The Harbor Heritage Regatta has over 120 participants and 34 registered boats. This festive event, complete with an after-party Luau, is fun and lively. Karen Pierce was kind enough to share her regatta experience with us...Congrats Karen! More than 30% of Harbor 20 owners are women. It must be the Harbor 20s secret "sportboat with cupholders" identity that draws the likes of so many women and families!
by Karen Pierce
Gone With The Wind #221
I am a complete novice when it comes to driving our Harbor 20, Gone With The Wind, b
ecause I always crew. Last year, I raced in my first regatta as skipper in the Harbor Heritage Regatta, and it was a traditional race with A, B and C Fleets. I had cheerfully signed up for the C Fleet and I loved being at the helm instead of craning my neck up the jib all afternoon.
I especially loved the no-pressure C Fleet where I could just go sailing with other new sailors!
Fast-forward a year and I hadn't driven our boat since so I decided to sail as skipper in the Harbor Heritage Regatta. As before, I happily signed up for the C Fleet and was looking forward to another fun afternoon on the water with other new sailors. In the weeks leading up to the regatta, I was asked by the Social Committee to select the trophies so I met with local Lido Isle artist Bea Riley, chose one of her beautiful watercolours of Harbor 20s racing in Newport Harbor, and ordered the trophy plaques to go on the frames.
And then the bomb dropped when I received a phone call from John Whitney that went like this ...
"Karen, we're not going to race in different fleets with trophies for 1st place, 2nd place and 3rd place. We're going to have multiple rolling starts with the new sailors starting first and the top sailors like Bill Menninger going last. The first boats to finish will be our winners."
I immediately had this vision of starting first and the entire fleet mowing me down in their haste to make it through the racecourse. I was just crushed and my first thought was that there is no way I can do this. John must have heard the disappointment in my voice because he began to tell me how difficult it would be for the last groups of sailors to catch up to the front of the pack and that I was going to do just fine.
The day of the regatta finally came and I was nervous, nauseous and didn't want to sail.
At the skipper's meeting, the second bomb dropped when Warren Duncan handed out the start times for each group of sailors and I learned that I was in the third group instead of the first.
The other sailors in my group were all far more experienced than me.
I asked Warren why he had placed me in the third group and he grinned and pointed at Walter. I turned to Walter and said "Can I go home now?" "No" he laughed, "You're going to be just fine".
With 34 boats registered, the starting sequence began and the first group of boats set off.
It was two minutes until our start when Walter pressed the wrong button on our TackTick timer and it turned off and wouldn't turn back on. Horrors! How was I going to run the line without our trusty timer? Waves of nausea kept washing over me and I felt terrible.
Somehow I made it and we crossed the line a few seconds after the horn.
I think I held my breath for about five minutes until we made it around the windward mark. We then set off for Q Mark by Collins Island and slowly, we began creeping up on the pack of boats in front of us.
After rounding Q, we overtook several boats and I began to relax.
We then rounded D Mark and headed towards X Mark by the PCH bridge. On the way up the channel, we encountered a gaggle of Lido 14 sailors from Orange Coast College so we stayed close to the moorings and out of their way. We then got a lucky puff that pushed us up to the mark and I followed Kathy Reed in "Comfort" (Kathy is the new Lido 14 Women's Champion!) back down the channel to the turning basin. I don't like R Mark by Newport Harbor Yacht Club because I can never see it through the moorings so I kept following "Comfort" and the Draytons in "Whim" as they looked like they knew where they were going.
Next on the course was Z Mark which I knew from my OCC sailing days as being all the way down the end of the main channel by Lido Marina Village.
As we sailed past the tip of Lido Isle, this is where the dynamics of the race changed.
When Walter and I had sailed from Bayshores to Lido Isle Yacht Club before the race, the Lido Lift came early as the wind was blowing from the southwest and it was at the tip of Lido Isle by the turning basin instead of the corner in front of Newport Harbor Yacht Club. So as we sailed back around the tip of Lido Isle, we hugged the corner and got this huge lift that propelled us over to John Wayne's old house.
At that point, we finally passed the remaining boats and were now in first place.
On the way to Z Mark, we saw a huge green inflatable mark about ¾ of the way down the channel, somewhere near Joe's Crab Shack. Walter insisted that this was the new Z Mark and that the old one had been taken out. I replied that I was sure I'd seen Z Mark a few weeks ago and it was still in the same place.
The biggest problem when you're the leader in a race is that there is no-one to watch so if you go around the wrong mark, you're done.
Anyway, persistence paid off and we sailed past the large green inflatable mark and sure enough, there was Z twinkling ahead in the sunlight.
After rounding the mark, I could see the entire fleet coming down the channel so I knew that we had to really play the puffs to maintain our lead as we still had a long way to go. Walter was wonderful in coaching me along this long leg of the course and we kept our boat going fast. I was really worried that I was going to sail into a hole and everyone would zoom by us but the wind didn't let us down. We sailed up to D Mark where our favorite paparazzo, Bob Yates, was poised with his camera and after maneuvering our boat between Bob and the mark, we set off for the finish. As we rounded the tip of Lido Isle, I could see the committee boat's red flag waving at us. I looked back and the Draytons were a few boat lengths behind us but as a novice sailor, I still thought they could catch us.
Finally, we crossed the finish line and I heard the whistle and John call out "221".
The relief was immense. We did it! We finished and we won!
Walter, was amazing and I could never have done it without him. And John was right ... Bill, Jim, Peter, Karl, Gary, Carter, Phil and the rest of the best didn't mow us down!
I am writing this story for all you gorgeous crew girls so you will drive your boats - Mindy, Diane, Holly, Karen, Cathi, Alice, Ellen, Annie - you know who you are!
Yes, it was nerve-wracking but I'm so glad I did it. And for a summer regatta with an amazing party afterwards, a tour of the bay was so much more fun than a few fast windward-leeward races in three different fleets. It gave the beginners a chance at a trophy, and for the seasoned sailors, awarding the perpetual trophy to the skipper who passed the most boats (Bill and Diane Menninger passed 21 boats!), it gave everyone a shot at the gold. John and Warren, you really know how to throw a regatta!
The luau afterwards, looked like the Four Seasons Resort in Maui.
There were amazing tropical flower and fruit arrangements on pink, orange, purple and aqua covered tables. The soft sounds of a live steel band wafted over the white sandy beach.
On the terrace was a tropical bar with frozen margaritas and mai-tais flowing and three different types of tacos grilling.
The amazing women on the Social Committee - Judy, Kathy, Shana, Ellen, Jan, Roxanne and Karen - you created something truly spectacular! Bravo!