Ordinarily, during the races I cover in Santa Monica Bay, I play the part of the objective journalist from the command post of a 13-foot Boston whaler on the outskirts of the racetrack. With my trusty Canon SLR in hand, I look for interesting angles while attempting to stay clear of the many large, fast race boats barreling through the ocean swell. At the same time, I try to keep track of what’s happening with the racing in the various classes.
As an experiment, I decided to enter myself into the second installment of Del Rey Yacht Club’s Berger/Stein Series Saturday, March 8th, to get a skipper’s view and understanding of local yacht racing. I knew it would be a skewed perception, as I am possibly the worst skipper who has ever lived, but looking through another prism was the goal and that goal was duly satisfied.
Sailing a catamaran called a Reynolds 21, I was part of the XS Class, an eight-boat fleet comprised of catamarans and trimarans. Some say this fleet was born of controversy and others believe that it speaks to certain issues that other classes don’t address. For me, it was the most convenient, as I didn’t know that I would be sailing until the night before. But for most race organizers, anything that promotes participation will be entertained.
Someone lent me a crew member, a fellow named Jack, who had never raced before and only sailed one other time. I also had my dog, Mookie, acting as tactician. This was Mookie’s first attempt in the afterguard and throughout the race I looked deep into his eyes for guidance.
I would like to blame my dog or Jack for what happened next. Most race boats are equipped with the latest in technology to indicate the number of seconds that are left until the starting gun. We had a Nokia cell phone. Safe to say, we became confused and missed our start. But we didn’t miss getting into the following start, which brought up some debate later at the club regarding the legality of that move.
Nevertheless, there I was in the A Class, the biggest boats in the competition. Just a few feet behind me was Far Niente, which won in the A Class last time and would come in second that day.
With white knuckles clasped around my tiller, there I was straddling the line in a competitive start with fear and ignorance as my motivation.
Jack looked at me doubtfully and said, “This is way too stressful for me,” and moved to the other side of the boat. But after these heart-pounding moments we broke free as the starting gun sounded.
All of the boats fell off and gave us room to begin our eight-mile trek to Topanga Canyon. The Pacific Ocean looked wide and inviting as a ten-knot breeze pushed us along easily under a perfectly blue sky.
“From here I’ll wing it,” I thought. And indeed I did.
Along the way I saw many of the boats I’ve been covering for the last five years. On the way to the weather mark, we would cross Klexy, which would win in its class, and around the leeward mark we saw Curt Johnson’s Avet, which often dominates its class. Surprisingly, Avet would finish fourth to Chardonnay, although that is also a very well-sailed boat.
The rest of the day was uneventful. We finally rounded the Topanga buoy and started the eight-mile broad-reach home.
In what seemed like no time at all, we were entering the Marina del Rey harbor towards the end line awaiting the glorious sound of the finishing air horn. In my mind, it was quite possible that due to our unorthodox start we might not hear this music, but the blast came and we were happy.
In our class, my boat’s big sister, a Reynolds 33, won first.
In the Orca Class, Mike Leneman, once again won, sailing Delta Vee.
Ono beat Far Niente by under a minute in the A Class.
And in the C Class, Lee Lewis’s Old Yeller came out on top.
In the Stein race, Elixir won in the over 30-foot Spin Class.
Senia Jade won in Non-Spin and Yankee finished first in the under-30-foot division.
For full results go to www.dryc.org.