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An interview with Sue Service about the 2019 Cal Race Week

by David Schmidt 29 May 08:00 PDT June 1-2, 2019
Racecourse action at Cal Race Week © Image courtesy of Joysailing

California has long offered the hottest sailboat racing on the West Coast, and with a coastline thats stretches more than 840 miles from stem to stern, its little surprise that great racing can be found in myriad locations. Take, for example, Cal Race Week (June 1-2), which is hosted by the California Yacht Club on the waters off of Santa Monica. This regatta, which was established in 1999, has long offered both high-end handicap and One Design racing, as well as a relaxed and fun-focused cruising class.

Not surprisingly, Cal Race Week attracts sailors of all stripes who are interested in great racing as well as the chance to mingle with friends, both new and old, once the finishing guns fall silent each night.

I checked in with Sue Service, Cal Race Weeks regatta chair, via email, to learn more about this exciting West Coast regatta.

Can you tell us a bit about the regattas origins? Also, how has the regatta grown and evolved over the years?

Cal Race Week began in 1999, so its in its 21st iteration. Over the years weve seen a change in the types of boats that participate, from PHRF classes of 40-50 footers, to dominance by the smaller One Design classes.

In that inaugural year, more than 80 boats in nine classes competed-from ULDB sleds to Melges 30s, J/120s, as well as classic One Designs like Stars and Schock 35s.

Arriving in force that year was a competitive Farr 40 fleeta boat still relatively new to Southern California at the time. The Farr 40s have competed in virtually every Cal Race Week or California Cup in the years since.

How many boats are you guys expecting this year? Also, how do these entry numbers stack up to recent comparable years?

Were hoping for 60-70 boats on two racecourses, which would be comparable to the last three or four years of the regatta. Entries peaked in the early 2000s, when we had ~130 boats and three racecourses!

This year, for the first time, the PHRF SoCal Championship will be held during Cal Race Week. That meansin addition to another title being up for grabs in the PHRF class PHRF-rated cruising class boats will be able to compete at Cal Race Week as well.

There will be a third, random-leg coursein addition to the regattas two traditional windward-leeward tracks-for the cruisers to navigate each day of the regatta.

Can you describe the levels of competition that sailors can expect to find, once the starting guns begin sounding?

Cal Race Week draws some of the best sailors from Southern California, and competition is intense. This year, the regatta is a qualifier for the J/70 Worlds, which CYC will be hosting here next year, and we expect particularly aggressive racing in that class.

That said, the PHRF classes deliver some hotly contested battles, year after year, as well.

Conditions-wise, whats typical for this regatta?

The sea breeze kicks in around noon, around the time of the first warning, and in June, both velocity and direction are remarkably consistent: 75-percent of the time we see wind from the WSW with velocities in the 7-11 knot range. By late afternoon we will often see 12-15 knots.

Do you have any advice or insider tips that youd like to share with first-time racers? What about returning racecourse veterans?

In the early afternoon when winds are lighter, it can be tough to get through the waves and chop. Keep the sails powered up while going upwind.

What kinds of onshore/evening entertainment has been planned for non-racing hours?

Seeing that the regatta turns TWENTY-FUN, [sailors can] expect a good party! Well have dinner for racers, and our sponsors NAOS Yachts and North Sails, are providing beer. Mount Gay is also a sponsor, and we plan to have a rum-tasting station. After dinner, there will be a live band and dance contest, and ice-cream samplings from Tillamook.

Can you tell us about any steps that you and the other event organizers have taken in the last couple years to help green-up the regatta or otherwise lower its environmental wake?

Like other regatta organizers across the sport, were working hard to cut down on single-use plastics by providing water stations and encouraging racers and RC rely on their own refillable and reusable water bottles.

Anything else that youd like to add, for the record?

Our vision is as it was 21 years ago for Cal Race Week to be a regatta that offers both serious competition and a fun weekend event for the entire Southern California racing community.

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