Written by Drew Harper
vipers on huntingtonHuntington Lake, one of the most Southern lakes in the Sierra mountain range offers a unique blend of warm air, cold water and fresh breeze that runs down the length of a somewhat narrow lake. Capping out 7,000 feet Huntington certainly has to be one of the best lake sailing venues in the west.

This year was no exception. A record number of boats vie for the opportunity to race here. Historically, the US forest service carefully guards the number of sailboats that have access to the lake. This year was no exception. The High Sierra keelboat weekend broke attendance records with over 131 boats on what was supposed to be a 100-boat limit…oops. Fresno Yacht club flawlessly runs this event and has done so since the mid-50.

The normal cast of mixed PHRF boats showed along with the Ultimate 20’s always a mainstay at this event. This year the Vipers were awarded a one-design start (on the same line as the U20’s). I went out of my way to thanks the RC promising them 8-10 boats for next year’s event.

I can’t WAIT until… we have numbers like the East Coast and can pack 25 Vipers onto the lake for a West Coast Championship. Perhaps we’ll be rewarded one day by hosting a North Americans here, as the U20’s offered in 2008, a hugely fun event!


Friday’s practice saw the lake filled with boats running the various courses and reveling in the 85° air temperature. Garett and I ended up sailing 2 up this event as Mahalynn had too much work to escape, preferring employment to the obvious alternative; she stayed back in the Bay Area this year. After seeing the pics from this race she vows not to make huntington lakethat mistake EVER again.
The racecourses take full advantage of the varying conditions along the length of the lake. Fresh breeze on the start line sailing up to light air at the top, banging corners all the way down the entire lake to the final rounding mark at the riverhead and a quick upwind finish back at the ramp.

Saturday’s first race was very light at the start. The line was full with 4 Vipers and 6 U20’s keeping it busy. The key to the start is to make it to the left side of the lake/course first to sail the lift up the shoreline. It’s almost a beeline where the first one to that side often gets the holeshot at the weather mark.

The wind freshened to 12-14 for the second race. Hard fought position changes, a few miscues and mistakes left Team Dion’s “Coup De Rouge” with her second first of the regatta, thus sewing up first place.

Most of the teams stayed in the campgrounds or the small cabins up behind the launch ramp. As is normal with Viperers, parties were heard running late into the night. The camaraderie between the teams in the West is legendary…lots of exchanges of ideas and tactics keeping everyone on the same page for the next days racing. Team BoomSlang split up in the pre-race period to help another boat deal with some trimming and dousing issues. That’s Viper sailing at it’s best…the front of the fleet helping the back of the fleet to hone their skills and tighten up the racing.

http://spinnaker-sailing.com/images/viperforum/HuntingtonViper2small.jpgWell, it certainly worked. The first leeward turning mark on the only race of the day found 3 boats all within inches (actually prods over heads)  and everyone gibing hard to make it to clear air and the freshening breeze in the middle of the lake. With its two-up crew, BoomSlang blasted out onto a high-speed plane and led the bottom mark by 3 minutes, taking first for the last race and second overall in the regatta.

A beachside post-race awards program was held and wonderful, handmade redwood plaques were issued to the winners. The 56th running of the High Sierra regatta was concluded…another fine job by the Fresno Yacht Club.

The Rondar West Coast reps had a brochure rack mounting on BoomSlang’s trailer. There was a constant buzz of folks hanging out, ogling the Viper and over 30 brochures made it into their hands.

Huntington Lake is certainly a GREAT venue for the Viper. The Arizona and West Coast fleets will likely include the High Sierra Regatta into the West Coast Viper Circuit for 2010. Come join us at this Alpine lake. Fresh breeze, good camping and great friends. It really doesn’t get any better than this.

Viper 640 Fleet

Rank     SailNo     Helm                Name                  Boat Club         R1         R2       R3       Total

1st       31           Laurent Dion     Coup de Rouge    Arizona YC        1           1         2         4

2nd      104         Drew Harper     BoomSlang          SBYC                2           3         1         6

3rd       33          Bill Chase          Wiley’s Revenge                          3           2         3         8

4th       601        Mark Hinrichs     Karma                 SBYC               5(d)       4         4       13