Let the traditions live on

Published on April 25th, 2022

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
Traditions and yachting are good shipmates, and for San Diego Yacht Club which hosted its 137th Opening Day on April 24, there are annual events that connect with the past. As I get older, I’ve become more sentimental about such conventions.

Unique to youth sailing is the Southern California’s commitment to the Naples Sabot, a clunky pram with a leeboard. The region may be the last remaining territory that hasn’t been taken over by the Optimist Class, which I always find as benefit. Parents have only a 100 mile radius to be over-committed in their child’s recreation. Financially, it’s much more bearable.

But the Naples Sabot also thrives because of adult sailing, and once a year SDYC hosts the Men’s Mayhem Regatta which attracts people that don’t typically sail the boat, and some that arguably should never sail the boat. To heighten the mayhem, Mother Nature annually provides more wind than usual. Go figure!

I have rarely done the event, mostly because of the residual pain that follows, and my desire to avoid embarrassment. However, I made a deal with my body for the four race series, hoping they wouldn’t extend to the optional fifth race, which of course they did.

Getting fourth overall was well beyond my expectation, as was the community vibe along the docks between races. Beverages helped sooth the pain, as did supporters who came for their favorite sailor. My father-in-law was a past participant, so I was pleased to help sustain the event for the next generation.

The idea of Opening Day in San Diego remains a bit odd, particularly when the Commodore announced how the sailing season was officially opened. I hadn’t noticed it been closed, but once past the formality of speeches and recognition, it is the most festive day of the year. Boats are dressed, bottles are uncorked, and big hats are worn. With the club’s massive marina, it is one heck of a dock party.

The day prior was the Opening Day Race, which includes a pursuit start and an 11nm tour of San Diego Bay. Our Alerion 28 tends to struggle in the format, incurring less wind as one of the first starters. However, the high winds from the sabot regatta the week before remained, and we were launched at the start in 15 knots.

We spent most of the race wondering when the big boats would swallow us whole, and with the last leg being a long fetch to the finish, we set up to ensure there was a passing lane to leeward. It was never needed. My wife Lisa steering us to victory, and as the token male onboard, it was gratifying to see the team push along our well-varnished rocking chair racer.

More traditions are ahead as San Diego Yacht Club hosts the 50th running of the Yachting Cup on April 29-May 1, an event that once was the proving ground for new IOR designs and has evolved with the times. Let the traditions live on!

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