Yacht Racing in the Desert

Published on November 16th, 2017

The Borrego Springs Yacht Club (BSYC) keeps the drinks flowing and the attitude lighthearted. BSYC held its first regatta of the year, an event staged around a small pond in the desert where the beer flowed freely, the winds were light, and the coveted Bob Schwob Perpetual Trophy was won by a newcomer with a lifetime of real sailing experience under his belt.

The small, radio-controlled sailboats, with tiny motors that allow their owners to steer a rudder and manipulate the sails, proved difficult for some to control, with a few smashing into the duck decoys that marked the circular course. But not many seemed to care.

“There are no regular sailing rules because nobody knows the rules,” said Commodore Dennis Daoust, who started the club with friend Steve Luckman about a decade ago and oversaw the construction of the pond on the grounds of the Rams Hill golf course. The trophy for the club’s opening regatta is named after a former member who has passed on, the commodore said.

The BSYC, “the emphasis is on the B.S.”, Daoust said, has about 50 members. Most live seasonally in the Rams Hill residential community in southern Borrego Springs, but others come from various parts of San Diego, CA.

It’s a social club, doubles as a dog park, and is sometimes just a place for members to unwind beneath the thatch palapa, often with a beer or other refreshment in hand. “I think they enjoy partying,” said longtime member Sherry Burks of San Diego. “I think they drink heavily and they stress little. And I think that’s the secret.”

Just a few years ago, the yacht club pond was bone dry after the former management of Rams Hill, then known as Montesoro, turned off all the pumps, letting the championship golf course, the best in the area, go to seed. But in 2014, the course was revived and recently was voted the best new golf venue in the United States. And the yacht races were renewed.

“We’re here to be with friends and who else can say, ‘we went to a yacht race in the desert’?” said Sherry’s husband, Tim Burks. “It’s fun to get together and hang out,” said Patty Cragoe. “It’s kind of a social club.” Patty’s husband, David, was the defending champion. But he didn’t fare so well this time.

First place this year went to Erik Rogers of San Diego, with his friend Steve Mollering, also from San Diego, coming in second. Both have been members of the club for only a year and had never tried radio-controlled sailboats until recently. But both have been sailing real boats all their lives and jointly own a 30-foot ultralight racing sailboat named Superfly and kept at San Diego Yacht Club.

“Being a real sailor helps, especially when there are really light winds like this,” Mollering said. “It’s really tough.” Three races made up the competition. The winds kept dying off all afternoon, Mollering said, and only four of the 13 vessels that began the race finished the last stage.

Rogers said he and Mollering came to the regatta last year to check it out, then bought two boats (about $600 each) and fixed them up. “It’s like a little oasis here in the middle of the desert,” Mollering said. “It gives us something to do that’s close to home.”

Source: J. Harry Jones, San Diego Union Tribune

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