A Good Day for the Sport

Published on November 9th, 2015

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
I hope every harbor has an event like the Hot Rum Series in San Diego, CA. In a sport that at times seems to be evolving toward extinction, there are still events like this that can activate the masses to just go sailing.

It is a simple concept. A pursuit start provides each racer with the time they cross the line. The 12nm course never changes, with a few marks positioned regardless of wind direction. There is not a menu of rating rule options. Just PHRF gets used, and for anyone without a rating, one will be assigned.

It is not a physical and mental marathon. It is one race a day, three races total, on alternating Saturdays. The course typically has reaching. It’s all a bit hard to believe, let alone attracts 134 entrants. Boats travel to compete.

Checking in before the start, I was surrounded by a Columbia 50, a C&C 99, a Pearson 33. When I was a kid, these were the type of boats that would race in all the events. But the sport has largely left them behind now, their casual demeanor no longer fitting in well with the pursuit of perfection.

A Catalina 30 was the first to start, with a Kernan 70 concluding the starts just over an hour later. The conditions couldn’t have been better. Sunny and warm. Enough wind to keep boats moving, yet allow crews to confidently handle them. A couple reach legs out the harbor, with a two tack upwind beat returning the fleet to the finish.

The pursuit format mellows the vibe. Outcome almost doesn’t matter. You are always surrounded by boats, types of which you don’t normally see. The course is interesting. Tactics are simple. Pass the boats that started ahead, and hold off the boats that started behind. Most times the weather decides if it is your day.

Afterwards, a huge crowd gathers at San Diego Yacht Club. Maybe because everyone felt good about their effort. The entry fee at one time was rum, with a batch of hot buttered rum drinks dispersed to those of age. Progress ruined that tradition, but sailors are a resourceful bunch, so not all can be squashed.

On this day, with the big hitters on the race course, it was the fiberglass classics that dominated. The overall standings was led by a Ranger 33, a Catalina 30, two Ericson 35-2s, and a J/24. When boats from the 70s can beat the hot shots, it is a good day for the sport.


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