Twenty-six women on seven Cal 20 keelboats with sails of varying colors like yellow, red, turquoise and orange raced with determination, warrior-like skill, and competitive spirit on July 28 in the first-ever Take the Tiller Women Sailing Regatta sponsored by the Half Moon Bay Yacht Club.
Under foggy skies, with 55°+ temperatures, calm seas and low winds, the regatta began with the first single-course race of almost 50 minutes. As the wind built, the courses varied and racers finished with much shorter times. Many of the crew had never sailed with each other, yet teamwork on each boat was stellar. There were no crew overboard and only a few 360s!
Kristi Durazo was the PRO on the race committee boat Destiny. HMBYC owns all the Cal 20s, so no women had to haul their own boats to the harbor. The Cal 20s (along with the Coronado 15s, Lasers and Flying Juniors) are sailed by approved, ‘checked-out’ skippers with crew.
The racing was so competitive, with close finishes, that there were ties for second and third place. Prizes (engraved medals) were awarded for first place: Pluto with Beccie Mendenhall as the skipper; second place: Minnie with Beth Richard, skipper; and third place: Argo, Sylvia Teng, skipper.
The regatta ended with engraved glasses filled with champagne and optional strawberries for each skipper and crewmember. The scuttlebutt heard after the regatta was that all sailors learned so much, had fun, argued happily over proper courses, and were tired with smiles.
Don’t get us wrong, we love the Bay Area. When we moved here years ago, we knew that we were going to get some serious heavy-weather sailing experience. And while bashing into 25 knots satisfies some of our deepest, saltiest desires, there are times when we wish for warm water, light breezes . . . and maybe a dreamy archipelago just off the coast where you could anchor for days or weeks, swim, and enjoy a calmer side of the California summer. If only such a place existed!
This is our way of soliciting stories, photos, and all the information you have about Catalina and the surrounding islands. We’re looking for lots of practical information, of course — what’s the "season" for the Channel Islands; what are the wind and weather like; can you go swimming without a wetsuit or a shot of whiskey?
But we also want to hear about your memories. We know many of you spent summers on Catalina as kids back in the day, and may be watching your grandchildren while sitting on the hook in Avalon Harbor as you read this. We’d like to know how the Channel Islands have changed, how they’ve remained the same, and why you keep coming back.
On Friday, the Kauai Channel Race saw 14 boats sail some 100 miles downwind from the Kaneohe Yacht Club on the east shore of Oahu to the Nawiliwili Yacht Club on Kauai. Taking first place in class A was Dawson Jones’ Melges 32 Rufless, which beat out (among other boats) the Antrim 27 Intuition and the TP52 Locomotion II in 35-knot conditions.
The lone multihull entry — and first boat to finish — was John Florence’s Gunboat 48 Vela. Florence also goes by "John John," and has been the reigning champion of the World Surf League for the past two years.
After sustaining a knee injury at the beginning of the summer, Florence has been off the tour. "The diagnosis of my knee is a high grade partial tear to my right ACL. It’s a bummer not to be able to surf but I’m excited for the opportunity to get into some new types of adventures with friends and family while I’m recovering," he wrote on an Instagram post.
Vela was packed full of surfy celebrates, including musician Jack Johnson, waterman extraordinaire Kai Lenny, and surfing legend Joey Cabell. "I got the last-minute invite," said Johnson. "I wanted to make sure that someone knew how to get from point A to point B; pretty honored to be here and excited to learn." Footage from the Parallel Sea Instagram showed the Gunboat flying downwind, hitting 25.5 knots at one point.
We’re always excited to see new blood in sailing, especially when it’s the caliber of someone like Florence and friends. We wish John a speedy recovery, and look forward to seeing him in the lineup soon — and on the race course.
THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED: Readers, we received information from Brett Phillips of Crescent 3, one of the participants of the Kauai Channel Race, who gave us a revised list of finishers, which are as follows:
1st to Finish: TP 52 Locomotion, 6 hours, 40+ minutes
2nd to Finish: Rufless
3rd to Finish: Vela
4th to Finish: 2nd in Class A – Archibald 40 Crescent 3, top speed 26.3 knots 5th 5th: Intuition, 20+ minutes back in class A
"Also, two broken rudders and one drop out. Winds in the 30s," Brett said.
