Area yacht clubs are taking regatta planning one day at a time this season.

Only last week, Long Beach Yacht Club canceled its signature regatta — Congressional Cup — after not missing a beat for 56 years, the regatta has held the record as the longest running match race. Unfortunately, the regatta succumbed to the impact of COVID-19 this year. Organizers cite international travel concerns and social distancing requirements as some of the reasons to move the event to 2021.

Yacht clubs are revisiting sailing formats, day camps and after sailing activities. Navy Yacht Club of Long Beach’s Heinz Butner explained, “Like all the Long Beach clubs, our Navy Yacht Club Long Beach sail racing program has been on hold over the last few months. Our Tuesday Senior Salty Sailor Series (SSS) was one of those initially stuck in the boat slip.”

His “stuck in the slip” comment resonates with all those involved in regattas — the competitors, race management, and those who host burger bashes and social events after sailing.

Butner explained the SSS this way: “This series has been an informal affair that lets boats and sailors of all types get together for an afternoon of sailing and camaraderie.  The race is a pursuit format where a course is set based on the wind for the day. Each boat can identify their start times from the back-of-the-course chart and start on their own. No race committee is required. Liberal time adjustments are often made based on previous results to make sure everyone has a good day.”

After sitting in the slip for a few weeks, it occurred to some of the sailors that the Tuesday SSS format was ideal for meeting all the “social distancing” rules.

As a result, according to Butler since the beginning of May, each Tuesday some of the senior salty sailors from around the Alamitos Bay harbor have simultaneously rendezvoused at Mark 38 for a spontaneous demonstration of social distancing sailing. 

He added that multiple different configurations sail together: jib only singlehanded, jib only double handed, jib and main multiple crew, jib and main single household crew with dodger, and even some with davits complete with dinghies.

The Navy Yacht Club official did admit that some compromises did have to be made.

“There is no meeting at the club before the race where non-boat owner crew can find a ride for the day and no meeting after to share the highlights of the day or beg for more time for the next race," Butner said. "We miss the social interaction. But getting out on the water, getting the exercise and fresh air makes up for it.”

Seal Beach Yacht Club’s Bob Hubbard reported, “Our race program is currently scheduled to re-start on June 25 with the first Pop Tops race of 2020. At that time it might still be that we can’t have racers back to the club post-race, but as of now, we’re still planning on a June 25 Pop Tops start with Pop Tops running through Sept. 17. The Seal Beach to Dana Point race is scheduled to run on July 11.

"The Point Fermin Race is scheduled for Aug. 22. This year we are planning for the Point Fermin Race to be a daytime pursuit race rather than the traditional evening race. The Outlaw Regatta (Marina del Rey to Seal Beach) is scheduled for Sept. 5.”

For folks who don’t own boats, or prefer to not race, chartering is an option. Harborlight Yacht Club, near the Hotel Maya across the way from downtown Long Beach, is home to a 38-foot charter catamaran, owned by Captain David Chateau. Day charters per social distancing guidelines are limited to six-person groups and masks are required.

Chateau’s company, Chill Out Sailing, was founded in 2013 in the south of France near Marseille. In 2015, the company relocated to Long Beach, where they expanded their services to include navigation consultation for sailors, yacht sales and boat delivery. Find them via GetMyBoat.com or .chilloutsailing.com.

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