Competitors returned to Ullman Sails Long Beach Race Week (USLBRW) in top form, despite the three-year hiatus forced by the pandemic. Their outstanding performance was matched only by the spectacular sailing conditions. Across the course, sails were trimmed, tactics were sharp, and smiles were wide on the faces of hundreds of racers who turned out for this venerated season opener.
For decades, USLBRW has been one of the favorite regattas for sailors on the west coast of the United States, with highly fought competition, nightly parties, and weather conditions that say “hello, summer!”
USLBRW is hosted by Alamitos Bay Yacht Club (ABYC) and Long Beach Yacht Club (LBYC) with a helping hand from California Yacht Club and an armada of volunteers. The collaboration provides for three distinct racecourses, all expertly managed, hosting 14 different divisions.
Spanning the horizon, the waters off Long Beach and Seal Beach were peppered with colorful spinnakers and sails as far as the eye could see. “It’s been good to have everyone back and enjoying the regatta,” said Principal Race Officer Mark Townsend. “The Long Beach breeze really delivered and we had highly competitive racing all three days!”
Townsend explained the courses were designed to be challenging and based on the fleets anticipated, with several months of planning and exploring various course options. Final course selection came down to race-day conditions, and Townsend commended Race Committee volunteers on all three courses for pulling off those races seamlessly.
USLBRW started at 12:55pm Friday, with breezy conditions testing the fleet right out of the gate. Wind that gusted to 21 knots created a formidable chop, even in the inner harbor race circle C. That didn’t stop organizers from running two races for the windward-leeward boats, and a lengthy trial for the random leg entrants.
By Day Two, the leaderboard began to solidify as the wind continued to blow. Dominating the J/111 fleet was Skeleton Key, as PHRF-C was controlled by the J/35 Rival. Shadowfax took an early hold on random leg-C while Argo4 reigned in random leg-A. The Carkeek 40 Adjudicator had rivals green with envy as it achieved all top-two finishes. But for many classes, the racing was tight and came down to the final matches on the final day.
Bruce Golison’s J/70 Midlife Crisis held off an attack by Nimbus, who was OCS in Race Three. Despite a brilliant rally to a ninth-place finish in that race, Nimbus was unable to best Midlife Crisis’s all top-five finishes, and finished second overall, with Huckleberry third. The stellar performance of Midlife Crisis earned the team both J/70 gold and Friday’s Boat of the Day honors. Steven Proud’s J/70 Swish, hailing from the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron in Australia, received the Furthest Traveled award.
In the Beneteau 36.7 division, Larry Smith’s PI captured gold and the High Point Series distinction. Contender Rode Rage, despite five straight wins on Saturday and Sunday, could not overcome an absence Friday and two DNCs, and finished six points astern, with Bella Vita close behind.
Three boats racked up perfect scores in USLBRW 2022: J/35 Rival in PHRF-C and the J/111 Skeleton Key, both with a lucky seven wins in seven races; plus Shadowfax, who logged three firsts in the random leg-C division.
In the end, Adjudicator triumphed in PHRF A followed by Flaquita and Pendragon IV. In PHRF B, Jim Bailey’s Destroyer took first and with sons Charlie, Danny and William at his side, also took home the Golison and Kent Family Trophy for the highest placing boat sailed by at least three members of an immediate family. Second place in PHRF B went to Jim, with Lugano third.
Farr 40 racing was wily and wild, with Blade II and Insanity battling it out for first. But a penalty in Race Five proved a setback for Insanity which held them back. They finished second to Blade II, with Dark Star third.
Racing the Catalina 37s for both trophies and bragging rights on the bay, Team D-Ives Plus held off a robust challenge by Temptress to nab the title: squeezing out Temptress by two points, with Team Del Rey Yacht Club just one point behind. For their efforts, D-Ives Plus won both Catalina 37 National Championship and Satariano One Design Boat of the Week award. In addition, Keith Ives’ effort gave his colleagues a leg-up in the Team Challenge, capturing that honor alongside LBYC teammates Whiplash and Relentless.
It could be said that Bob Little and team ‘crushed’ the competition in the J/109 division, with Blue Crush edging out Fuzzy Logic by two points, and Raptor in third. Said Little, “It was super tough competition this weekend. Our contenders were super-fast boats all weekend and the competition was fierce. The win did not come easy.” The team was recognized as the J/109 Pacific Coast Champion. “Where yesterday’s (Saturday) races were challenged by strong winds, the challenge today was shifty winds.” Little has owned Blue Crush for just over three years, making this the J/109’s USLBRW debut. “Any of the boats in the fleet could have won,” he added. “We got lucky – and a couple of good breaks.”
Ed Feo’s Loco X advanced into first place in the Viper 640 division on Day Two and hung on to win the Pacific Coast Championship title. Tight racing in that fleet saw several changes in the leaderboard over the three-day regatta, with Geoff Fargo’s Boomslang leaping into second after a stellar Day Two which won the team Saturday’s One-Design Boat of the Day trophy. They finished second with Boiling Point third, just one point over Haulin’ Asp.
PHRF Boat of the Week honors went to Ken Keiding’s Argo 4, which prevailed over a half dozen stunning and slick competitors in the random leg-A division. In over 60nm of offshore racing, it came down to one point between Argo 4 and second place Saga. Nereid finished third.
Winning the Schock 35 Pacific Coast Championship was Roderick Messinger’s Buttercup, reputed to be hull number one of the legendary Schock 35 fleet. While Messinger may have been a newbie at USLBRW, the storied history of Buttercup is not. Messinger, a retired lifeguard, purchased the boat in 2018 from its original owner, Dennis Conner. He reported Conner was specifically looking to sell the boat to a rookie; someone who would learn to sail, and turn around and get others involved in the sport. After the purchase, Messinger undertook extensive renovations for Buttercup, included the painstaking removal of 40 years and multiple layers of bottom paint. He said refurbishment efforts will eventually benefit his son and grandson, although for now Messinger is joyfully carrying out Conner’s wishes and the legacy of this boat. He rarely sails with the same crew twice and has been actively seeking new sailors. For USLBRW, however, veteran sailors Mark Harris and Scott Serber pitched in to guide the new skipper and work with the crew. Rumor has it, Buttercup is the only boat Conner never lost a race on. After three days of racing and first-overall honors in the class, indeed Buttercup’s legacy continues.
Mark your calendars for Ullmans Sails Long Beach Race Week 2023: June 23 – 25!
For full results on USLBRW 2022, the photo gallery and event details, click HERE.