When the fight is for food

Published on November 22nd, 2014

Long Beach, CA (November 22, 2014) – The largest of Alamitos Bay Yacht Club’s popular holiday sailing competitions—the 67th Turkey Day Regatta—has nearly 300 sailors on 216 boats in 21 classes, several of them world champions taking the weekend seriously.

The two days of sailing is outside in Long Beach Harbor and inside on Alamitos Bay—notably 22 singlehanded Optimists divided into both venues. The latter area sets them apart from the Naples Sabots that were born in these waters decades ago but seldom venture outside the jetty.

“Some kids like to sail outside,” said Allie Blecher, ABYC’s new junior director who with Optimist coach Shane Heausler organized the class’s first significant competition at the club.

“This is our largest regatta and we wanted them here,” Blecher said.

The event is an unofficial tuneup for Optimist trials in New Orleans next week where sailors can qualify for international competition. For some it may be their last chance. While Sabot sailors can race their boats as long as they can breathe, Opti sailors age out in the year they turn 16.

“That’s why they’re working so hard,” Blecher said.

Someday soon they may rise to the level of this weekend’s peers, who include winners of four world championships in the 5-0-5 fleet: current leaders Mike Holt of Santa Cruz YC and crew Ron Woelful, who won as a skipper at Kiel, Germany this year, and two-time winner Mike Martin and 1999 winner Howie Hamlin.

Hamlin has been coaching the 29er sailors, including Romain Screve, 16, and crew Quinn Wilson, 17, of San Francisco and Santa Barbara YCs. Wilson was a skipper until teaming up with Screve recently as crew. It seems to be working out. They scored two firsts and two seconds Saturday to build a cozy lead.

“It was pretty light with a lot of traffic with the other classes,” Screve said. “Our plan was to stay with the fleet because we knew we had good speed.”

The group also includes last year’s 29er winner, Max Brill of San Diego’s Mission Bay Yacht Club, who this past summer also won the Junior Sabot Nationals.

Meanwhile, Hamlin (2-3-3-2), with crew Don Smith, is one point behind Ted Conrads and Brian Haines of St. Francis YC in the 5-0-5s, with Martin two more points back in third.

Also, Pete Melvin of America’s Cup and multihull fame racing is in the F-18 catamaran fleet with his older son, James, while his 11-year-old son Luke is among the Optimist competitors.

The entry fee included a traditional Thanksgiving dinner Saturday night. More turkeys will go home with the class winners Sunday night, replacing the usual trophies.

The 29ers and Cal 20 and Viper 640 keelboats are sharing Long Beach Harbor inside the breakwater with the Optimists, singlehanded Finns, Class A catamarans, Lasers and Laser Radials, while Lido 14s, Naples Sabots and more Optimists race inside on Alamitos Bay.

Those would include the Laser and Radial sailors competing in the second round of the Ullman/Frost Series, and the young 29er fleet concluding its five-event Southern California Youth Yacht Racing Association (SCYYRA) Hamlin Series.

Event website: http://www.abyc.org/event.cfm?id=1899

Report by Rich Roberts.

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