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Long Beach Race Week celebrates 25 years

by Rich Roberts on 25 Jun 2009
Acura presents Ullman Sails Long Beach Race Week Rich Roberts

Relatively unscathed by the recession, a quarter-century of upbeat sailboat racing blended into shoreside fun will be celebrated when Acura presents Ullman Sails Long Beach Race Week Friday through Sunday.

A current entry list of 133 boats---only five shy of last year's total with time left to top that total---is primed for the West's largest keelboat regatta scheduled for seven races over three days, starting at 1 p.m. Friday and 12 noon Saturday and Sunday, conditions permitting.

The tradition was launched and organized by the local Golison family for 20 years and is now run by the Long Beach and Alamitos Bay Yacht Clubs. It has always been based on progressive race management---most notable, brief onshore protest arbitration instead of party pooping jury hearings---and staying on the pace of progress in the sport without excluding the revered past.

The fleet checking in from San Diego to San Francisco and beyond will race on three courses in as many as 20 classes, including high-performance Flying Tiger 10s and Open 5.70s introduced in recent years and, this time, Viper 640s. But the treasured fixtures like Cal 25s and Schock 35s remain, joined by latter-day Farr 40s and flocks of various size J-Boats, including a dozen J/105s testing local waters for their SoCal Championships Aug. 22-23, hosted by LBYC.

The Vipers, designed in New Zealand by Brian Bennett, made a sneak preview last year with three boats in PHRF-5 class, including the winner, John Riddell's Medusa from Arizona. This year there will be six or seven, enough to form their own one-design class.

The Viper 640 (6.4 meters/21 feet 1 inch LOA) is a three-person, spinnaker-flying keelboat that sails more like a skiff. It weighs only 749 pounds, rigged and ready, including carbon fiber mast and a 276-pound keel and bulb retractable for trailering.

'We plane in 10 knots [of wind],' said Drew Harper, who runs the West Coast operation for the builder, Rondar North America, in San Francisco. 'It's the most fun sailing I've had in my 35 years at this sport.'

The boat can reach 20 knots in strong breeze and, Harper said, 'handles chop and heavy swell' with what he calls 'legs-in hiking, like a dinghy.'

The Viper 640 was picked by Sailing World magazine in 2006 as Overall Boat of the Year and top Performance One-Design.

'I'm going to work hard to make Long Beach our keystone West Coast event for the Viper,' Harper said. 'It's the perfect venue.'

The boats will be available for test rides Thursday afternoon.

Among larger competitors will be two who just last weekend raced the Encinal YC's 360-nautical mile Coastal Cup from San Francisco to Santa Catalina Island: Ed Feo's Locomotion, an Andrews 45 that averaged almost 10 knots to place second overall, and Ray Godwin's Temptress, a Farr 40 that will challenge defending champion David Voss's Piranha in that marquee class.

Other 2008 winners returning are Chuck Clay's Team ABYC in a chartered Catalina 37, Steve Murphy's JoAnn in Schock 35s, Chris Hemans' Entropy, a Tripp 41 in Fast 40s; Philip and Payson Infelise's Mile High Klub in Flying Tiger 10s, Jim Murrell's Huckleberry 2 in Farr 30s (formerly Mumm 30), Art and Scott Melendres' One Time in Cal 25s and Rich and Tony Festa's Havic in Open 5.70s.

It's the climactic event of the Ullman Sails Inshore Championship Series, following Ahmanson Cup at Newport Beach, Yachting Cup at San Diego and Cal Race Week at Marina del Rey. Hemans leads the Inshore Championship in the Fast 40 group after finishing second last year.

Further information

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