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An interview with Steve Bourdow on the 2021 Moore 24 Nationals

by David Schmidt 4 May 2021 08:00 PDT May 7-9, 2021
Moore fun in the Gorge - 2015 Moore 24 Roadmasters Series © Lee Whitehead

Legend has it that, back in the 1970s, boat designer George Olson planned to ride the mold for Grendel down a hill, rather than employing the prototype to build keelboats. Thankfully, and also according to legend, boatbuilder Ron Moore rescued the mold and then used jacks to increase Grendel's max beam by a foot. The result was the asymmetric Moore 24, which became one of the first ultralight displacement keelboats.

To date, some 160 of these can-do keelboats have been built, and while most are used for buoy racing, some have sailed from the mainland USA to Hawaii, thus proving the boat's offshore mettle.

For example, in 2016, co-skippers Mark English and Ian Rogers won the overall Pacific Cup (PHRF) aboard the Moore 24 Mas! with an elapsed time of just 10 days, 14 hours and 30 minutes. This was fast enough to set a new Moore 24 Pac Cup course record and also earned the duo first place in the race's doublehanded division.

The boats may be old, but they continue to attract some serious One Design sailors, especially on the West Coast of the USA, with fleets stretching from SoCal to Seattle.

This year's Moore 24 Nationals will take place on the waters of Monterey Bay from May 7-9, and will be hosted by the Santa Cruz Yacht Club, in Santa Cruz, California.

I checked in with Steve Bourdow, who serves as fleet captain of the Southern California Moore 24 class, to learn more about this exciting championship-level One Design regatta.

What kind of entry numbers are you expecting to see for this year's Nationals?

We expect 20-25 boats.

Weather-wise, what kind conditions can sailors expect to encounter on the waters of Monterey Bay in early May? Also, what are the best-case and worst-case weather scenarios?

Santa Cruz is certainly known for big wind and big waves, and May typically brings some of the most dependable conditions. We expect most races will see 15-25 knots with strong swell and chop.

While Santa Cruz breeze is strong WSW typically, there is a contrary flow that can occur between Capitola and Santa Cruz bringing light easterly breeze particularly when temperatures are high. This easterly "fights" with the westerly, often in the vicinity of our typical race area. When this transition zone moves into the race area, we can have a situation where a 20-knot westerly exists at the windward mark but 0-5 at the leeward mark.

On rare occasions, the easterly breeze can come in at 5-10 knots for some good racing, but it's really interesting racing upwind in following wave patterns.

How important do you think local knowledge will be at this regatta? Also, do you expect most visiting teams to arrive early and acclimatize to conditions?

Local knowledge will have little impact in Santa Cruz. It's the birthplace of the Moore 24, and most of the fleet will have raced here many, many times.

The Moore 24 Roadmasters Series holds at least one, if not two events each year in Santa Cruz.

If you could offer one piece of advice to visiting (and local) teams, what would it be?

Most sailors tend to think tactics in Santa Cruz is simple and straightforward—go right and don't overstand. Certainly, the racing area lends itself to a geographic advantage on the right side of the course.

However, velocity differences can make "how to play the right" a tricky endeavor, with the position of the racecourse having a strong impact on how right favored the course can be. Still, when the seabreeze is in, the left rarely works.

While these are still early days, are there any boats/teams that you're eyeing for podium finishes? What about any dark horses?

Bart Hackworth and team are always one of the favorites. They are fast all-around in most conditions, race very conservatively, and make few mistakes. Morgan Larson and team will be racing this year, and while we don't see them often on the circuit, they have serious wheels when we do see them.

Rumor has it that Mark Christiansen will be returning from New Zealand to race with Philippe Kahn and the Pegasus team, and when they are on, they are super-fast upwind.

I'd like to think my own team, including Mike Holt, 505 World Champ, will have a shot at the title. We have good speed generally, and if we can maintain consistency, we should be a threat.

We have a ton of new talent in the fleet, and too many experienced and talented to even list who haven't registered yet. I'm looking for new teams including Chris Watt and JV Gilmour for potential strong showings.

Obviously organizing and running a big regatta amidst a pandemic isn't easy. Can you tell us about the biggest logistical and organizational hurdles that you've had to clear to make this happen?

The biggest hurdle has been the question, can we do a fully-crewed event without household restrictions. Most of our events since the pandemic began have been double-handed as a way to keep sailing.

The bar the class set for Nationals is to race fully-crewed or postpone. It looks like the cautions undertaken in California are paying off at the right time, enabling the event to move forward without such restrictions.

The shoreside activities will suffer the most, with the Santa Cruz YC still under 50-percent restrictions on capacity for the clubhouse. Still, with some creative planning, we believe we will be able to very cautiously interact. We're planning outdoor, parking-lot style, social-distanced debriefings with daily awards, as a way to try to start reintroducing the community and comradery that has kept the Moore 24 so popular for so long.

Still, we will be masking and distancing ashore and forgoing the crowded dinners and parties that are often part of such an event.

What kinds of safe-play pandemic tactics are you expecting from the racers on the water? Also, what kind of shoreside Covid precautions will the event employ?

The Santa Cruz YC has a leadership committee dedicated to the pandemic restrictions and ongoing transitions, with which we're working very closely. Of course, the club is requiring the participants to follow pandemic guidelines in place—with particular attention to indoor density restrictions.

Our host fleet is being organized to empower friendly policing of the social distance and masking requirements while ashore, in the boat park, and on club grounds.

For individual boats on-the-water, we will not be requiring specific measures to be taken, but are encouraging teams to consider precautions appropriate to the relationships of the crewmembers involved.

Can you tell us about any efforts that you and the other regatta organizers have made to try to lower the regatta's environmental footprint or otherwise green-up the regatta?

I cannot speak to this in detail, and the question implies a problem to address. However, I can say that our club has long-held policies highlighting environmental issues in general, such as discouraging the use of disposable water bottles by all and no use by RC, zero tolerance of inappropriate trash disposal with a scoring penalty, and utilizing the minimum required RC craft.

The vast majority of Moore 24s will not race with engines onboard, and the inherent safety and capabilities of the boats in strong conditions preclude the need for RC to provide safety boats beyond what is absolutely required for race management.

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