Kim­ball Liv­ingston has seen the light from St. Fran­cis YC’S ob­ser­va­tion deck; a club fleet that serves its mem­bers in many ways.

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Q Of all the var­i­ous Lip­ton Cup races at ports around the United States, the one that up and died was the one in San Fran­cisco. The old for­mat wasn’t pack­ing them in. That for­mat — en­ter one boat per club, meet on the wa­ter for one hand­i­cap-scored race, wave across the wa­ter and go home — well, that had come down to one club that, for two years in a row, sent a boat around the course alone, leav­ing the crew frus­trated and think­ing no, no, no to a rinse and re­peat.

Then, in 2018, the Lip­ton Cup on San Fran­cisco Bay saw nine clubs en­ter for three days of com­pe­ti­tion and fes­tiv­i­ties, with dif­fer­ent crews each day. What changed? Ev­ery­thing. Key No. 1 was to em­brace the cri­sis. Key No. 2 was rec­og­niz­ing an op­por­tu­nity in a club-owned fleet of matched boats avail­able for

char­ter. Key No. 3 was a for­mat that brought peo­ple to­gether (open wind­ward/rac­ing, a cross­bay race for women skip­pers and a cross-bay race for skip­pers age 60- plus), as if there might be truth to what sailors are al­ways say­ing: “It’s about the peo­ple.”

Ten years ago, when St. Fran­cis YC pur­chased its fleet of J/22s, the ar­gu­ments in fa­vor fo­cused on de­vel­op­ing team rac­ing and match rac­ing and hold­ing on to young adult mem­bers not ready to buy a boat. Res­cu­ing a Lip­ton Cup event for the Pa­cific In­ter­club Yacht As­so­ci­a­tion wasn’t on the radar, much less en­abling a three- day re­gional re­gatta that drew all the “big boy” out­fits who then lost out to tiny In­ver­ness YC, on the shores of lovely To­ma­les Bay. It turns out, how­ever, that St. Fran­cis’ club fleet has de­liv­ered ev­ery­thing en­vi­sioned, and more, and added a pop­u­lar plat­form for youth sail­ing. Now, there is one big prob­lem. The boats are over- sub­scribed. De­mand ex­ceeds sup­ply.

I have friends who claim that club-owned fleets are the fu­ture, or they’re crit­i­cal to any vi­tal fu­ture. There also are plenty of cases where clubowned boats are the now. Many clubs have es­tab­lished fleets, es­pe­cially on the At­lantic se­aboard. In­dian Har­bor YC has its Ideal 18s. Booth­bay Har­bor has J/22s and BH One De­signs, and of course there is New York at Har­bour Court, with its Sonars and, soon, spank­ingnew IC37S that will be out of the reach of most and too much boat for most pur­poses any­way. In other climes, South­ern YC has its Fly­ing Scots, and Long Beach YC the Catalina 37s. The list goes on.

Along with its Con­gres­sional Cup- led in­no­va­tions, such as on-course um­pir­ing, Long Beach YC has lever­aged its fleet to earn a po­si­tion on the world stage of match rac­ing. How­ever, when I sat down with Kiwi ex­pat and Long Beach lo­cal Scott Dick­son, the first re­al­ity that came rolling across the ta­ble was the need for some­thing very dif­fer­ent. That is why this is worth talk­ing about.

The Catalina 37 de­mand a crew of six, Dick­son ex­plains. They are not a so­lu­tion to the prob­lem of get­ting ev­ery­one off the dock as quickly and sim­ply as pos­si­ble. The ap­petite was there, how­ever, for more and more sail­ing, and by way of how to ac­com­plish that, “peo­ple threw out ideas like buy­ing fleets of Gover­nor’s Cup 21s or J/ 22s, but those num­bers can get to be big num­bers in a hurry.”

So, how closely would you look a gift horse in the mouth?

“We heard about a sail­ing school in Ma­rina del Rey that wanted to un­load some Sol­ings,” Dick­son says. “I pro­posed to the club that we get those boats, and I would get them sail­ing. For a $500 do­na­tion to the school, we wound up with three Sol­ings and an

I have friends who claim that club-owned fleets are the fu­ture, or they’re crit­i­cal to any vi­tal fu­ture. There also are plenty of cases where clubowned boats are the now.

