The biggest-ever Rolex Big Boat Series, with 127 entries, kicked off yesterday under a chilly fog that never quite cleared, at least on the Cityfront. The first race was relatively mellow, sailed on flat water in a dying flood, but the ebb chop and the wind kicked up for the second race. The crew of the Express 37 Stewball reported "super good racing" in breeze gusting to 27 knots, and they hit a top boat speed of 18.2.
Most of the boats sailed two long races yesterday, with the second race finishing in front of host club St. Francis YC, but the 36 J/70s kept to the Berkeley Circle yesterday and got in three windward/leewards. Joel Ronning’s Minnesota-based Catapult and Julian Fernandez Neckelmann’s Mexican Flojito y Cooperando are leading the pack, with Catapult one point ahead. “Those two are going to be tough to beat,” said Chris Snow, co-skipper of a local boat, the fifth-placed Cool Story, Bro. “Flojito is the reigning world champion. Catapult has John Kostecki as tactician, and they’ve been practicing a lot. It’s all about the buildup to the Worlds next week.” Kostecki, it may be remembered, is from the Bay Area and learned his craft in Richmond YC’s junior program.
The conditions kept riggers and sailmakers busy all night. Among the fabric casualties were Bodacious+’s main and the C&C 30 Tiburon’s spinnaker.
Thursday’s racing was followed by the Rolex Party in the courtyard and Starting Line Room; today’s racing will be followed by the (in)famous Mount Gay Rum Party outdoors on the patch of dirt that was a lawn in pre-drought years. Both parties offer sailors good opportunities to catch up with one another.
Wind for the first three SoCal Ta-Ta’s — the Baja Ha-Ha-style cruisers’ rally from Santa Barbara to Catalina with stops at Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands Harbor and Paradise Cove — was mostly excellent. Unfortunately, not so much so this year.
That said, the first leg from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz Island was actually quite nice — the best so far in this year’s event. While there wasn’t more than 10 knots of wind, it came up early and allowed for a close reach all the way to the island. A number of boats sailed the entire distance.
The second leg from Santa Cruz Island to Channel Islands Harbor, and the third leg from Channel Islands to Paradise Cove, were both much lighter. Everybody got in some sailing under spinnaker, but not as much as they’d like. The only boat to sail the entire distance in either of these two legs was Pat McCormick’s Beneteau 440 St. Somewhere, a vet of all previous Ta-Ta’s.
Today is the last and longest leg, a 33-miler from Paradise to Two Harbors, Catalina. While we might get some afternoon breeze, it won’t be a rip-snorting last leg, as it was in several previous Ta-Tas. On the upside, though, the seas have been calm and — except for the first leg — the sun has been bright; very mellow out on the ocean.
Fortunately, the Ta-Ta is as much about socializing as it is about sailing, and we’ve had great get-togethers. The kick-off dinner on the beach at the Santa Barbara YC was as you’d expect, then there were two sundowner parties aboard the committee boat Profligate for captains and first mates. There was some group hiking on Santa Cruz island, and a great BBQ on the dock at Channel Islands Harbor. Not only do the folks at Channel Islands Marina and Vintage Marina know how to throw a great BBQ, they provided almost every boat in the 34-boat fleet a free berth. You don’t see that often.
Anyway, great times. We wish you could be here for the last leg and the Awards BBQ and slide show. Maybe next year.
Update: We are reminded to be careful what we hope for, as in terms of more wind. A local radio station in Malibu is reporting there is a chance of "light Santa Ana conditions" on Saturday and Sunday. Being on the ‘face’ of Catalina is problematic in Santa Ana conditions.
Just as the sport of sailing requires harnessing the power of the wind, those who take part in it can’t help but become acutely aware of their natural surroundings. Perhaps that’s why sailors (as well as other boaters) tend to be more concerned with the state of the environment than non-boaters. So we’ll remind you that tomorrow, September 17, is the annual California Coastal Cleanup Day, when volunteers of all stripes turn out to spruce up their favorite beaches, waterside parks and waterways.
Organizers tell us that last year nearly 70,000 volunteers removed almost 1.5 million pounds of trash and recyclables from California’s beaches, lakes and waterways. But since our spectacular state has more than 2,000 miles of coastal and inland shoreline, there’s always a need for additional help.
We were impressed to learn that the California Coastal Cleanup is our state’s largest annual volunteer event. It is associated with the International Coastal Cleanup — organized by the Ocean Conservancy — which is the largest volunteer event on the planet. As someone once said, "If you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem." So why not lend a hand?