In 1928, when the very first Midwinter Regatta was held in the waters of Southern California, Herbert Hoover was yet to be elected President, Charlie Chaplin won an Academy Award at the first annual Academy Awards ceremony and Sir Alexander Fleming was to discover penicillin in September.
Seventy-nine years later, while the news speaks of human cloning, space tourism and global warming, the tradition of assembling a giant-size regatta that crosses state borders and asks countless volunteers to behave in concert, continues. So much has changed, yet so much remains unchanged.
Today the Midwinter not only continues, it thrives. According to the Southern California Yachting Association (SCYA), the regatta started when the association and the Los Angeles Junior Chamber of Commerce teamed up to sponsor the first Midwinter Regatta, which was promoted as an example of the sports “paradise” that Southern California offered in the winter.
As hoped, the event attracted boats from the Great Lakes, the Atlantic Coast and the rest of the Pacific Coast. It’s reputed that some of the best-known yachtsmen in America would make the trip west until the years of World War II.
The 2006 edition of the race drew 612 entries in 56 one-design and 29 PHRF (Pacific Handicap Racing Fleet) classes, plus Portsmouth, predicted log and radio-controlled model boat classes. For many years this regatta has been considered the largest in the United States and some reports list it as the largest in North America as well.
New hosts include the Santa Barbara Sailing Club, the Channel Islands Yacht Club and the Marina del Rey Outrigger Canoe Club, with new classes such as Santa Cruz 50s, Open 570s and canoes. The event will take place on Presidents weekend, Saturday and Sunday, February 17th and 18th.
“The regatta will be hosted at 30 clubs from San Diego to Santa Barbara to Phoenix and all ports in between,” said a very busy SCYA regatta chairman, Dave Lumian. “Races will be held for sailboats, yachts, radio-controlled models, land yachts, powerboats and, for the first time, outrigger canoes.”
For many racers in this area, Del Rey Yacht Club’s Berger/ Stein Series is the unofficial start of the racing season, but for others throughout the Southern Californian waterscape, the Midwinter Regatta represents the be- ginning of the yacht-racing year.
“Every sailor should get involved,” said Lumian. “This is the tune-up event that kicks off the 2007 season. It’s a community event that unites sailors throughout Southern California and Arizona.”
One of the more exciting elements of the Midwinter, as opposed to some of the other contests on the race calendar, is the inherent unpredictability of the winter weather. While, last year, it was postcard-perfect, other years have seen pouring rain, unmanageable seas and 20-to-25-knot winds.
“We are praying for good weather,” Lumian said of the weather factor. “Last year it was waist-shirt weather, sunny and warm. The year before it rained cats and dogs but the races took place anyway.
“Rain or shine, the Midwinter races will run. Fortunately, the Farmers Almanac is predicting great conditions for our weekend.”
For Marina del Rey’s part, five local clubs will be splitting up the duties for the Midwinter.
California Yacht Club is hosting the one-design classes, including J/80, Martin 242, Sport Boats, Star, and Open 5.70.
Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club is hosting PHRF, cruising, ORCA (Ocean Racing Catamaran Association) and wooden hull classes.
Del Rey Yacht Club is hosting the sabots for juniors and masters.
The Marina del Rey Outrigger Canoe Club is hosting one-man and six-man classes and Fairwind Yacht Club will be hosting the Hobie Wave class.
For more information on getting involved with the Midwinter Regatta, contact Dave Lumian at (310) 306-1116 or log onto http://midwinters.scyaweb.org/2007mwr