During this year's Harbor 20 fleet championships I was reviewing the entry list in B fleet and sizing up the competitors when I noticed the boat Chloe. The skipper was Richard Blatterman, crew was John Cazier.
I thought to myself, "We should be able to take them." But then again, Richard and John have some history sailing in our local waters.
That's when it hit me: I need to interview these guys and find out what keeps them coming back and always finishing in the top five of the major regattas.
I had a chance last week to meet the two of them for lunch at the Balboa Yacht Club and took it upon myself to drop the formalities and not address them by their proper titles — which would be commodore, for both of them. Both Richard and John are staff commodores; and assuming they have the same difficulty as I do in listening to people in small, crowded rooms, the whole commodore thing might have gotten a little comical.
The interview could not have started out any better when John came into the club and said, "I am not going to talk to him," referring to Richard. "He just took my parking place."
In front of the club is a parking spot for our staff commodores. Richard was just pulling into it when John pulled into the lot.
They both gave a short laugh and we all sat down.
I found it interesting that both started sailing in 1939 when the Southland Sailing Club house, which later became BYC, was on the little island of Balboa. Richard's father used to rent a place on the island for the summer and informed him and his brother that he would buy them a boat if they would learn to swim. By the end of summer they were sailing a Balboa dinghy, a type of Sabot, around the harbor.
During the same time John had built himself an ocean-going Frostbite dingy and came into town to race in the 1940 Southern California Yachting Assn. summer regatta.
Around this time Richard and John became members of the town's sailing club.
In 1955 Richard sailed in his first of 15 Transpac races to Hawaii and quickly became one of the most sought-after navigators of the time. He sailed on the overall winning boat one year and from what I can tell, always placed third or better in class.
John was known for sailing in the Thistle fleet.
"That was the best boat I ever raced," he said with passion in his voice. "With 38 boats racing outside off Newport Beach, the racing was gorgeous. Racing performance dinghies, that's really the best sailing there is."
This was only the start of the racing careers of these two fierce competitors. John owned a famous Schock 35 by the name of ButterCup that won four straight Lipton Cups, one of the preeminent events in Southern California racing. Richard just happened to helm the winning Lipton winner himself years earlier.
From my conversion with them, it sounded like John had also put in his time offshore, competing in some Mexico races and a Transpac or two. So blend all that experience together and you have one strong Harbor 20 team.
When I asked the guys what their goals were for next year, John quickly replied, "Stay Alive!"
They both laughed, and John explained, "We always like to sail better and get frustrated when we do not sail well. When something goes wrong, we just laugh the whole time. We both have done well in the past, we don't need to prove anything."
I then asked them about the state of the harbor.
"The most positive item is the dredging," Richard said. "It's fantastic, how clean the harbor is now. It's also strange to see so many empty moorings."
John added, "This place would be a different world if we took all these moored boats and placed them onto a floating marina. Floating docks are a big change to try to institute. Every square foot of water out there is worth a lot of money and we are using it very badly."
I was completely taken aback by this team and am having troubles finding the proper words in closing, so I am just going to use one word: respect. I have much more to share with about these two at lenboseyachts.blogspot.com.
LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.