Congratulations Jeremy and Tara!

Jeremy & Tara Smith win the Midwinters in L.A. In a 4-race Series, Jeremy & Tara (sailing with Steven & Heidi) won out over an 11 boat Fleet by sailing consistently with two 3's, a 4, and a 2.

Sun, fun, great racing, and wonderful people

Denise put it best when she spoke at the awards ceremony, saying how wonderful the relationship is between the M242 fleets, particularly how welcome they feel when they come up to Canada.  All we can say is “Back at y’a”, Denise.  Our friends at Fleet 3 could not have been more welcoming!  Denise and Mike George, Julie Coll, Fleet 3, and Cal Yacht Club were absolutely fantastic.  We had what could only be described as a perfect weekend.
Half of Team Min of Mine brought along their other halves to race at the Midwinters at Cal Yacht Club:  Tara and Jeremy, Heidi and Stephen, representing Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, Royal Victoria Yacht Club, and Fleets 1 & 2.  Tara had raced one Midwinters in 2014, but it was a new experience for the rest of the team.  Julie Coll kindly offered to loan us her very well prepared 242, as she was racing on a J/70 as a lead-up event to the Worlds this summer.  Needless to say, Tara and Heidi were a BIT excited to find that Julie had a pink spinnaker and pink draft stripes on her sails…………. 

Having left 5 degrees and drizzle in Vancouver, Tara and Jeremy donned their shorts and t-shirts, and had a lovely 2-hour delivery in the sun from Julie’s King Harbour Yacht Club up to Cal Yacht Club.  That is, once they’d safely passed that now-ominous looking pier that we all have imprinted in our retinas from YouTube.  It was a perfect 7-9 knot reach along Manhattan Beach, with an especially playful group of porpoises midway as a special treat.  When they say “out to the tankers and then turn into MDR”, they mean it.  It’s that simple.  Straight line out to the markers just outside where the fuel tankers anchor off LAX, then a 40 degree turn and keep sailing straight into Marina Del Rey.  No hidden rocks or jagged shorelines like back home.

If you haven’t been to Marina Del Rey, check it out on Google Maps.  We’ve never seen so many boats and condos.  We definitely felt like small town kids.

We phoned ahead to the Cal Yacht Club Dockmaster as we approached, and he was impressively on the ball, knowing how many boats were registered, commenting on what a great increase it was this year, and having spots already set aside for us all.  He assigned us a slip just a couple of boat lengths from the cruising boat that Denise had very kindly arranged for us to stay on (which happened to be a Jeanneau 43DS, the prior model to our own boat!).  He even emailed us a dock chart with the slip highlighted.  We were suitably impressed.

There is a good-sized West Marine just around the bend from the Club, and a brand new (and large) Trader Joe’s has just opened across the street.  So off the Canadians went to stock up on some boat string, sunglasses, cheese, beer and gin, and assorted treats for the next day on the water.

It was great to see most of the local regulars registered.  Names we knew well including Mark Sands with Sandbox, Denise George with All In, Alan Field with Trolleycar, any many others.  And what to us was a sleeper boat, a club-owned boat named Harumi, helmed by Ryan Costello, who we ended up dueling with most.  Unfortunately, Mike George had to miss this weekend.

The weekend forecast was for lighter winds and sun on Saturday, and windier conditions with some clouds and rain on Sunday, and that’s exactly what was delivered.  

Saturday produced moderately consistent Westerlies, shifting a bit North, with decent-sized swells.  It was fairly shifty, and the current was running opposite to normal leaving many boats overstanding at the weather mark.  Team Min exchanged spots 1-5 repeatedly during the three races, ending up 3, 3, 4.  We were content with those results, but then looked at the totals as we sailed in and realized that we were tied for first for the day because others had much more inconsistent results.  It was one of those days that being a local was not an advantage.  We visitors just looked at the race course and did what we thought made sense.  The locals tried to do what they normally did, and found themselves overstanding and getting on the wrong sides of shifts.  It was nice that the J/70s (with multiple pro teams) and the Star fleet started before the Martins, so we had two very competitive one-design fleets to watch on the first beat before our start.  Jeff Eckard’s “you are racing from the moment you leave the dock to the end of the last race” echoed through our heads, and we never stopped between races, constantly sailing up the beat, rechecking the line, adjusting sail setups, and watching the other fleets start and sail upwind.  We channeled Jan Olsen’s “start first, stay first, finish first”, and added the Team Min lucky team clap before every race.  There were lots of shifts and changes of position throughout the races, particularly at the leeward gates.  We had eased our jib cunningham for the last race of the day, but the breeze filled in again, and it was impressive how that hurt our speed through the chop.  In the end, 305 beat us on the tie-break with 5, 2, 3.  We (stupidly) barely noticed Harumi in third with 12 points, but a foreboding 1, 1, 10.

