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5 January 2006, 10:51 am
Harbour Seal Late Entry For ABYC Boxing Day Race
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Boxing Day Race 2005
Long Beach, California, USA

The weather for Alamitos Bay Yacht Club's 6th Annual Boxing Day Pursuit Race was not even suitable for ducks. Instead a Harbour Seal spent most of the day trying to play with its new found friend - an F24 Trimaran.
Sailors entered boats in twelve different classes for the 6th Annual Boxing Day Pursuit Race held on Saturday 31 December on Alamitos Bay. A less than perfect winter's day greeted the sailors with grey skies and a forecast of rain before the end of the day. Classes participating ranged from a Naples Sabot and the ever present Snowbird, all the way to Etchells, F24 Trimaran and J/80's. Asymmetric spinnakers, gaff rigs, bow sprits, code zeroes, bloopers, leaping Harbour Seals - the Boxing Day race had it all.

About ten minutes before the skippers meeting the forecasted rain started, but the Race Committee already had everyone's entry fee and was not about to give it back, nor were the sailors willing to let the Race Committee off the hook and call the race because of weather! 23 hardy skippers with crew ventured out into the rain, wind and cold!

With the wind gusting over 20 knots and rain squalls and white caps blowing across the bay the Race Committee fired the warning signal at that point the Sabot C sailors all decided to capsize. A ten minute postponement ensued to rescue the now inverted Naples Sabots. After some quick rescue work, the previously inverted Sabots were once again sails up and leeboard down as the sequence was restarted. The wind had abated to 16 knots as the Sabots headed to the first mark.

The pursuit race format builds the handicap into a classes starting time. Boats are started in reverse order of their speed; the slower boats racing for over two hours, and the faster boats such as the F-24 Trimaran for only a little over an hour. As each classes' assigned start time arrived, they lined up and tried to catch the slower boats that had started ahead of them while trying to avoid being caught by the faster boats behind them.

The final two boats to start were the F24 Trimaran followed one minute later by the J/80. A Harbour Seal which had been fascinated by the activity decided to join in, starting just behind its friend the F-24 Trimaran. The seal made several leaps into the air. It must have been a slow day for the Seal as well!

J. P. BARNES from San Diego YC sailing his Naples Sabot appeared to have a large enough lead to not be caught, but slowly Steve SCHUPAK from King Harbour YC sailing his Lido 14 was eating away at the big lead. Jennifer KURITZ from Alamitos Bay YC in her Cal 20 was gaining on the Lido.

The faster boats including the Etchells, F24's and J/80's who had given the Sabot a one hour head start were starting to work their way through the fleet, and their chances of catching the Sabot before the time ran out looked good.

With only about five minutes left the SCHUPAK caught and passed the BARNES to take the lead. However KURITZ was only a couple of boat lengths behind and passed the Sabot and the Lido 14 to take the lead as they started what was to be the final leg.

Two Lasers sailed by Jim KIRK and Steven SMITH rounded next followed almost immediately by the Jerry MONTGOMERY's Etchells. The Etchells swept down the last leg passing everyone to take the win as the 1526 hours local time finish time was reached. KURITZ finished in second, with SCHUPAK taking third.

With five classes in the top six places the handicaps had worked well.

A great time was had by all sailing against competitors and boats that they rarely see on the bay. Trophies were presented on the second deck, with lobbying for improved handicaps next year for some already starting at the bar.

Mark TOWNSEND (As Amended By ISAF). Image, The Harbour Seal gives chase:© Rich ROBERTS
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