Signature events foster involvement

Published on March 29th, 2023

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
The fall in San Diego is notable for two invitational events – the Sir Thomas Lipton Cup for yacht clubs and the International Masters Regatta for skippers who have reached their 60th birthday. Both are sailed in provided J/105s and attract teams from across the country and world.

I was with Floridian Augie Diaz in his 2022 Masters victory, which I contend was good for the event. I fear having host San Diego Yacht Club stack their team with an elite caliber line-up may not inspire prospective invitees to incur the expense and effort to participate. So instead, a bunch of locals stacked Hall of Famer Diaz. Win-win!

But 90 miles to the north, Newport Harbor Yacht Club had no qualms putting forth a formidable team for their 2023 Palmer Trophy Grandmasters Team Race on March 26-28. The event precedes their high-powered Baldwin Cup Team Race and the club’s teams knows the venue, they actively race the Harbor 20 being used, and they’ve made a commitment to team racing.

I was one of the three skippers representing San Diego Yacht Club in the Palmer, and we had none of the above. Our weaknesses were exposed in the double round robin qualifying stage, and I lost count of the penalties I accrued or traps I fell victim to. The home team had no trouble with us.

Though, what we did have was all-star crews, and we diminished our deficits while racing the other teams, gradually learning the boats and the team race game. By the last day, we were one of four semi-finalists, and four races later we were in the finals facing the home team we had yet to beat.

Unbelievably, we took them to a winner-take-all fifth and final race, and perhaps for the first time yet, our team got cleanly off the line. With our opponent in some disarray, we blazed toward the dark water on the left, tacked in the puff and the rest was history. I still can’t believe we won.

However, this isn’t meant to be a “we won” story. The preponderance of yacht club challenge events can leave me wondering about their place in the sport. They aren’t cheap for the host or participant, and require a massive effort for a select few. Is it the best use of a club’s resources?

But beyond the competition, the value is in the community they form. Eager volunteerism isn’t what it used to be, and these signature events by San Diego and Newport Harbor bring together club membership. They spark interest, people meet people, and there is pride in the product. They foster involvement so vital for clubs.

At 60, I’d like to say I’m too old for 25 races in three days, but I was among the youngest skippers. For our team, it was humbling to win, appreciative for the opportunity, and perhaps our achievement helped the event. The old fart team racing circuit is pretty fun, and Newport Harbor Yacht Club made sure of it.

Winning team (from left): Craig Leweck, Lisa Leweck, Ben Mitchell, Brad Rodi, Chris Busch, and Andy LaDow.

comment banner

Tags: , , , , ,

Back to Top ↑

Get Your Sailing News Fix!

Your download by email.

  • Hidden
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

We’ll keep your information safe.