Paul Miachika Wins CA Masters Champion Trophy
Submission and photos by Paul Miachika
The 2023 edition of the ILCA (Laser) California Masters Regatta, hosted by the Mission Bay Yacht Club in San Diego, and held February 24 to 26, was filled with anticipation and caution, especially for the out-of-town competitors. A massive cold front and weather system descended on the West Coast mid-week, and Southern California was hit with historic amounts of wind (30+ mph), ocean swells predicted at 18′, precipitation with copious amounts of rain & snow, and cold temps in the 40’s & 50’s. The weather was more akin to the frostbite sailing in the Pacific Northwest or the Northeast. Not the “normal” 70 degrees and sunny conditions we anticipate.
Snow levels were low at 3,000 ft, making the trek from Arizona to San Diego a bit of a gamble. Luckily, the snowplows and salt trucks were out in force, and by Friday morning, the roads were dry, with only the scenery blanketed in snow.
Three other AYC’ers planned to race: Rob Gibbs, Gordon Briner, and Dave Newland, but with a triple trailer full and the prospect of snow in the mountains, they decided it was not worth the risk. So I made the solo trek, pulling Sid the Kid 2.0 on a trailer borrowed from Rob.
Due to the weather, only 16 boats were registered (and fewer showed up). As a result, the traditional Friday practice races and on-the-water clinic overseen by Laser and Snipe champion Doug Hart was relegated to an on-land sail trim clinic and almost three hours of videos and discussions on race tactics. Only five of us attended the clinic, including Dave Newland, who drove over without his Laser to soak up the knowledge being passed around. The Mission Bay Yacht Club Laser Fleet are great hosts, so in addition to the usual swag of embroidered golf hats, we also received very nice embroidered collared golf shirts. As another bonus, we were all served drinks and dinner at the MBYC bar overlooking Mission Bay.
The next morning the winds were not filling in on the Pacific, so after a short delay, the decision was made to race inside Mission Bay. With the winds coming from the South and Southeast at 5 to 15 mph, grey skies, and no recreational water traffic, we had the whole bay to ourselves.
Four races were concluded without a throwout, and with the Masters age handicap, I found myself tied for first with a consistent 3, 5, 4, 3 set of finishes. Mission Bay’s Dave Leuck, the defending champion, was in first with 5, 2, 2, 2, but since he’s younger, we each had an adjusted score of 19 points. Martin Bonsager, even younger (and faster) scored 1, 1, 6, 1 adjusted to 21 placing him in 3rd. Another gracious and hospitable happy hour and dinner followed the day’s racing. We all looked forward to the next day of ocean racing and seeing heavier wind and wave action.
Sunday morning unfolded with overcast skies, drizzle, and lower expectations of the traditional sea breeze anticipated for San Diego. We rigged our boats and made our way out the channel to open water, only to be greeted with swells and little wind. With no predicted improvement, we went back inside Mission Bay. Unfortunately, with the 3pm deadline and fleeting wind, the Race Committee abandoned the day’s racing. With no throwouts and after counting all races, Dave Leuck appeared to have successfully defended his title even without sailing on Sunday. He won the tiebreaker against me as his best result (a 2nd) was better than my best (a 3rd). But as the best “Great Grandmaster” I was awarded the Ancient Mariner perpetual trophy. The carved salty dog sailor on the top of the trophy looks the part.
Surprisingly, when I made it home on Monday, I received a notification that the tiebreaker had been incorrectly applied. In Master Laser sailing the older age group sailor breaks the tie over a younger sailor. Dave is a Grand Master (55- 64) and I’m a Great Grand Master (65-74). So, after 11 years of attending this regatta (2012 to 2023) and only missing one year, not only did I claim the Ancient Mariner Award but also the perpetual CA Masters Champion Trophy.
I highly recommend this regatta to anyone who can fit it into their schedule. Of course, winning or doing well is always a plus but the best part about this regatta are the competitors, the high-quality race committee, the friendly club staff, the club’s location on Mission Bay, and the excellent (usually) sailing conditions.
The Mission Bay Yacht Club sailors appreciate our participation in this and other regattas and we had some healthy discussions about better planning between clubs to promote larger fleets at all our major regattas. The key is communication and getting our dates organized. I will try to assist in that endeavor, as it would be great to see 15 to 20 Lasers at our Dinghy Days and the Birthday Regatta, including boats/sailors from SoCal and Utah.