In a town that so often pivots on the ideals of vanity and cash flow, itís encouraging to see that there are still events in existence that are free of such trappings.
The Muddy Feet Regatta, hosted by the Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club, is a youth sailing event that has been going strong for the past half century and has remained much the same through the course of those years. It is a simple regatta which, above all else, focuses on the education and enjoyment of young people involved in a sailboat race.
Back before Marina del Rey was the bustling boating hub it is today, the beaches of Santa Monica Harbor were the launching sites for smaller sailboats including the popular sabot, which is what the young sailors in the Muddy Feet sail. Back in those days, of course, the boats were made of wood, but besides that aspect the race is still the same ó a gathering of young sailors competing with parents cheering from the sideline.
The Muddy Feet Regatta was one of the first races that took place in Marina del Rey before it was Marina del Rey. According to The History of Santa Monica Yacht Club 1941 to 1991, written by SMYC members, in the early 1950s Santa Monica Yacht Club began running weekly Haggerty Sea Shell Races at Lake Venice.
This so-called lake was in the present vicinity of what is now Marina del Rey and access was only possible over the unpaved dirt roads off Washington Boulevard. Lake Venice was considered part of the wetlands and was actually a sump for the Venice oil fields.
Today the skippers of tomorrow sail the eight-foot fiberglass one-designs in the Marina del Rey harbor ó tacking and jibbing at breakneck speed as they did then. Occasionally they push too hard and find themselves upside down ó vividly learning the lessons of personal responsibility, no different from the now-60-year-old men who first sailed in the original Muddy Feet contests.
On Saturday, April 14th, it was the Anacapa Yacht Clubís young sailors who would come to Marina del Rey and dominate the 27-boat fleet by taking first in the A, B and C fleets, with Annie Rossi, Parker Jellison, Ryan Marangola all posting identical scores 1,1,2,3.
On the local front, the notable standouts were Seamus Dougherty from the Del Rey Yacht Club, who came in third in the A division, Christopher Weis also from DRYC, who got a second in the B class, and Willie Wofford of California Yacht Club, who came in third in the C class.
It was a sunny afternoon and winds were shifty. At times it was blowing a steady ten knots and other times down around five, then back up over ten ó unpredictable, difficult conditions for relatively inexperienced racers, but most seemed very comfortable with the conditions.
ìWinds were really squirrelly ó strong one moment and no wind the next,î said Santa Monica Windjammers junior staff commodore Peter Glick, who was on hand for the event. ìAnd one of our young sailors, Frank, turtled his boat, putting the mast in the mud and painting his sail with mud for a really ëMuddyÝFeetí event.î
According to Muddy Feet lore, the race is actually named after the way they used to board the boats when they would sail on the wetlands.
A gentleman named Weir designed, built and transported ìthe dockî which was a 12-to-14-inch board designed to transfer the kids from their boats at the creekís shore onto dry land without them getting ìmuddy feet.î
ìThe history of the early Muddy Feet races has remained in the memories of MdRís old salts,î said Rosemary B. De Camp, secretary at SMWYC, who recently wrote a piece on the race for The Mariner magazine. ìIn attempting to document the history of this regatta it became clear there was a paucity of objective evidence, records, photographs or even trophies.
ìLike most folklore and legend, the history of this race is passed on over a drink with friends at the bar.
ìAs Marina del Rey matures as an established boating mecca with a storied history of sailing and racing, it would benefit us all to retain and preserve the history, pictures and stories to pass them on to the sailors yet to come ó lest they be lost forever.î