McFarland Sabot

Walter McFarland in his Sabot last weekend in San Diego.

Now in its 85th year, the Manning Regatta was hosted by Alamitos Bay Yacht Club last weekend.

There were 47 boats racing in five classes, top honors included: CFJ Morgan Pinckney and Kennedy Leehealey, Laser 4.7 Tanner Jolly, Sabot C Brynn Jolly, and Laser Radial Chris Salas. In addition to perpetual trophies, stylist gray ice chests and other practical items were awarded to winners.

Rogers Middle School seventh grader Walter McFarland took first in the Naples Sabot Fleet.

McFarland, a first generation sailor who has been sailing for five years, took first in races 2 to 8. He characterized his first go at the course, where he took third (his throw-out) as a “learning race” with Long Beach YC teammates Madison Mansour taking first and Hannah Crompton, cinching second.

Sailing on a classic Naples Sabot with no name, McFarland said, “My focus is on the sport — not about naming my boat. I love every aspect of sailing — the environment, the team, the travel. Spending the weekend in San Diego for a regatta and racing in Mission Bay is amazing.”

To prepare for racing he explained, “I use the app called Windfinder. Saturday it showed 13 knots of wind and Sunday it showed winds up to 20 knots.”

He paused, and then as if he was reliving the moment, he said, “I was a little worried.”

Inside course Principal Race Officer (PRO) Steve Kuritz said he too was watching the wind forecast, “We ran an extra race on Saturday in anticipation of no racing Sunday.”

Kuritz got to the club early to physically check conditions; “Models are models and the wind is the wind. This is just (normal) Long Beach (weather) — this is fine” were his thoughts Sunday. During the race he kept talking to the Sabot coaches — making sure the sailors were confident continuing.

“We want everyone to have a good day,” was how Kuritz summarized his collaborative race management philosophy.

Seems like everyone was tracking the weather forecast, professional keelboat sailing instructor Marc Hughston of Santana Sailing in Shoreline Marina sent out an email blast announcing his Heavy Weather Sailing Clinic — on Sunday.

Hughston wrote, “We use the Windy App and have set an alert for Long Beach. The app emails me when winds will be from 12-30 knots. The forecast is for winds of 15, gusting 22 knots, by about noon on Sunday.

“These are good conditions to get the clinic started — something we usually do when out on a multi-day trip. We’ll cover reefing, managing power in the sail plan to balance the helm, helmsmanship, situational awareness, and safety. We may even practice some Crew Overboard Rescue maneuvers.”

The regatta’s namesake, Los Angeles Yacht Club Flag Officer E.E “Ned” Manning and his wife Kathleen were well-known Southern California socialites in the 1920s and 1930s, when he envisioned a “Great Gatsby-esque” regatta using the tenders that were carried on the decks and in the davits of large racing yachts.

The regatta Manning conceived in 1935 was named in his honor when he died in 1938 after suffering a heart attack doing what he loved most: racing yachts. This trophy is the oldest award in Southern California for un-decked dinghies.

McFarland is the type of sailor Manning would have appreciated. He plays the saxophone in his school’s jazz band, excels in math, plays tennis for fun and is known for never having a hair out of place. Friends say he doesn’t let pressure get to him, nor does he act out of emotion. He is one cool cat. Fellow sailors kid him that he should be awarded the “Perpetually Perfect Hair Award” and McFarland credits the gel he uses.

He plans to continue to sail in the Sabot fleet, and as he gets closer to high school transition to CFJs. He is considering Sato Academy of Math and Science for high school because of its sailing team.

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