The basins in Marina del Rey spilled out sailboats of all types at around 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 19th, en route to the first contest of what many consider the most popular race on the Marina del Rey yacht racing calendar — the Sunset Series, hosted by the California Yacht Club.
For Marina del Rey racers, the beginning of the Sunset means that the racing season has truly begun.
Yes, there were races prior to this, but the Sunset marks a shift.
For the next five months, sailors will be adjusting their lives so that at least one day of the week will be devoted to sailing on Santa Monica Bay.
The main channel filled with boats moving briskly under the eight-knot breeze and racers anticipated the likely picture-perfect conditions of the ensuing first race.
The sky was clear and blue, with the waning sun slowly descending on calm seas, but the wind is fickle and was nearly gone by the time of the first warning signal.
“In spite of the light winds no one appeared disappointed,” said California Yacht Club race co-chair Denise George.
“Everyone seemed truly excited to be out there sailing once again and then later, mingling with old friends back at the club.”
Wind or no wind — the Sunset Series is a Marina del Rey sailing tradition that brings the local community together for an evening of informal racing on the water.
This year’s first race, like so many in the past, was a well-attended affair.
Eight classes started and more than 75 boats were lining up some 100 yards off the breakwater for the start of the event.
The first start was at 6 p.m. when the PHRF (Pacific Handicap Racing Fleet) A Class squeezed the small amount of wind that was left from the pre-start breeze.
The fleet of long, sleek yachts built for racing and filled with crew sailed off into the proverbial sunset with Jay Steinbeck’s Margaritaville One & a Half in the lead from the start.
As the sun neared the horizon, Steinbeck crossed the finish line in first place.
The rest of the classes were left with virtually nothing except a small push at the very end of the race.
For the vast duration of the contest, boats sat motionless creeping along at a sub-snail’s pace.
This was in contrast to last year’s first race where 15-to-20 knot winds had boats reefed and maxed, eventually forcing a dismasting for one boat and a sinking for another.
This year, the rounding of the weather mark was a clunky slow-motion stagger.
The fleet finally crawled across the finish and ended an uneventful contest that marked the beginning of what will most likely be an eventful racing season.
Other winners included:
PHRF B — Chris Slagerman sailing his Viper 830, Black Magic;
PHRF C — Bill Barnard sailing Insanity, an Olson 30;
PHRF D — Dick Hampikian aboard Lizzie B, a G&S 27;
Martin 242 — Shirley and Earl, sailed by D. Schmidt and G. Gordon;
PHRF E — Bandit, a Santana 20 sailed by Chedal, Thomas, and Fleck;
Cruising A — Volpe II, skippered by Gregg Gann; and
Cruising B — Grumpy Old Men, a Cal 25 sailed by Bob Morris and Tom Thornton.