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New Years Race for Master Mariners: Chili and (Friendly) Chiding

Jan 11, 2023 | Editorial, Classic Boats

Appearing in February Latitude 38, page 72

Turns out, New Years race January 1 saw more blue sky and calm conditions than locals have seen in many weeks. An ideal day for the annual Master Mariners Benevolent Association New Year’s Day race, chili feed and Tacky Trophy exchange.

Just before 12:00, to the area east of Treasure Island, race organizer Ian Powell anchored his vessel Briar Rose as course marker. Powell, inventor of this new yeare race altered the rules, stipulated entrants merely sail within a potato throw of his vessel if they wished to be scored. Unfortunately, “with the winds so light, some boats underestimated the time it would take to get to Treasure Island. In fact, winds were so spare that five of the six didn’t even qualify,” he reports. The lone crew within hailing distance was Liz Diaz’s Kaze (1956, 23-foot Maya, Okamoto and Sons boatyard in Yokohama, Japan). This crew followed the full route north to San Pablo Yacht Club (SPYC) and, once all feet had touched the clubhouse floor, was declared the winner.

“Today offered a bewitching blue-sky day with a nice northerly breeze,” smiles Sandee Swanson smiles, who has recently completed a first year as owner of Black Witch (1949, 32-foot gaff-rigged modified Friendship sloop). Swanson is pleased that her ‘used-to-be catamaran crew’ has graduated to salty seasoned ‘macaroni’ status that’s able to expertly manage a gaff. “We now have the boat pointing as well as any modern rig.”

This year’s slightly altered rules enhanced the fun of day sail. Competitors could decrease race time by answering various questions. Also, for each flag flown, more deductions could be earned; racers were permitted to make flags out of anything found onboard. “I think Kaze had a good time making pennants out of anything they could find, including a fur piece, shopping bags and dish towels,” adds Powell.

Additional members joined post-race for the potluck / chili feed, race results and Tacky Trophy ceremony. During new years race results recap, a wee kerfuffle piped up when it was thought Club Commodore Hans List may have been trying to flex his executive privileges and designate the official race start to be closer to the location where his vessel, Sequestor, was at noon. Diaz schooled him on rules, then re-asserted her win. “At the official start, five other boats could be seen north of Treasure Island–already in race mode.”

Tacky trophies are a fun way for members to jab at each other. Some trophies are handed down through the years, some are new. Each is nonsense and there is no rhyme or reason to who gets one. Commodore List handed Louis Nickles (Vectis, 1929 Bert Wolacot Sloop) a copper rooster plaque. Mike Proudfoot (Farida) found a reason to give new owners Andy and Melissa Flick (Aida) a chip dip bowl.

Nine boats registered, six started, six finished. Two were marked DNS due to weather issues. The Egelston’s Water Witch (1928, 55-foot Lester Stone ketch) retired due to maintenance challenges, but sailed north for chili. Diaz sums up the day with props to organizer Powell, “His creativity, follow-through and enthusiasm for getting these singular beauties out on the water is just what is needed.” Continuing, “More than ever, it’s important to celebrate the Bay Area’s wooden sailing vessels because the ranks are waning.”

Prizegiving Moments

Moments from the Tacky Prize ceremony—something that members look forward to all year long, or so we hear. Special accolades and remembrances occasionally spur a wee bit of verbal jousting between the giver and the recipient.

Our Traditional New Years Race Is On–With a Twist

Greetings Master Mariners. Let’s just take a minute to reflect on what a great year we have had. 2022 was a fantastic year that allowed us to get out of our houses, meet in person, and we were able to get outside and sail together the entire year! What better way to begin 2023 than with the MMBA’s traditional New Years Race!

The Twist  From what I’m told, traditionally, New Years race sees some pretty light winds. So you will be given a chance to “earn” motoring time. I’ll email the details to participants before the race begins. You’ll be given a series of tasks to complete during the race that will earn you coveted “iron spinnaker” time that you may be longing for. I think you’ll like what we have in store.

What to bring on your boat:

  • Multiple pencils or pens
  • Paper to write on
  • A positive and “growth mindset” attitude
  • A dish for the potluck