(Santa Barbara, CA)- As they have for the past six years, Santa Barbara YC's gracious team of volunteers pulled out the red carpet for all crews sailing their famous Fiesta Cup Regatta. With PRO Brad Schaupeter coordinating on-water activities and Regatta Chair-woman Jane Watkins looking after the ever so popular on-shore festivities, the host's promise of a fun regatta with great sailing exceeded most sailors expectations.
The sailing was about as challenging as many of the locals have seen for the event. Saturday's forecast was for light winds from the S-SW. However, with the "June gloom" fog dissipating early, cool Pacific waters in the low 60s, and razor-clear blue skies, the classic WSW winds the area is renowned for settled in- starting in the 195-210 degree range early afternoon and swinging as far as 250-270 degrees in late afternoon. Perhaps critically for many, the amount of loose kelp and weed in the water was enough to create a lot of headaches for many crews trying to shed that speed-destroying stuff.
For the J/70 class, it was a weather/ wind scenario often seen by local champion Dave Ullman, who managed to rattle off a 1-2-3 to take the early lead. Just behind them was Craig Tallman's team on JAYA with a 5-1-2 and the duo of Tom Jenkins & Eric Kownacki on DFZ in third with a 4-5-1.
In the J/105s, the combination of starting issues, weed/kelp drama and basic boat-handling seemed to be afflicting many in the fleet. After the smoke cleared, leading the first day was local hero Larry & Becky Harteck sailing the famous REPEAT OFFENDER, followed by San Diego's Rick Goebel on SANITY in second and Steve Howell's BLINK! in third position overall.
Sunday dawned with a completely different scenario for the fleets as there was the remnants of an offshore hurricane coming up the coast of Mexico that weakened dramatically into a mushy Low pressure system, but still spun high-level clouds and gradient winds into the region from the ESE quadrants. The winds were shifting erratically from 150 to 180 degrees with significant wind streaks ranging from 4 to 8 kts; plus toss in a few weed/ kelp "pods" that were sometimes impassable, meant only one thing for the J/70 and J/105 fleets-- chaos.
Despite the crazy conditions, Dave Ullmans' J/70 team hung on for the class win. And, previous day's second place team also managed to do the same- Jenkins/ Kownacki on DFZ- to secure second place with a strong 2-1 showing in the last two races. Just behind them was a different story with Kenny Kieding's SMOKE & MIRRORS sailing a brilliant first race to win and taking a 4th in the second race of the day to take the third position on the podium by just one point.
The drama for the lead in the J/105 class seemingly changed leg by leg as the enormous windshifts and streaks rolled through the fleet upwind and downwind. In the end, Rick Goebel's SANITY avoided too many pitfalls to snag 2nd in the last race to secure the Fiesta Cup Champion Trophy by two points. On the comeback trail was Alex Bernal & Tedd White's team on FREE ENTERPRISE, arising like a Phoenix from the ashes to grab two bullets in a row to take second overall. Having to overcome a number of obstacles on the last day was Harteck's REPEAT OFFENDER, holding on to take third for the regatta just one point in front of Howell's BLINK!
As many have come to appreciate over the past few years, the Fiesta Party on Saturday night delivered on great music (good band!) and plenty of tasty Tex/Mex tidbits to satisfy the hungriest of sailors. Plus, having plenty of free beverages supplied by regatta sponsors Fess Parker's Winery and Vineyard and Cerveza Pacifico added to the overall camaraderie on the beach in front of the yacht club. Sailing photo credits- Jane Watkins/ Taggart Lee For more Santa Barbara YC Fiesta Cup sailing information