This last weekend I attended the Harbor 20 Sailing Club's Fleet 1 2012 awards banquet at the Lido Isle Yacht Club. The Harbor 20s came to life in the late 1990s when a group of sailors from the Newport Harbor Yacht Club gathered and brainstormed on what would make the perfect one-design fleet for Newport Harbor. This year, some 15 years later, our harbor's H20 Fleet 1 had more than 90 people at its awards banquet.
The fleet had more than 196 starts or races in our harbor this year, 126 days of racing, 92 different skippers and 34 boats entered in its fleet championships.
I have not witnessed numbers like this since the mid-1980s. You have to ask yourself, how can this be? How can a fleet continue to grow after so long?
The answer is simple: The founding fathers, Arthur Strock, Grant Baldwin, Bill Palmer, Phil Ramser, Pete Pallette and builder Tom Schock, had participated in many different fleets over the years and watched them come and go. This group then went out and promoted its fleet, and it began to grow. Then, rather than hold onto what they had started, the founders passed the baton off to the next group of people, like Peter Haynes, John Whitney, Nik Froehlich and the new builder, Alexander Vucelic, who purchased the WD Schock Company two years ago. Alex is bringing a lot of new energy to the fleet and goes out of his way to make new members feel welcome.
This new guard is taking the fleet to new heights of participation. They are doing this by rotating the A Fleet; if you do not win a trophy in a high-point series race within a year, you are bumped down to B Fleet. This keeps B Fleet very competitive, and now, with the introduction of a C Fleet, everybody has a chance to win a race or two each year.
Another thing that keeps the fleet so active is Peter Haynes and his efforts in rules and racing seminars. Each year, Peter puts on these seminars and each year the attendance grows. The true magic to these boats is how simple they are to maintain, and if your crew does not show up or cannot make it to a race, the owner can jump in the boat and sail it singlehandedly. The owner also can still stay competitive with a complete novice crew or, like me, with a not-to-attentive teenager. Priceless.
Now, the best part of sailing H20s is the people. It kind of feels more like the days of racing my Hobie 16 and the beach parties we had. After each race, Fleet 1 members will gather and go over what they learned on the race course. For me, it brings back memories of the sailing clubs and keeps a big smile on my face.
Speaking of smiles, this year's winners of the Grand Masters award for the highest-placing skippers over the age of 65 were Tom Schock in A Fleet and Richard Blatterman in B Fleet. The Fleet 1 First Mate award, given to the highest-placing husband-and-wife team in the championships, went to Diane and Bill Menninger in A Fleet, and in B Fleet it went to Carlita and Win Fuller. This year's Arthur B. Strock Service Award, for members who have performed outstanding service for Fleet 1, went to Peter Haynes. Peter also took home the Fleet 1 "Rain or Shine" award for attending the most races this season. This year's big winners of the High Point Series were Karen and Gary Thorne.
I heard that the Newport Harbor Yacht Club did not award the Burgee of Merit this year, which is too bad, because I feel that H20 Fleet 1 has brought unusual distinction to the West Coast yachting and our harbor, and is something we can all be proud of.
LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.