Location, Location, Location

Published on June 12th, 2020

By Michael Josselyn
Sailors who love to race were on the water as the Richmond Yacht Club (Richmond, CA) held a COVID-19 delayed first Beer Can regatta on San Francisco Bay on June 10th. Normally starting on April 1st, the Club held virtual beer can events over the internet instead with guest speakers and race videos of previous events.

The Bay Area was one of the first regions of the United States that initiated stay-at-home orders and with the Club closed, only occasional sailors would venture out on the near empty Bay. While some fleets tried to organize “un-regattas” on the Bay, the Coast Guard actively discouraged large congregations of boats.

But with the lifting of some restrictions, the Richmond Yacht Club found itself in an enviable situation as their County was the only one in the Bay Area that agreed that sailboat racing could occur as long as boats were sailed single handed or crew were individuals living together. And the Coast Guard agreed that Clubs that received County approval, and had a previously issued race permits (as Richmond had for its Beer Cans), could proceed.

“It was a situation where we had the permits and, working with the local Yacht Racing Association, we were able to write up some COVID-19 Sailing Instructions that met the muster of all the regulators,” said Fred Paxton, chair of the Standing Race Committee.

“Our Flag Officers and Board of Directors worked hard to put together protocols that we could use to keep our members safe and still have fun on the water. It is normally a rather informal affair so having so many rules and regulations to follow was unusual, but in the spirit of getting on the water, everyone pitched in to be sure we dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s.”

Richmond is known as the “Rivera” for its relatively warm and less windy conditions in the evening—so when the event started a range of boats including El Toros, Lasers, Moore 24s, Wabbits, and larger boats such as Catalinas, Beneteaus, and Wyliecat 39s. PRO Eric Arens was the sole race committee member starting boats out from the Club platform and scoring the boats using his club specific “dynamic handicapping system” that is steeped in early English law and modern astrophysics.

“It was a great turnout and typical of the spirit of the Club to have fun and promote sailing for as wide a group of sailors as possible,” said Arens.

The Club facilities remained closed pending approval of outdoor dining, but the sailors enjoyed beverages of their choice on their boats after the event—while maintaining social distancing from others by talking across their gunwales.

RYC Commodore Inge Lundegaard was pleased to see so many of the members enjoying themselves at the club. “We hope this event will provide an example of how they can be held during the pandemic and provide an outlet for sailboat racers.”

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