Here it is October and my Connecticut-based cousin Steve Shongut spent the weekend winterizing his sailboat, and our East Coast friends won’t be sailing for months.
Not so for us.
Both Alamitos Bay and Long Beach yacht clubs were busy with women sailors competing in major regattas last weekend.
ABYC's Ladies' Day is one of a long-running series of regattas organized by the Southern California Women's Sailing Association (SCWSA) in Naples Sabots at yacht clubs from San Diego to Long Beach. This year, Regatta Chair Kathy Weishampel reported there were 11 women entries and 12 in the gent's division.
California Yacht Club’s skipper Allie Blecher and her team won the 2019 Linda Elias Memorial Women’s One Design Challenge by a mere two points. Blecher finished the regatta in the Catalina 37 fleet with a total of 22 points.
Liz Hjorth, competing for Women’s Sailing Associate of Santa Monica Bay was just a gust behind with 24 points while defending champion Casey Hogan, sailing for Newport Harbor Yacht Club, moved up the ranks to finish in third place with 29 points.
The addition of the Cal 20 fleet in 2018 has met the needs of a growing number of competitors interested in sailing and is part of Long Beach’s commitment to serving the women’s sailing community.
“The Cal 20s were offered primarily as an additional opportunity for women who wanted to advance into one-design sailing,” Co-Chair Cyndi Martinich said. “The growing waitlist indicated to us that there were more women who wanted to sail at this level, so we started looking for a fleet.”
They found the Cal 20s, cared for and managed by Shoreline YC, now considered part of the trilogy of clubs supporting this regatta.
As an added incentive, a new team trophy was awarded to the yacht club with the best results in both Catalina 37 and Cal 20 fleets. This year, San Francisco Yacht Club was the proud recipient.
LBYC’s Satia To took her first opportunity as a new sailor and skippered a Cal 20 — and blowing away her competitors. In windy conditions, in light conditions, and even in the last race when organizers added an extra lap, To recorded bullet after bullet. She finished the regatta with 8 points. It was only in the second race Saturday when she scored a second-place finish — the result of being struck by another boat at the start. No damage was done, but the defensive measures set her back.
She credits the win for her and her team being in sync and tremendous support from her fellow sailors at LBYC who have coached and mentored her since she started sailing, just three years ago.
To’s success speaks to the heart of this regatta and the WSA’s mission. Skippers come to win, but also to share their experience, their passions; their joy of sisterhood and support for each other.
The regatta is hosted by LBYC and the Long Beach Women’s Sailing Association with the support of the Long Beach Sailing Foundation. It is named after Linda Elias, one of Southern California’s most successful female sailboat racers, who died in 2003 at age 52 after a nine-year battle with ovarian cancer.
As the winner of the regatta, Blecher gets to choose (per qualifying standards) where the $1,000 prize money from the Linda Elias scholarship fund goes. The foundation that assists promising sailors is supported by sponsors and fund-raising activities each team participates in.
It’s been a good year for Blecher. In August, she won the 17th U.S. Women’s Match Racing Championship. Beka Schiff, who sailed with Blecher in that event, served as main trimmer this weekend. Blecher’s name will go onto the perpetual trophy for a second time. She also won this event in 2013.
When the Grunion asked Blecher her plans for the future, she shared that she hopes to take a guest sail leg on Maiden’s round the world voyage — hopefully Rhode Island or New York.