The 2013 Ultimate 20 North American Championships were held in Marina Del Rey, California September 12-15, 2013. My club, Del Rey Yacht Club, hosted the event. The entry list included 14 competing boats from every corner of the country. Thursday was the check in, registration and measurement day. There was time in the afternoon for all the competitors to head out to the race course area off of the Venice pier in the Santa Monica Bay to participate in practice starts and race course familiarization. Eric Shampain from Ullman Sails Newport Beach volunteered to conduct the practices, photograph the competitors and then to follow up back at the club with critique analysis and sail trim coaching.
Friday started with a 10 AM skipper’s meeting. The first race was scheduled for Noon. The weather was near perfect with typical temperatures in the mid to high 70s and winds around 10 knots from the Southwest. Peter Glick, Rear Commodore of DRYC and the PRO for the event was able to get 4 races started and finished. In the first race, Ken Jones (Rumbullion, actually the chartered Ricochet) from Lake Norman, North Carolina, perfectly timed a port tack start and sailed a flawless race to a convincing win. The star of the day was Chris Chambers (Black Sheep) from Sandpoint Idaho. Black Sheep pulled off wins in the next 3 races with stellar tactics and perfect boat handling. This was championship sailing at its best. At the end of day 1, Black Sheep was the clear favorite with a score of 2, 1, 1, 1. Mark Allen (Junta), our class president from Salt Lake Idaho put together a strong set of races with finishes of 4, 2, 2, 3. Toon Town was still in the hunt with 3, 3, 3, 2. At the end of day 1, Black Sheep held a solid lead with Junta and Toon Town tied for second 6 points back.
Saturday brought rolling fog banks and 40 degree wind shifts. One minute the sky was crystal clear, the next minute low hanging fog would roll in and the whole world including the race marks disappeared. Despite the challenging conditions, the PRO pulled off 3 races. The last race was especially exhausting as it took all of our concentration to drive the boat through the leftover chop in a dying breeze. We had a very good day with a score of 2, 2, 1. Black Sheep stumbled a little with finishes of 3, 11, 6. A jib tack snap shackle releasing at the leeward mark contributed to their poor finish in race two. That race would become their discard. Junta’s day was mixed as they started with an 8, but then came back strong with a 1, 2. At the end of day 2, the results after a discard showed Toon Town in the lead with 13 points and Junta and Black Sheep tied for second 1 point behind. This was a 3 boat battle that was going to go down to the wire.
On the way in from the race course, my #2 crew Keith Magnussen found out that his mother was gravely ill at a hospital in Houston Texas and the prognosis was very grim. When I got to the club, I petitioned the class to replace Keith with an alternate so that he could fly to Houston that night to see his mother. The class did not approve the petition and I was prepared to resign from the regatta. Keith stepped up and said he would complete the regatta before making travel arrangements.
Sunday was a very taxing day mentally. Toon Town’s starts really suffered. We were last off the line in the first race. Junta had sailed out to a commanding lead. Keith put his personal turmoil aside, knuckled down and started to call perfect tactics. We rounded the first weather mark in 10th. We passed 2 more boats and rounded the leeward mark in 8th. Keith really pulled a rabbit out of the hat, and with masterful skill calling shifts got us up to 3rd at the last windward mark. We had great downwind speed with our new Ullman spinnaker all weekend, and it came through again as we passed one more boat to take 2nd to Junta’s 1st. Junta and Toon Town were now tied in the lead. Black Sheep pulled another 11th, and that was going to make their championship hopes very difficult to attain.
The next race was nearly as difficult. Toon Town got off to a slow start, and Junta was sitting on top of us. We engaged in a tacking duel with Junta while managing to pick off some of the boats around us. Junta finished 3rd and Toon Town finished 5th. Using throw outs (8th for Junta, 5th for Toon Town), Junta now led Toon Town by 2 points. The wind piped up for the last race, and Toon Town felt especially fast. We started at the boat end, but pulled our first over early. After returning to start we were dead last. Junta was in the lead pack off to the left side of the course. Toon Town started playing shifts to the right side, and by the time we got to the weather mark we had sailed up to 5th. Junta was buried in the fleet. That is about how we finished and we both used race 10 as our discard. Junta had to keep their 8th place finish from race 5 and that was the championship. Whew! This was the closest regatta I can remember participating in. The pressure was crushing. The level of skillsmanship extended much further into the fleet then just the first 3 boats as 6 different boats won individual races. Keith Ziegler (VP from the Bankrupt) from Detroit won race 5 and Tom Burden (Layla), from Santa Cruz and my perennial nemesis on the West Coast, finished the series with spectacular twin wins in race 9 and 10. This was a fantastic regatta.
I want to thank all of the competitors for travelling from around the country to participate at my home club DRYC. There are many friends in the U20 class that I see far too infrequently. I’d like to thank Commodore Paul Artof, Race Chair Sterling Tallman and Committee Chair Tucker Strasser for agreeing to, no, jumping at the chance to run a national ranked championship regatta. I’d like to thank my crew, Dennis Martinelli, who knew how to push me to get the most out of my abilities. But I’d especially like to thank Keith Magnussen not only for the suit of Ullman Sails worthy of winning a championship regatta, but also for having the internal fortitude to put his personal anguish aside and carry on with the task of winning a North American Championship. I could not have done this without you.