It had been a while since I was out in the ocean in my trusty 13-foot Boston Whaler waiting for the horns to signal the start of a yacht race.
The racing season slows down a bit from September through the Holidays, but come January, the Del Rey Yacht Club in Marina del Rey hosts the first race of the Berger/Stein Series and the yacht-racing season is unofficially back in action.
As I sped out to the start line, it was a gorgeous morning, perhaps not for a race, as the wind was nearly non-existent, but certainly for a day on the water. As I passed the detached breakwall I saw the mob of boats about a mile offshore and made my way for the pack.
There is often a jovial mood in the air for this particular race. It marks the start of a long season, the end of a lengthy break, and it is a chance for local racers to be visited by and compete against some of the more high-profile boats in the Southern California area.
I always like to shut off the motor once I arrive and listen to the sounds of the pre-race motions. As I drift in the midst of the 102-boat fleet, it sort of feels as though I’m underwater with all-different types of fish swimming by.
Purebred racers like Bob Lane’s Anderson 63 Medicine Man, out of Long Beach that recently raced the L.A. to Tahiti Race, bounces near me, creaking and grunting as the crew makes pre-race adjustments.
There are brightly painted sport boats, multihulls built for speed and old cruising boats built for comfort milling around together in this large imaginary circle waiting for their class to be summoned to the line, where they would start their race up to Malibu and back, although the cruising fleet would race a triangular course in the bay.
I hear the chattering of crews — skippers telling new crewmen the ins and outs of the boat and others barking at their veteran crew in frustration. There’s laughing and some playful taunting, but for many it’s a time for quiet analysis and strategy.
The first of five, this race always attracts some serious competition in the Big Boat – AA Class. The three Farr 40s in the class were mixing it up with bigger, highly competitive boats like Pendragon, Medicine Man, Holua, Relentless and even radio guru Dr. Laura Schlessinger sailing Warrior.
“This year was special for several reasons,” said winner in the class Frederic Scheer, skipper of Farr Niente. “First, we were the defender, as we won last year. Second, we have been crowned the ‘king of distance races’ of the Farr 40 in Southern California in 2008, winning the MdR-Malibu, the Ensenada race and the Santa Barbara-King Harbor against all Farr 40s. Third, we were competing in the AA class along with the big boats TP 52-, 60- and 70-foot racers, etc., so the pressure was on.
“But we have now a great crew and we have been sailing together for almost one year and it makes a great difference — training, training and training.”
Scheer had a successful season last year and looks to follow it up with more wins this year.
“Former UCLA coachÝJim Durden, a legend in the bay, was our tactician and from the start Jim wanted us to go high and we basically ended up with almost a ten-mile lay line to Malibu,” said Scheer. “We were lucky (or wise) and got the wind, but within two miles from the Malibu mark the wind decreased to almost zero. We turned the mark and immediately set up our new masthead spinnakers and ran with new breeze that eventually reached ten knots and we made it. Great crew work and a lot of fun.”
IN OTHER CLASSES — Doug Steele’s Babe took first in the A1 Class. Ed Jenkins’ Klexy came out on top in the A2 Class and was also the Berger’s overall winner.
In the B Class, Fred Cottrell and Tom Marland’s Tigger came out on top, correcting out over Kurt Johnson in Avet by less than a minute.
Friction Loss was first in the C Class and second overall.
And in the Multihull Class, Dan Frenette sailed his F 27 Alien to first-in-class.
In the Stein Race, Joe Cowen’s Windsong took first overall and first in the Under 30 Class. Michael Schau won in the Non-spin Over 30 Class and Chad and Kerrie Downey’s Elixir was sailed to victory in the Over 30 Spinnaker Class.
For complete results go to www.dryc.org/.