Byline: Catherine French
CHANNEL ISLANDS HARBOR — July 28 marked the 35th annual running of the McNish Classic Yacht Race, sponsored by Pacific Corinthian Yacht Club.
Twenty-six wooden yachts started the pursuit start race with good wind and seas making for a great day on the water, with consistent wind that increased from 6 knots at the start and reached 15 knots on the course. The 17-mile triangular course was created for wooden yachts that were designed before 1952.
What a difference a year made for Dick McNish, the race’s namesake, who just splashed his 1931 46-foot yawl Cheerio II in late May after having suffered a broken main mast during last year’s classic. This year, he finished second in the Yawls class.
“It was so great to sail well this year, after having to abandon last year’s race,” McNish said after the race. “It took a while to get the new mast built and stepped, but Cheerio II is back and ready for more racing and cruising.”
Making his fifth consecutive appearance in the McNish Classic, veteran America’s Cup skipper Dennis Conner of San Diego Yacht Club handily beat the fleet at the helm of his 102-year-old 40-foot topsail gaff-rigged Long Island Sound schooner Fame, finishing nearly 10 minutes ahead of the second boat to cross the finish line.
“It’s great to have Dennis here again this year, in his beautiful boat, Fame,” McNish said. “He’s a great sailor and tough competitor,” McNish said.
The wind held, creating a spectacular finish. Yachts finished closely together, with their colorful chutes billowing in the afternoon breeze, just off the detached breakwater at Channel Islands Harbor.
Every year, skippers compete for the coveted Strathmore Cup and to win their weight in champagne. Conner was first to finish and first overall, winning the cup and the champagne — and he took first in Schooners Class.
Circe took first place in the Yawls Class, Splinter finished first in Ketches, A Vignette earned first in Sloops/Cutters, Savannah came in first in Sloops/Cutters B and, in the newly added XX Class (cold-molded hull), Silvan took first place.
“It’s hard to believe this is the 35th year,” McNish said. “The race is about getting folks together who love sailing, and caring for these classic yachts. Thanks to Scott Harrison for helping me keep the race going.”