by Rick Day
At the Beneteau Cup 2013, mention sailboat racing to most cruising sailors, and you’re met with a roll of the eyes as images of expensive carbon-fiber and Kevlar- laced sails, stripped-out uncomfortable interiors, and a boatload of aggressive, adrenaline-pumped crew run through their minds. Or maybe they’re picturing the unreal 72-foot foiling cats racing for the Cup in San Francisco Bay.
Ask them to race their Own boats, and you’re likely to get a bold, hearty laugh in your face! But that’s exactly what Barrett Canfield and Rick Day of South Coast Yachts in San Diego asked of their Beneteau cruising customers three years ago, and if this year’s Beneteau Cup is any indication, it has really caught on! In its third year of this new format, 40 beautiful yachts entered, ranging from the First 20 to the Oceanis 58. Even a Sense 43 showed up!
Beneteau Cup offered four classes: First 36.7’s, First Series (non 36.7’s), Cruising Class one (cruisers 42’ and larger), and Cruising Class two (41’ and smaller). Two hundred and twenty sailors descended on SDYC for the weekend to enjoy a weekend of racing focused on education, safety, and fun. And many, it turned out, unleashed their competitive spirits as well!
Some boats began arriving for overnight berthing on Friday night, and South Coast Yachts and UK Sailmakers hosted a Novice Racing Clinic for first-timers and for those desiring a refresher course. Thirty-five people attended the very basic course which covered safety and rights of way, and how to start, round marks, and finish the races. UK followed that up with an engaging discussion on sail trim and the latest manufacturing techniques.
Saturday’s format was two buoy races in the ocean, with the First Series boats running windward-leewards, and the Cruising Class boats running triangles. All four classes used the same course, with an added downwind reach mark for the Cruisers.
For race number one, the breeze was six to eight knots, and the First Series boats were off and racing. The Cruising Class starts were a bit rough, as many of these first time racers were still figuring out how things worked at the starting line. The racing finished downwind in a little over an hour, and the boats had a short break while the last finishers came in.
Race number two had a bit more breeze in the eight to ten knot range, and again, the First Series went off and racing.
Race Committee observed a much more organized and assertive, if not aggressive, start by the Cruising Classes who were now feeling more confident about how things were going. Two beautiful new Oceanis 45’s came very close in a clear ahead / clear astern meeting, with pulpits passing each other with less than a foot between them. But, 'no-harm-no-foul', as it’s said, and they were off racing again, with all classes finishing upwind and then heading back into the bay and to SDYC.
Saturday evening, SDYC hosted a wonderful buffet while 'racers' with huge smiles and hand gestures enthusiastically shared racing stories from the day. Live music and some cocktails and dancing finished off the evening. Many sailors enjoyed a quiet overnight on their boats, which filled the guest dock at SDYC in a Med-tie format. What a sight it was to see!
Sunday brought an even stronger breeze of eight to fourteen knots for around-the-bay, random leg courses. The start was reverse order to consolidate the finish times better, with the Cruising Classes running a slightly shorter course than the First Series. It was an incredible sight to see the 40 Beneteaus, all moving along very well in the nice breeze, fill San Diego Bay!
Sunday afternoon brought the Awards Ceremony, celebrating the top four finishers in each of the four classes, gifts from sponsors, and two new trophies presented by Beneteau America for Best Overall Corrected Times for both First Series and Cruising Classes.
Most of these skippers won’t race again until next year’s Beneteau Cup. It’s highly doubtful they will trade in their cruisers and jump into the latest One-Design craze. But they will be thinking more about sail trim, and will be more confident with their boat handling skills the next time they’re on the water. Most importantly, though, it was just a great event giving them another reason to get out and use their beautiful Beneteau yachts, have fun, and meet new friends on the water. And that is what it’s all about!