exchange information and philosophy.
“With the interest developing around boats like Mike’s L-7 and Corsair’s new Sprint 750, I think next year’s turnout will be even larger,” observed co-sponsor and Fairwind Yacht Club commodore Dave Lumian.
The turnout for the race has been progressively and gradually growing through the years with the same participants returning and new converts coming into the fold.
Racers from all over the state and beyond come to compete and share their experiences in their unique speed machines.
“It goes more smoothly every year,” said Leneman, regarding the evolution of the Indian Summer Splash. “Even my girlfriend — who usually works her bones off most years — even said, ‘Hey, this is cool.'”