On Friday, September 30th, thirty-two of some of the best Harbor 20 sailors from around the country converged in Newport Beach for the 2016 East / West Challenge Regatta. Fleet 1 had the honor of hosting this annual event which includes sailors from Annapolis (Fleet 5), Hilton Head (Fleet 3), Charlotte Harbor, FL (Fleet 6), Santa Barbara (Fleet 4) and Newport Beach (Fleet 1). Fleet 5 will host the 2017 event in Annapolis, MD.
The weekend started with a Welcome Reception harbor-side next to Newport Harbor Yacht Club. On Saturday, eight teams representing the “East Coast” competed against eight teams representing the “West Coast” in a fleet race format (lowest combined score wins) over two days. Dinner Saturday evening at the NHYC followed the racing on day one. Racing continued on Sunday and the weekend culminated with an Awards Dinner at Lido Isle Yacht Club.
Fleet 5's Bill Sutton provided a compilation narrative of his East / West Challenge Regatta experience:
What a beautiful weekend for racing in Newport Beach! By the last (eighth) race on Sunday, I think we were all getting a little dizzy whipping around the buoys. This is how I remember it...
Race Eight: The breeze was up nicely with the Race Committee (RC) setting the start and finish line in the middle of the half mile windward leeward course. A slight easterly was favoring the pin end. After a slight delay while we waited for a guy fishing from an inner tube to drift through the starting line, I did a quick shot to windward to check line square, hoping to see the weather mark, but of course it was hiding in a field of anchored boats having a Sunday party. But I had a rough idea of where it should be...
The three horn warning sounded, just as a Duffy, a twenty five foot electric boat that looks like a surrey with the fringe on top, meandering through the starting line. The skipper, an able seaman with at least 10 minutes of experience in boating, was told by several competitors that its was highly advised that he move out of the starting area. He seemed surprised that sailboats competed in races, and anyone with that idea would naturally think that the sailboats would have to come to a stop and line up before starting a race.
The Duffy did clear the line, no doubt starting to sense fear at the swarming Harbor 20's. In the previous race I found a nice opening at the pin end and nailed the start on the way to a great race, only to have the race postponed just before the start because another boat was fouled with the committee boat anchor line. Anyway, I was set up to repeat a pin start with a nice port tack approach, perfectly timed, until a weather Harbor 20 yelled at me to not come up because he was my "team mate" as he blast reached down the line. With friends like that who needs opponents?
My "team mate' blasted over me, but found he was early and gybed away, leaving me a nice shot to the pin, which I hit perfectly at the start only too... have the local fleet captain observing the race from his Boston Whaler right in front of me and backing away Mach Schell, which caused so much turbulance in the water that I had to fall off 10 degrees as I fought a 3 knot prop wash current.
Are you getting the picture yet of the Obstruction North Americans? So, we got our boat moving after we cleared the turbulance, two boats on our weather hip. Fortunately they tacked away in time to give us a port tack lane and avoid the 80 foot tug and barge anchored in the course. Once clear of the barge we lifted nicely to where we estimated the weather mark to be, and after clearing an anchored 60 foot sport fishing boat saw the weather mark. We had to duck a 40 foot trawler anchored just below the starboard lay line and as soon as we cleared her anchor line we tacked, only to see a Duffy idling right on the lay line, with the skipper appearing to be on his knees proposing to his first mate. A few kinds words of encouragement from me failed to produce any sense of urgency to take evasive action by the Duffy. We passed within inches of his port rail and shot the weather mark. I don't know if she said "Yes".
We were in a close third as we rounded the offset mark. The wind favored remaining on starboard for a while, but the rest of the fleet was close behind and I wanted to take a clearing gybe before we came to the anchored boats. As we completed our gybe I saw ahead three women on Stand Up Paddleboards (SUPs)about a hundred yards ahead, and I had to drive low to clear them. I took careful note of the right most SUP, operated by a woman about 25 years old, Five feet eight inches tall, maybe 115 pounds, blonde shoulder length hair, wearing a black string bikini, straw hat, and Ray Ban Aviators. I carefully logged this image because I figured her position might be an important factor on the next upwind leg.
We passed the SUP ladies and gybed for the leeward gates, on a nice lay line to the left gate. As we approached I saw more SUPs, this time a young couple obviously learning. They were about thirty feet from he leeward left gate directly in our line of approach. The male was standing and his female partner paddling on her knees. He saw us approaching, with the fleet behind. He saw us coming and paddled toward shore and said something to the female, who saw the approaching sailboats and froze in place. As we passed her I suggested she follow her man and move away. She was staring straight ahead, no head movement or eye contact, obviously contemplating her last moments on earth. We passed leaving her to starboard, rounded the mark, and barely missed her guy as we hardened up for the beat.
I wanted to stay on port, lifting over a group of moored boats just to the right of me, and tack when I reached the SUP ladies at the starboard lay line. As I cleared the moored boats and headed into the Lido Island Channel I saw a Duffy approaching from my right, ahead and about a hundred yards away and oblivious to my presence. I maintained course and then saw a second Duffy approaching from the left, and as they passed each other they proceeded to circle each other in what appeared to me to be a reenactment of the Civil War clash of the ironclads Monitor and Virginia. I was able to pass through the center of the circle before they could get a shot off and I was clear to tack on the starboard lay line ahead, the tacking point clearly marked by the SUP girl with the straw hat. I was glad I was able to identify her.
This time we had a clear lane to the weather mark, rounded, still in third place, and gybed away. Ahead of us the Orange County (OC) Sheriff was talking to a fifty foot motor yacht with about thirty partying passengers anchored in the channel. From my Annapolis experience I expected to hear from the Sheriff orders to move immediately outside the channel and prepare for boarding for a full safety inspection. But this is California, and instead we heard from the Sheriff, "Hey, like, you guys are anchored in a place other boats are passing through, and could you maybe move over to the right a bit, say maybe a hundred feet or so? Is that cool? Thanks!" Different strokes for different coasts...
We once again approached the left leeward gate. At first it appeared that the SUP couple had moved away, but as we approached, the female, still on her knees, had regained her composure enough to paddle to the leeward inflatable mark and was hugging the mark. Her soon to be ex-boyfriend or ex husband had now figured that the sailboats were in a competitive event similar to rodeo barrel racing and were going to spin around the green balloon thingy again, and he was urging her to let go and more toward shore. But it was to late, I was the first boat around the left gate, first and second place boats choosing to round the right gate. We cleared the now elongated mark and headed for the finish line.
First place was too far to catch, so we engaged second place in a tacking duel, trying to use the anchored barge as a pick. He tacked before the barge, we went astern the barge and tacked on the port lay line to the finish pin with a nice lift. We had him! Except, approaching from the left was the Horatio Hornblower, a hundred foot harbor tourist boat, and as I closed on the finish line I hit his quarter mile long wind shadow, which had not yet found my competitor. My boat slowed and bore away, while he charged along on starboard to the committee boat end, finishing a boatlength ahead of me.
We crossed and started heading back to the dock with the rest of the fleet close behind. As the last boat finished the Race Committee announced over the bullhorn, "Harbor 20 competitors: Anyone interested in a non-scored Fun Race we will be starting one in 10 minutes". Thanks, but I had pegged my Fun Meter for the day.