November 1, 2023
Tight starts in San Diego October 20-22 / SDYC photo
By Nigel Cochrane
The 2023 International Masters Regatta invites twelve legendary skippers from around the world to compete in rotating J/105s on San Diego Bay. Nigel Cochrane from Royal Vancouver YC and Billy Abbott of Sarnia Yacht Club were the two Canadians invited.
Yet another page has been written for the Premier International Masters sailing event, in San Diego providing me with yet another amazing opportunity to reconnect and share sailing stories with many of my old friends, dating back as far as the Olympics in Pusan, Korea in 1988.
Congratulations to all the teams for attending but especially to the winning team skippered by hometown favorite, Scott Harris, the second-place finisher, Tad Lacey, and the third-place finisher, Cory Sertl. Once again, the organizing team, led by the Masters Regatta Chair, JR Young and Commodore Jack R. Leer, as they delivered a top-notch event, equal to any Grade 1 event I have attended.
The onshore activities, starting with the taste of Point Loma, added a festive atmosphere to the event. The highlight, as usual, was the banquet evening, where all the skippers were invited on stage to introduce their crew and share a few anecdotes about their sailing experiences. This year, we were all entertained by Hall of Famer, Gary Jobson, arguably the most sought-after public speaker with all of his America’s cup stories. His effortless ability to engage the crowd was truly impressive, nearly matching his on-water sailing skills, where he came close to winning on the last day but ended up in fourth place overall. Over a beer I discovered that he had won an Emmy reporting at the Olympics about on our own Canadian hero, Larry Lemieux, about his rescue of a fellow sailor in Pusan.
For most of us, South Bay in San Diego Harbor is where our sailing dreams go to die. It’s a tricky place to sail; one side can pay off in one race only to completely fade out in the next. The gradient and sea breeze fight each other, with the pressure usually favoring the right or left depending on the angle it’s coming off the beach. The farther right, the more likely the right side will pay off. And, of course, there’s the unpredictable current, which has absolutely no bearing at all unless it does and then it is the only thing that matters.
South Bay is the great equalizer; you can easily be last in one race and then first in the next, just as Yon Belausteguigoitia experienced. He was awarded the shovel for last place overall at the banquet night prior to the final day of racing but then posted a 1, 4, 1, catapulting his team to 9th overall and easily winning the day.
For my team a series of unfortunate events in race #6 led to a 26-point race for us, dropping us from a top 5 overall position at the time to last place overall. We opted for a gybe set at the offset mark and forgot to keep the separation mark (set to leeward of the windward mark) to port. Technically, we weren’t racing anymore, but there was some discussion on our boat anyway as to whether we should go back, keep sailing, or drop out. While we were deciding, I gybed onto starboard just in front of a boat clear behind and to leeward. Our boat cleared, but their spinnaker caught on our pulpit, and as the boats sailed away, 10% of their spinnaker stayed with us, and 80% stayed with them. Unfortunately, the umpires had no choice but to award us the maximum 12-point penalty for serious damage. We also chose not to finish the race since we hadn’t technically sailed the course properly anyway. The good thing is that even on a bad day free beer and smiles great you on the dock no matter how you finish.
In the final race we found ourselves battling for last place overall against my good friend Billy Abbott from Canada. With no second place as consolation, the battle for last place had more on the line than fighting for first. It didn’t look promising at the final windward mark, with Billy in 6th and us in second-to-last. We needed 5 points to beat him, but the whole fleet got pinned downwind, going right. Billy had a bad hoist and ended up trapped to windward of the pack. We powered into a gybe and caught a private puff on our side of the course. We took a tight gybe angle back to the finish and managed to shift our apparent wind forward enough to pass the whole pack, finishing 6th overall to Billy’s 12th. I’ve never celebrated so much for coming in 2nd to last in an event before, but given the level of competition, just being invited is a badge of honor.
To all you master sailors out there, start sending your bribes in early as you really don’t want to miss this event as it serves as a great reminder of why we sail… to create memories with our friends.
Full results are here: https://sdyc.org/assets/results/results23/International_Masters_Regatta.html