Sunday the swells were much larger, combined with short chop to truly boggle our inshore-sailing minds, along with more wind and substantial puffs to make it fun.  After all their complaining about the forecast, we figured the Californians would melt in the rain and give us an advantage, but they soldiered on.  Team Min agreed that based on the unusual stack of scores, and no drop, it was to no other boat’s advantage to attack us yet in Race 4, so we just wanted another nice clean start and to get to the right-hand side on the beat.  In the first start, we were on the line, mid-line with speed and acres of space above and below.  And it was a General Recall….  As you’d guess, in the second start, we of course got a bad start.  But we bailed instantly and got off to the right, rounding the first mark in third.  We traded a few spots downwind and upwind.  The wind had been shifting west and filling in from the south side, so we gybed immediately after rounding the second weather mark, and moved into second for a follow-the-leader reach to the finish.

Harumi took another first, with Team Min in second, upsetting the results, putting Team Min in first overall by a point, with Harumi in second, and 305 moving down to third.  Game on!

Going into the last race, we knew that we just needed to beat Harumi, and not be worse than 8 points behind any of the other 11 boats.  That shouldn’t be too hard, right?  The shift continued and the race committee paused to reset the marks, with big puffs rolling down the course.  The first two fleets got off with good pressure, but as the Martin sequence proceeded, the wind started to shut off.  Team Min had the worst start, finding itself in second tier without enough pressure to get to the line in the big slop.  We tacked to bail out, and someone tacked right on top of us, leaving us with no wind or momentum whatsoever.  We couldn’t even clear the committee boat on port tack as the fleet sailed away!   Let’s just say bad went to worse.  To cut a VERY VERY long story short, the wind gradually died off completely, there was some lightning and rain, spinnakers flying on the upwind leg and a beat to the leeward mark, and after much chatter on the radio (by the other fleets…), the race committee finally abandoned the racing, much to Team Min’s relief.  We managed to win the event with a solid but underwhelming and very Canadian 3, 3, 4, 2.  It seemed only polite to let our hosts win the races.  

Perhaps most remarkable was that we never saw a single foul nor heard the word “protest” once in 2 days of close racing in the 242 fleet.  Just clean, competitive, tight racing.  What a pleasure!

Oh, and we almost forgot to mention…  Cal Yacht Club put on free beer both at the crane and up at the clubhouse after racing BOTH days, and free food!  We missed the food on Saturday night, but Sunday was chicken pot pie and beef stroganoff buffet.  Unreal!

We can’t say enough about how welcoming Fleet 3 was.  Despite having a lot on their plates, Denise and Mike George helped us line up accommodation, checked on us regularly, and had us over for a lovely dinner on the last night.  Julie Coll loaned us her boat, helped us launch it and put it away, and even brought us a famous local sandwich on Sunday.  Mark Sands, Alan Field, the crew of Harumi, and many others were all so welcoming.

Tara and Jeremy finished off the trip with a lovely delivery back to King Harbour in shorts and t-shirts and 10-12 knots on the beam (again, leaving LOTS of distance to that fateful pier….).

For anyone considering racing the midwinters in future, we’d highly recommend it.  Cal Yacht Club is establishing a program for reciprocal members to charter their very well-prepared club-owned 242s for events.  There are lots of options for accommodation nearby ranging from AirBnBs to nice local hotels and even the Ritz-Carlton right next door.  Around the corner from the Club is a nice shopping plaza with a large grocery store and the West Marine, and a new plaza is going in across the street starting with the Trader Joe’s.  A nice walk around the harbour the other way takes you to the Venice Beach neighbourhood with its interesting canals lined with homes.  Oh, and many, many stunning boats to gawk at, include famous architect Frank Gehry’s stunning sailboat “Foggy” moored at Cal Yacht Club (worth a Google search, by the way).

Great racing is fantastic.  Great racing in a fantastic one-design with sunshine in sight of sandy beaches, the Hollywood sign and Santa Monica Pier is even better.  But nothing beats doing all that with great friends who welcome you to their club, their boats, and their homes with open arms.  Thank you Denise, Mike, Julie, and all of Fleet 3!!!
After such a fun weekend, we may need to look for a local MDR boat to partner in…………………….

Four very happy kids:  Tara, Heidi, Stephen, Jeremy


Here's a link to the results: Midwinter results