Putting the ‘Beer’ in Beercans
Published on April 22nd, 2020
Often called beercan racing, the typical mid-week racing format promotes friendly competition and post-race socializing. But for nearly three decades, Betsy Senescu reports how the Southern California harbor of Dana Point has literally been putting the ‘beer’ in ‘beercan racing’.
It’s 5:30 on Thursday night and boats start milling around the Race Committee (RC) boat, a 21-foot Mako anchored a half-mile from the breakwater. Boats skim by the skiff and the skipper calls out the sail number to check in, while someone on the bow tosses the RC a beer.
On the RC boat, Principal Race Officer (PRO) Barry Senescu snatches the beer out of the air, while Mark Downey records the sail number and Anna Scharer handles the flags.
Usually it’s a good throw and a stellar catch, but occasionally they need to fish a can out of the water. In addition to beer, contributions include cans of soda, bottles of water, and the occasional box of wine.
This tradition started at Capistrano Bay Yacht Club in the mid-90s. One warm evening, long-time sailor Steve Orr tossed a beer from his J/24 Orrski to Barry on the RC boat, hollering out a loud ‘thank you’ for organizing the races.
Orrski won a lot of races in these parts, and his practice didn’t go unnoticed by the other competitors. After a few weeks, other teams decided to ‘up’ their karma and toss a can as well.
That was a lot of beer, so Barry started collecting the extras. Suddenly with a large volume of beer coming in each race night, the RC decided to gather and store it, and donate it to charity as an auction item at the end of the season.
When Barry transitioned to DPYC, he carried on the tradition which continues today. When he’s not available, Pat Shoemaker steps in to run the races. It’s notable that despite Mark and Anna each owning boats well-suited for Thursday night racing, they volunteer each week to help run the beercans as a give-back to the community.
Plus there’s another team of volunteers (too numerous to mention) waiting at the club to finish the boats, tally the results, and dole out prizes.
Hopefully, once health guidelines permit, we will convene again on the beautiful waters off Dana Point for Thirsty Thursday beercan races, as they have for decades.
The RC will be on station, checking in boats and collecting beers that will be rinsed and stored in our garage until September, when the big red bucket of brewskis glean a few hundred dollars at DPYC’s Richard Henry Dana Charity Regatta.