The following dispatches come from J/World’s Paul Martson, who was reminded why the Atlantic is not the Pacific, and why the Pacific is so darn appealing. Martson and a few J/World clients sailed in this year’s Newport to Bermuda Race in June aboard Westerly, a Santa Cruz 52. But it was the delivery back to the US that gave them a true taste of what the Atlantic can offer.
Despite the fact that we were the newbies, we won the "Best Performance by a West Coast yacht in the Bermuda Race."
And it was a lovely race to Bermuda in mellow conditions, but afterwards, Mother Nature seemed unhappy about not providing the West Coasters with a proper christening. It blew every day of our time on the island, as if saying, "Come back out, let’s play." It was an invitation gladly accepted, as the direction of the wind allowed for a three-day delivery back to the US, with two days of broad reaching, an abrupt change in wind direction, and a 10- to 15-knot-or-less beat into Newport, Rhode Island. That’s what the NOAA brochure said. And it was true for our departure as well as most of day one.
Day two became unsettled. By evening, we were looking ahead into clouds that we rationalized as just hovering above the Gulf Stream. "Just get through it," we said to ourselves, "and we’ll be in the home stretch." Faint flashes appeared off the bow around dusk as the wind built from 15 to 25. We reached off a bit for comfort and sailed into the darkening sky. Westerly was loving it, almost smiling it seemed, as the surfs became longer and the driving more exciting. Nonetheless, I called for a double reef so we would be prepared for an even wider range of excitement. We talked about the lightning. Where it was once just vaguely ‘out there’, it had become obvious across 180° of the horizon. It would take a major move to avoid, and sailing upwind (or gybing) in 25-plus knots was not appealing (little did we know that 12 hours later we would be doing just that, in even more wind!) The temperature was still warm, with 82-degree water and tropical warmth on deck. The boat surfed, the sun went down, the wind went up, the lightning moved closer. But still no thunder, yet.
Driving went from fun! to concentration mode, with very little conversation outside of need-to-knows. Dinner would not happen this evening. We talked about dropping the jib, but nah, I didn’t want anyone leaving the cockpit. How about the main? Nah, let’s just get this crossing over. Top boat speeds were in the high teens, and were a regular enough occurrence to go unacknowledged. The waxing gibbous moon disappeared, a victim of the clouds that threw electricity with increasing frequency. There were no stars or moon, just 12 instruments scattered around the deck. Around 2 a.m. the wind went cold, peaked at 37.5 knots, and Westerly came down a wave at 20.7 knots. The lightning at this point was straight out of Hollywood, striking the water all around us, destroying our night vision, and etching into our minds what we saw for that split second.
The conditions pulled back a bit from Full On, and the lighter wind went north as we sailed into the header. This is what the forecast called for so we felt pretty good. Now on starboard, we were not terribly low of the layline to Providence. Westerly was close-winded, and even though the heel was significant, we were happy to be on the last segment of the delivery. The forecast called for 15 knots dropping to less in about 100 miles. Instead, it built. And the seas built. And it was cold. The night before it had been warm, but now it was wear-everything-you-brought cold at 3 p.m. Waves started breaking, and Westerly had to be slowed to keep from slamming. Reaching off was not a great option, giving up all those miles made good. So we tried various combos as the wind continued. Mid-20’s again, 60 degrees off the true wind, and it was getting rougher.
The hardest thing about driving was staying on your feet: the heel, the violent and unpredictable motion. The north/northwest wind peaks at 29 knots, but it was the duration of the torment that angered me. We should have been owed a nice approach to New England after last night’s events, right? Instead it was on the nose and nasty.
The feature presentation from that afternoon at the movies (I wish!) was the 8-10′ short and steep waves, with white foam on top. They approached the starboard bow and seemed to make a split-second decision: Slap the hull and shoot straight up into the air, drenching anyone on deck, or sneak under the hull, lift it up, then disappear, leaving the boat to come falling back to the sea with a slam. Both decisions sucked.
It took the entire day and night to finally get Westerly up onto the continental shelf, close enough to the United States to get relief from the seas and wind. By mid-morning we were motoring in calm conditions, enjoying breakfast, hanging everything out to dry, cleaning the boat, and finally, watching Martha’s Vineyard go by. We talked about the past 48 hours, congratulating one another. And about how much we love the Pacific Ocean.