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Walt Elliott Harbor Challenge at Long Beach Yacht Club

by Rick Roberts on 12 May 2013
Walt Elliott Harbor Challenge winner Scott Holcomb (r) leads second place finisher Art Melendres across finish line. Rick Roberts ©
Walt Elliott Harbor Challenge 2013, organized by the Association of San Pedro Bay Yacht Clubs and hosted this year by Long Beach Yacht Club, was held on Saturday. Scott Holcomb of Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club won the Challenge on his Cal 25, Calamazoo, and, along with it, the right to keep the Walt Elliott Trophy at his club… at least until next year’s regatta.

This year’s regatta was raced in five Cal 25s, each one representing their respective club. The other entries were Art Melendres of LBYC; Jeff Silver of Huntington Harbor YC, Rick Sottile of Seal Beach YC and Dennis Diem representing Alamitos Bay YC.

On a bright and clear day with breezes starting out at 7 knots building to 17 by the last race of the day, the five closely matched boats tried their best to wrestle the trophy away from last year’s winner, Melendres.

Holcomb succeeded.

'Last year I finished second and lost this to Art,' Holcomb said. 'They were our nemesis going into the day today. I told my crew we don’t have to win the starts, we just have to do our best.'

Holcomb gives full credit to his crew of Kenny Dair, Aaron Hall, Scott Holcomb and Steve Gierke. Holcomb’s wife Christy usually drives the boat but was recuperating from a broken ankle and had to sit out the day, cheering him on from the race committee boat.

'She’s a great driver,' Holcomb said. 'I usually call tactics and pull lines. I felt a little out of place today driving. I kept reaching for lines to trim. I really missed not having her there.'

Taking second place in the regatta was last year’s winner, Art Melendres. One point separated first and second place after the days finishes were totaled up.

'We didn’t lose the regatta,' Melendres said, 'they won it. He came here today and was very competitive. They sailed the right way and did a real good job.

'In the second race, we forced them into a jibing duel and thought they would lose it… but they actually gained on us.'

Third, fourth and fifth on the day was Jeff Silver, HHYC; Rick Sottile, SlBYC and Dennis Diem, ABYC respectively.

Sottile’s team suffered a tangled rudder on an upwind leg in the last race of the day and the unexpected crash tack caught a couple of their crew by surprise banging them in the head. When asked, they declined medical assistance and kept sailing.

Dennis Diem had a less physically painful problem but a problem none-the-less when he lost his spinnaker halyard in the first race of the day making it difficult to keep up with the fleet downwind.


Holcomb reflected on the day’s racing, 'Cal 25s are really closely matched. They’re all great boats.'

The Association of San Pedro Bay Yacht Clubs has been holding this regatta since 1968 among member yacht clubs in the greater Los Angeles and Long Beach area. Yacht clubs that have won the regatta are open to be challenged the following year. The challenging club chooses the type of boat, be it One-Design or a handicap rated boat. This year’s challenge came from Huntington Harbor Yacht Club. Their boat of choice? The Cal 25.

The late Walt Elliott, namesake of the regatta and the trophy, won the Honolulu race in 1941 (currently called the Transpacific Yacht Race or just Transpac) and was one of the top yachtsmen on the west coast.

He was commodore of the Los Angeles Yacht Club, the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, headed the Pacific Coast Yachting Association and was an honorary lifetime commodore of the Southern California Yachting Association.

The Walt Elliott Harbor Challenge Trophy was dedicated to the memory of her father by Mrs. Betty Elliott Field.

Final Results
1. Scott Holcomb, Cabrillo Beach YC, Calamazoo
2. Art & Scott Melendres, Long Beach YC, One Time
3. Jeff Silver, Huntington Harbor YC, Discovery
4. Rick Sottile, Seal Beach YC, Tiburon
5. Dennis Diem, Alamitos Bay YC, The Iguana

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