Thick fog engulfed the Marina this past Saturday as the Association of Santa Monica Bay Yacht Clubs, in association with the Del Rey Yacht Club, conducted the ASMBYC (Association of Santa Monica Bay Yacht Clubs) Championship.
This invitational regatta was held on both Saturday and Sunday, October 1st and 2nd, with both days offering their own brand of arduous weather conditions for the racers to handle.
A record-breaking 37 boats filling six classes appeared for the start of the championship at noon on Saturday afternoon with winds blowing an average of eight knots, gusting to 12 in an extremely dense bank of fog.
The start was delayed due to visibility issues and it was questionable whether or not the race would be able to proceed at all.
“When I was looking to take the postponement down,” said regatta chairman Roberto Cordero, “I was trying to see if I could at least look across the [start] line to see the boats.
“At one point it cleared up enough where I could do it, so we started the sequence. Then moments later, I couldn’t see the line any more, so we had to stop again.”
Fifteen minutes after Cor-dero’s false start, visibility increased enough for him to make another attempt.
“They all thought I was crazy for starting them in the fog,” said Cordero, “but there were signs of it clearing and it did finally clear.”
Cordero took on the assignment of making this year’s race a bit different, with the hope of getting more boats out to participate and also to challenge the racers with some alternative ideas.
He decided to blend two different types of races into one regatta.
He combined random leg racing — which is a course set up around fixed points — with a buoy race — where the marks are set up in accordance with wind conditions.
“We’re doing something extraordinary and new here — it’s exciting,” said Cordero. “A lot of the racers were excited by it, and some were skeptical, but in the end result, they all came to me and said, ‘This works.’ ”
On the regatta’s first day, it was a straight-up buoy race, but for the second day, lengthier triangular random leg courses were designed, where the bigger, faster boats and multihulls from the ORCA (Ocean Racing Catamaran Association) fleet could spread their wings and dig in.
As exciting as that may sound, early on in Sunday’s race there was very little wind and the lengthy course seemed more like a sentence to some than a challenge.
The crew of Black Knight, who ended up finishing first in their class, were more than skeptical at the race’s start, imagining that, based on the length of the course and the speed of the wind, they might not return until after dark.
“On the start line they were complaining about the 25-mile course,” said Cordero smiling. “They all got mad at me.
“I had avenues for shortening the course, so I wasn’t worried about it.”
Although Sunday’s race was off to a slow start with much doubt surrounding the long course, the day ended with powerful winds reaching speeds of 18 knots.
The exciting and exhilarating finish to the contest further strengthened the case for the random leg idea.
“I am a big fan of random leg races over windward/leeward buoy races,” said Reliance skipper Stuart Coleman from the South Coast Corinthian Yacht Club. “With the random leg race, it’s about fine-tuning the sail trim for a specific point of sail, not whether to tack on every ten-degree wind shift.
“Our crew really enjoyed the race with a day that got windier and sunnier and the boat speed kept increasing.
“It sounded like it may have been a long course at the start, but we knew the R.C. (race committee) could shorten the course mid-race if the winds never built.”
Cordero was pleased with how the revised course arrangement was received and hopes that others will adopt more random leg racing in the area.
“I basically said to [the racers], ‘We’re trying this out — is this what you want?’ And judging from the response, maybe it is.”
The winners were Phil Friedman, sailing Black Knight, in PHRF (Performance Handicap Racing Fleet) A; the Mahaffey family in PHRF B aboard Cuvee Caliente; Al Castillon sailing Hot Rum in PHRF C; and in PHRF D, Mike George sailing 9 Lives.
Cruiser A Class saw Brandy take first place honors, sailed by George Boyd.
In the ORCA class, the Fairwind Y.C. trimaran Seawing won first place with Dick Gross at the helm.