If you’re a skipper who always wanted to channel your inner Ted Turner by racing your sailboat, the time is drawing close for Marina del Rey’s Homeport Regatta.
The annual race will be held Nov. 5 and is sponsored by the Association of Santa Monica Bay Yacht Clubs.
Most of us who sail head out to the bay for a day, cruise to Catalina and occasionally visit one of the other Channel Islands, but if that’s all you ever do, your sailing skills could atrophy.
The best way to enhance your proficiency is to match yourself against your peers in a race. You’ll learn how to tack and jibe with less wasted effort while refining the art of sail trimming to coax more speed from your craft. I raced for several years, including in the Homeport, and found the experience to be exhilarating – especially the first time I helmed the sloop that I went on to buy.
Why should aspiring racers start with the Homeport Regatta?
“There are low hurdles to get into this race. You don’t need to be a member of a yacht club or have your boat handicapped ahead of time. Best of all, the race is free,” said Bruce Fleck, the regatta chair.
This year South Coast Corinthian Yacht Club is hosting both the pre- and post-race events. There will be free seminars on October 27 and November 3 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. to help prepare both crew and skippers by going over rules and tactics. Experienced racers have volunteered to act as on-the-water mentors for skippers who request their presence.
“They will be advisors only, offering suggestions. They will also be there to keep the racing safe,” Fleck said. “They’re not going to helm the boat.”
In fact, the rules encourage beginning helmsmen. Anybody who has driven a boat in a Pacific Handicap Racing Fleet race this past year, or in two cruiser races, is not allowed to take the helm here. It doesn’t mean a helmsman can’t race, just that he can’t steer.
“I’ll even go so far as to help crew find boats, if somebody emails me,” Fleck told me. You can reach him at: BruceFleck@yahoo.com.
Boats typically range in length from 22- to 44-feet. There will be three races Saturday in both cruising and racing classes. Sailors have to participate in all three to quality for the many trophies to be awarded at a free, post-race cook out at South Coast Corinthian.
Since some boats are designed to be faster than others, they race with time handicaps. If you’ve already raced, supply the figure when you register here. If you don’t have a current handicap, the race committee will assign you one based primarily on the criteria established by the PHRF.
What was Fleck’s most memorable regatta moment?
“I once mentored a skipper who had never raced before. He came in first. To this day, whenever I see him, he shakes my hand and thanks me,” Fleck said.
With the money and egos on the line, racing sailboats can become quite intense. The best reason to participate in the Home Port Regatta is simple.
“It’s fun,” said skipper Alan Gornick. “Nobody takes this race seriously.”
Think of this regatta as a way to break into yachting at its finest. Racers here find a supportive, convivial atmosphere in which they can stretch their wings, known here as sails.