CHANNEL ISLANDS — Sunny skies and calm seas greeted the 17 wooden yachts and their crews for the 38th annual McNish Wooden Classic Yacht Race hosted by Pacific Corinthian Yacht Club in Channel Islands Harbor, July 25.
“When we started this race, I never considered it would still be going 38 years later. It now has a life of its own,” said the race’s namesake Dick McNish.
In 1977, on board his H-28 (Herreshoff masthead rig) McNish sailed in a local race off Ormond Beach in Oxnard. His was the only wooden boat in the race and though he sailed pretty well, he couldn’t keep up downwind.
“I received a radio call from the race committee boat telling me they were heading in and I should record my own time,” McNish recalled. After that experience he decided to create a better way for wooden boats to compete and this Classic Yacht Race was born.
In the last seven years, famed skipper Dennis Connor has joined the race. “He had plans to attend again this year, but broke his ankle so we missed him. Dennis has a knack though, whenever he enters the race, he wins!” McNish quipped.
The race is specifically designed for the classic beauties with a 17-mile triangular course starting offshore of the Channel Islands Harbor breakwall. The course includes rounding oil Platform Gina to starboard, a long reach to the Number 2 Red Navigation Buoy at Ventura Harbor and then a reach to round the Spar Buoy to port offshore of Mandalay power station, and a down wind run to the finish inside the break all at Channel Islands Harbor.
“The race is a pursuit start with the slower boats starting first, this way most of the fleet crosses the finish line close together. And, with good wind we get a great downwind chute run,” McNish explained, “it also ensures a great time back at the club with everyone arriving so close together.”
With 8 knots of wind at the start building to 15 knots as the fleet headed to Platform Gina and no ground swell, it was a great day on the water.
“We had decent wind and the seas were good so it made for a fun day to race,” said Kevin Dickmann, Cheerio II tactician and race chair.
Four classes—Ketches, Sloops and Cutters A and B and, Yawls—competed for Best in Class, Best Elapsed Time and First to Finish Overall.
Marvin Bohanan onboard his 1950 Sparkman Stephens 56-foot yawl Circe got the bullet for the first overall finishing ahead of McNish on Cheerio II to win the coveted Strathmore Cup and his weight in champagne as well as first in class for yawls with McNish earning second place.
C.F. Kohler and crew — including three dogs — onboard his 59-foot sloop Sally, won the Best Elapsed Time trophy sailing of the 17-mile course in 3:08:55. Sally also captured a second in Sloops and Cutters A.
Coming in first in Sloops and Cutters B was Antares, Steven Guilford’s K-40 foot sloop with Silvan taking second and Senior Advantage in third.
Spitfire, Jeffrey Woods 52-ketch beat the Ketches Class for first, followed by Splinter, in second and Fairwind placing third.
The McNish Classic Yacht Race is also the third race in the California Classic Yacht Series with four boats – Fairwind, Antares, Hidalgo and Salmo — competing in all three races including the One More Time and Yesteryear events. Fairwind won first place in ketches for the series, and Larry Beiley’s 25-foot sloop Salmo captured First Overall.
“I raced in the McNish about 18 years ago onboard my L-36, Electra. It was great to be back in my home waters on Hidalgo my new old 46-foot sloop,” said Curt Underwood about his latest boat under restoration.
This year’s Bristol Boat trophy was awarded to Jeffrey Woods for his beautifully restored ketch, Splinter.
Chris Frost racing onboard his 36-foot ketch Distant Star, said, “I look forward to this race every year. It’s like Christmas in July. It’s my favorite weekend.”
McNish says he plans to keep the race going until his 90th birthday in 2017. He and his friend Walter Russakoff — who has raced on his self-made boat Vignette II all 38 years, plan to race one more time in the Newport to Ensenada race on Cheerio II that year, as they will both turn 90.