The early stages of the 2002 Etchells North American Championships have seen fog, giant ocean swells and a dramatic finish, but Thursday's racing was abandoned for lack of an element no regatta can do without, wind.
In a scene as serene as a Monet seascape, the 38 boats drifted encircled by fog for more than 2 1/2 hours after the scheduled noon starting time before principal race officer Barney Flam declared the situation hopeless. The wind had peaked at about 3 knots, but by 2:30 p.m. flags were hanging limp ashore and at sea.
The Etchells, which have no engines, were towed or paddled back into the basin at the host Alamitos Bay Yacht Club, where the anemometer wind sensor atop the clubhouse was motionless.
It all meant that Dennis Conner remained in first place on the strength of Wednesday's opening win, but it won't be an official regatta until at fewest four of the seven scheduled races are sailed.
The villain in the scheme is Hernan, the onetime hurricane now downgraded to a tropical storm lurking off the tip of the Baja California peninsula some 900 miles south. Hernan sucked the life right of the event Thursday. The forecast was for subtropical showers and perhaps even thunderstorms. Temperatures were expected to remain in the 70s.
Event chairman Chris Ericksen said, "We'll have a meeting with the race committee tonight to talk about the schedule and evaluate our options. I don't think it's likely that we could run three races on any day with a fleet this size and an event so important."
That means that, at best, there would be two races each today and tomorrow for a total of five. There is no provision to use Sunday as a reserve day.