Every spring amateur sailor watches the world's greatest professionals match racing on the Catalina 37s in the Congressional Cup and try to imagine themselves on board the boats.
It's not just a fantasy for Chuck Clay, who has no illusions of winning a Crimson Blazer, a la Ian Williams or Gavin Brady, but on June 22-24 will be sailing a C/37 in quest of his third win and fifth overall class title in Ullman Sails Long Beach Race Week, hosted and organized by the Alamitos Bay and Long Beach Yacht Clubs.
The Long Beach Sailing Foundation has a limited number of the sturdy sloops available for charter to qualified skippers for $1,055. Split seven or eight ways among a customary crew, that's a bargain rate for a three-day weekend of racing on a world-class boat in the West Coast's largest keelboat regatta.
A C/37 charter also means automatic entry into the Yacht Club Challenge, combining scores with two boats from other classes. ABYC also won that last year.
LBRW's slogan, 'Race With the Champions,' remains appropriate. This year it will serve as the national championship for Catalina 37s, Olson 30s, the West Coast championship for Farr 40s and J/29s, the Pacific Coast Championship for Open 5.70s, the Southern California championship for Beneteau 36.7s and part of the SoCal high-point series for J/80s, J/105s, J/109s and J/120s, along with the Cal 25 Carl Kindrich Challenge Cup.
There will be three days of racing among several classes on three windward-leeward courses inside and outside the Long Beach Harbor, plus a Random Leg fleet sailing one long race each day.
'Last month's Congressional Cup was great to watch from the [Belmont Veterans Memorial] pier,' Clay said. 'The pros really make it look easy with six crew members. Add in the fact that they take off the life lines makes it that much more difficult, and you can really see the talent and professionalism with the pro teams.'
Clay will sail with an Alamitos Bay YC team of his brother Rob, Jay and Mark Golison, Pat McCormick, Rob Rice, Scott Atwood and Jim Bateman.
'We are still trying to round up a bow guy,' he said.
The rest of the year Clay and some of his crew race on a Cal 20, a much smaller but also venerable class that shares some characteristics with the C/37s.
Clay said, 'The 37 is very similar to the Cal 20---at least in my mind---in the fact that you have to be very careful maneuvering not to stall the boat. This is hard to do and takes concentration not to over steer. Trust me, I hear it a lot from Jay.
'The other similarity is that the 37s are underpowered in the light to medium ranges, so that adds in another factor that other teams may struggle with. My goal in every regatta is to sail clean and let good things happen around me. By being patient, it is amazing all of the opportunities that arise if you can just wait it out.'
True to the event's tradition, however the racing turns out there will be parties every night, with free transit by the Big Red Bus between LBYC and ABYC.
Long Beach Race Week website
by Rich Roberts
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8:21 PM Tue 24 Apr 2012GMT
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