Etchells, not that we wanted the Etchells. The next step was to get them stan­dard­ized, or stan­dard­ized enough. Main­sheet con­trols are a pri­or­ity, but it doesn’t mat­ter if two boats have dif­fer­ent jib hal­yard ar­range­ments. And be­ing from an Olympic class, the Sol­ings were over-equipped for ba­sic sail­ing. We got rid of as much hard­ware as we could. We went to loose-footed mains, and we canned the spin­nakers.”

And that was only the be­gin­ning. The Etchells went away, the Sol­ing count is now up to seven and the club didn’t ex­actly over­pay for any of them. “Sol­ings look good on the wa­ter,” Dick­son says. “They’re pretty. They sail well. Dur­ing the sum­mer, ours get used five or six days a week. Ev­ery boat has its own work­ing sails — some of those sails are older than I am — and they live on the boat. A mem­ber can sign a boat out and be sail­ing in min­utes. Hav­ing this fleet boosts our adult learn-to-sail pro­gram, and it’s good for mem­ber­ship. We have peo­ple who were look­ing at dif­fer­ent clubs and look­ing at sail­ing les­sons, and the Sol­ings are a draw. We also get adults whose kids are in our ju­nior pro­gram, and they’re mys­ti­fied by the lingo their off­spring bring home, so they come around to find out what all the noise is about. There’s also a STEM pro­gram for high-school­ers, and they bus kids in for that.”

Be­yond the daily vol­ume of sail­ing, Long Beach has Wed­nes­day- night rac­ing, and therein lies a streak of re­li­gion. For its Wed­nes­day races, the club pro­vides matched, heavy- duty sails that oth­er­wise live un­der lock and key. A set of small asym­met­ric spin­nakers just might be in the off­ing for 2019, and it’s worth not­ing that Wed­nes­days run a two- race sched­ule. The first race caters to en­trylevel skip­pers and crews; the sec­ond is there so the hot­shots can have a go at their friends and “friends.”

Given his Kiwi ori­gins, Dick­son is fa­mil­iar with the Royal New Zea­land Yacht Squadron, where, as he says, “the ju­nior boats and the train­ing boats are all lined up,” look­ing new and shiny, with big spon­sor lo­gos on the top­sides and sails. For Amer­i­can sailors, all you can say is that’s a dif­fer­ent world. At a time when Bri­tish builder RS Sail­ing has rolled out its RS 21, imag­ined and en­gi­neered as a plat­form for in­sti­tu­tional fleets, many clubs and com­mu­nity sail­ing cen­ters will look long­ingly in that di­rec­tion, but only a few can take the fi­nan­cial plunge.

As a long­time mem­ber of St. Fran­cis YC, I well re­mem­ber that it took years to per­suade our board to take on the chal­lenges and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that go with own­ing and main­tain­ing the J/ 22s. The usage has evolved too, in ways that mir­ror the dif­fer­ent value propo­si­tions of Long Beach YC’S Catalina 37s ver­sus its “beater” Sol­ings. At first, our J/ 22s were trailer queens, pre­served as pre­cious com­modi­ties for the next round of match rac­ing or team rac­ing. Bit by bit, we nib­bled at that un­til, to­day, they’re used a lot. They’re hy­brids, if you will, still pre­served as a matched set but avail­able for evening races, week­end races and train­ing ex­er­cises as well as spe­cialty events. They’re also pop­u­lar in the spring­time when we give our kids a break from the high school sail­ing cir­cuit in fa­vor of any­thing and ev­ery­thing else we can muster. It takes a lot of work to keep the boats up to snuff, but they’re not do­ing any­one any good while they’re dry. I know of at least one past com­modore who preaches about adding some beater boats that would live full time in the wa­ter and be even more ac­ces­si­ble. That would have ben­e­fits. And it would add main­te­nance. And it would crowd our lim­ited dock space.

To be con­tin­ued. Q

At first, our J/22s were trailer queens, pre­served as pre­cious com­modi­ties for the next round of match rac­ing or team rac­ing. It takes a lot of work to keep the boats up to snuff, but they’re not do­ing any­one any good while they’re dry.


St. Fran­cis YC’S J/ 22s are the work­horses of the club, used for week­end and week­night races, as well as train­ing and youth keel­boat de­vel­op­ment.

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