Spanning the Age Spectrum
Published on March 15th, 2017
by Dave Reed, Sailing World
With great respect to the late Hobie Alter, it’s fair to say the sailing scene in Southern California would be lame without catamarans. That said, and for reasons unknown, the Helly Hansen NOOD Regatta in San Diego has been missing an essential part of the sport: beach cats. Lame? Yes.
Well, not anymore. With the inclusion of the blossoming Formula 18 fleet for this weekend’s regatta on March 17-19, we finally have ourselves a complete cross section of sailing: cats, dinghies, sportboats, crossover keelboats, and yes, even cruisers in our North Sails Rally Race on Saturday.
Before we get to the bird’s eye view of this year’s regatta, with an impressive 128-boat lineup, let’s consider the Formula 18s, a collection of super-cool high-performance 18-footers of which few are identical, save for fundamental differences in dimensions. These double-trap production catamarans appeal to a variety of teams—coed, family, and hardcore multihull types—that span the age spectrum.
Entry into the F18 world, however, comes with a disclaimer, one stated on the U.S. F18 class’s homepage: “Warning once you get involved in high performance F18 sailing, all other boats will seem slow and much less fun.”
That much we know to be true and SoCal F18 cheerleader Steve Stroebel has proof. “In San Diego County we now have the largest fleet of F18s in the United States,” he says. There are 16 or so in Mission Bay and 20 of them in Los Angeles alone. Southern California is now a hotbed of F18 sailing, he adds, especially as teams gear up for the F18 Americas Championship in Alamitos Bay in September (the Americas being combined North and South).
When the 2012 World Championships were held to the north in Long Beach, hotshots from France and the Netherlands, the latter of which is considered the modern day cradle of cat sailing civilization, set the bar high—really high. Stroebel, while optimistic the U.S. could produce a champion, is a realist. He’s not holding his breath.
In the meantime, he’ll be nurturing a few newcomers to the class whom he’ll race alongside on San Diego Bay this weekend, starting with informal warm-up races on Friday, and followed by two days of “real result” races.
Stroebel is also working up a new young crew, Ryan Hopps, a college sailor and new convert to multihull sailing. From here the two will continue to train extensively before shipping off to Europe for a summer tour packed with F18 racing. Yes, he’s retired, and looking forward most to laying tracks on Lake Garda.
The 11-boat fleet will stage out of Fiddler’s Cove on Coronado, should anyone in the area want to explore the various offerings up close, plead for a ride, or talk F18s.
Just down the island’s eastern shoreline, Coronado YC will serve once again as host for regatta’s other high-performance attractions: International 14s, J/70s, Viper 640s, and Ultimate 20s (most of which are traveling in from afar). There’s some serious out-of-town talent in amongst the International 14s, including past world champion Kris Bundy. Over the course of the weekend there will be a dozen of them tearing around San Diego Bay for their legendary distance race and two days of sprints around the cans.
As per tradition, the party shifts to longtime host San Diego YC when the keelboats join in on the fun Saturday and Sunday. We’ve got Etchells, J/120s, J/105s, Flying Tigers, and Beneteau First 40.7s and First 36.7s.
For this very occasion, local Beneteau 36.7 skipper Ted Butterfield will be breaking in a few fresh crewmembers as he and other 36.7 owners continue to play for points in their season-long High-Point Series (this is the second event). The team to beat, says Butterfield, is our 2016 San Diego NOOD overall champion runner-up Chick Pyle, who has never lost a NOOD as far as we can tell.
“Chuck is head and shoulders above everyone else,” says Butterfield. “They pretty much do everything right. He’s a real detail guy, so the little things on his boat are always right, and while I’m not sure where he gets his crew, they sure are good.”
One final and new addition to the San Diego NOOD regatta is our ORC Sportboat fleet. Born as a bee in the bonnet of local sailmaker Vince Brun, the intent of the fledgling sportboat fleet is to provide isolated and disenfranchised (with PHRF) one-design sportboat owners another means to get their boat off the trailer and onto the racecourse.
With the hustle of the local North Sails loft, US Sailing, and a few others behind the scenes, we’ve issued ORC certificates to an eclectic group that includes a few Melges 32s, a Farr 30 and modified 1D35, as well as a Cheetah 30 and look forward to seeing how the experiment works out.
The forecast looks promising with classic SoCal conditions: a big, warm springtime sun in the sky and a 10-knot westerly blowing in from the glorious Pacific. It’s as if Mr. Alter ordered it up himself just so the beach cats can do their thing.