Why let a sailboat race stand in the way of a party? This question has been asked many times, sometimes seriously, other times at an exaggerated angle of heel. But I assure you that the question has never been answered more boldly than at Long Point Race Week, which is hosted by the Balboa and Newport Harbor yacht clubs. For three days in August (26-28th) many of the best sailors in Southern California convene at their special rendezvous, Catalina Island, to celebrate life, sailing, and of course, the sailing life.
Forget about deliveries. Friday’s race gets you to the island. Saturday’s racing is about sailing for the sheer pleasure of the thing. And Sunday’s race returns you to the mainland. Long Point changes, year by year, but what’s working at the moment is worth thinking about, wherever you sail.
“People take their competitive attitude and dial it down a notch,” says Brad Avery, director of the Orange Coast College School of Sailing and Seamanship and skipper for last year’s race aboard the canting-keel 80-footer Magnitude 80. “You’re on an island, so your weekend routine changes. You’re away from your wallet and car keys. You can’t rush home after the race. You’re not going to anybody’s soccer game. You have time to just unwind. In fact, you don’t have much choice.”
Each race is different. Racing out to the island on Friday, you are likely to start on port tack in a light southerly, but an informed tactician will be betting on the mainland to pull in a sea breeze as the day warms, which means there will be a transition—and during the transition there will be no wind at all.
Saturday’s race, which starts late enough in the day to allow time for socializing and a morning swim, includes a 7-mile beat past the island’s rugged cliffs to Ship Rock and then a spinnaker run home. According to America’s Cup veteran Andy Rose, “The Saturday race along the face of Catalina can be one of the most spectacular anywhere. It’s worth the price of admission in itself.”
Assuming someone wakes you up by Sunday afternoon, there is the race back. This is the sad part, watching the island fall astern: Catalina, with its mountains, hiking trails and clear waters, a paradise just miles from the metropolis, but apparently, just…far…enough.