Festival of fun in San Diego

Published on February 6th, 2023

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
Hosted by San Diego Yacht Club, when the Women’s Winter Invitational was first held in 2018, 17 yacht club teams took a chance on this new event.

With competitors mostly from California, crews from New York and Texas put some meat on the bone, and the ideas from that launch have risen to what in 2023 was the fifth edition of this festival of fun.

Alongside Annie Gardner, I had the lucky seat to provide commentary on February 4-5 for the 24 teams that represented Brazil, Canada, and 11 USA states. It was a massive privilege to witness an event clearly working, and for reasons I adore.

The racing is held alongside the club dock, on a venue more like miniature golf with its random winds and anchored boats. The opening stage has 4-boat heats using 12 J/22s, with a social environment on the dock among the teams waiting their turn.

Using main and jib only, crew work is simplified, but downwind legs remained tactical with the decision to reach or wing out the jib. And the race course is short, really short, and it is a busy tempo with races and rotations that completed 42 races on day one – seven for each team.

A clever feature is the windward and leeward marks being massive pink flamingos, which automatically lower the tension, particularly when it is okay to have contact with the head, beak, neck, wings, and any added accessories. A few teams brought along their accessories too.

I could go on and on about the racing, and the crafty format that uses average points to advance the top teams for the final rounds, but this regatta is so much more than the racing.

The schedule included pickleball, morning yoga, paddleboards and kayaks, plus an alcohol sponsor helped to fuel the Saturday night dinner, DJ, and Karaoke. Props to Martha Heusler from Bay Waveland Yacht Club … she can sing!

I also loved how the hosted breakfast and post-race events were held in dedicated and defined areas that brought people together.

Fun follows format, and volunteers follow fun. This event requires an army, and with the exception of myself and a few others, it was all female. It is notable how an event for women competitors provides opportunity throughout the job list.

As the event has matured since 2018, the temptation is there to provide more ‘perfect racing’, and possibly slow down on the dockside mimosas. However, I saw a format which was inclusive and enjoyable, yet one which allowed the cream to rise.

And while the weekend was more than just the racing, I got to watch a lot of it, and I was in awe of the New York Yacht Club team led by Marly Isler as they dominated a very hard race course in the finals for the win. Impressive and well deserved!

For photos, click here.

Annie and Craig in their commentary booth.

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