Written by Drew Harper

(photos courtesy of Dennis “Da Woody” St. Onge & Chrisann Tortora)

It’s once again o-dark-thirty. We always leave the Bay Area with strategic consideration on timing the drive through LA’s viplabarinth of freeways. We’re headed down through the length of some of the worlds toughest traffic. Strange things are yet to happen.

The Viper tows behind the truck like nothing’s there. It’s easy to edge up over 70, all the time keeping a keen eye out for the Highway Patrol.

An uneventful morning drive to what we thought was a quick stop for gas. I tossed the keys to ‘M’ (short for Mahalynn) and they apparently fell into a black hole. We all hit the head, got some coffee and met back at the truck. No key. We spent the next hour retracing steps, crawling through places we never should have seen only to have ‘M’ unleash her overwhelming charms upon the Toyota Dealer located 45 miles a way. A quick plea and Chuck is on the road with a new key in hand. He shows up with an invoice for $9.95. Garett and I are dumbfounded. We tip him $80 and hit the road.
The delay, as it turns out, probably made our drive through LA much better. The traffic wasn’t all that bad. While driving to Sailing Supply in San Diego to pickup some new salopettes for M, yours truly, ever the tourist, smacks into a car in front of us. The ever present fender bender….yup, it’s bent. A quick exchange of info with a very pleasant and quite cute lady puts us back on the road towards Coronado Yacht Club. We arrive amid a couple of dozen boats in various stages of viper3preparation. Some Vipers are already out and we desperately want to get in a practice. Alas, it was not to be. After such a shitty day, we decide that it’s better not to push our luck. We rig the boat, help a few others nearby rig up their Vipers, Open 5.70’s and Ultimate 20’s and retire to the bar. We bump into some of the Arizona Viperers including Tony Chapman whose sharing the helm with a jet-lagged Brian Bennett, aka “Designer.” (he designed the Viper 640). Timbo, Jeff Young, the hilarious John Riddell and their teams are all hanging out at the bar. Stacey “VenomMiss” shows up and it’s game on to the tequila bar! It’s gonna be a loooong nite.

Too many drinks later it’s time to crash. We DO have to race in the morning. Morning finds Coronado YC the usual thrum of race prep. Skippers meeting is quick and the instructions are hilarious. The part about writing the protest on a cocktail napkin and giving it to Scot Tempesta, owner of Sailing Anarchy is priceless. That suggestion bit him in the butt later.

Mark Michelson from Dry Armour gives us a quick overview of what weather to expect and we head out. It’s a 20 minute sail to the racecourse. Our only practice performed enroute. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, this is the first time the new mast has been rigged. You remember…we had a small problem with little Alcatraz during the Sarcoma Cup and came up viper1without the top of the old mast. The new one is shiny and, well, NEW. How’s that for pre-race prep? LOL After that fiasco we’ve decided to try some different tuning setups on the rig. Some work, most don’t. Our old tuning system was much faster, if albeit, less stable in big breeze. No worries about wind strength for this regatta…it’s a ripping 8-10

This regatta is pretty unique. It’s 90% sportboats, broken into two fleets. 30+ and under 30. There’s a third division of 505’s only.

The A fleet is made up of Flying Tiger 10’s, must have been 11 of them, a Melges 30, a Cheetah 30 and a few Kernan-designed Columbia 30’s. The farthest traveled boat was Snapper (Chris Winnard of Ulman Seattle) driving down the whimsically striped ‘Tigger.’

Fleet B is made up of Vipers (9), Ultimate 20’s Open 5.70’s, a cool Bay Area based Thompson 650, an all carbon Open 6.50, a Capri 23.5 (Melges 24 knockoff), a Melges 24 and some cool little three trap boat that I really wanted to go try.

First Race is pretty uneventful. Typical Dago shifting breeze, throwing the R/C fits on keeping lines and marks square. Tigers all seem to be parking on the committee boat and shoving their way into the line….an unsuccessful tactic in the Bay Area but oddly, seems to work pretty well for them, aside from a shitload of yelling form boat to boat. We laughed a lot.

It’s pretty evident that the 30+ boat B fleet is going to have a tight line and a clear lane is critical. The Vipers immediately jumped off the line taking up most of the lanes leaving the U20’s and Open 5.70’s tacking away for some decent air. The Open 6.50 and T-650 beat each other up the course toward the top pin. Lo and behold,  the Bennett/Chapman team aboard ‘Hydra’ is at the top mark with those two, rounding side by side with them.

viper roundingIt’s evident, that ‘Designer’ is going to be a force to reckon with. Out of nowhere comes Glen Van Heel, Nigel and Stacey aboard his tin rigged, small keel Viper. They are blazing. As it turns out, they are the boat to beat for the rest of the regatta. Who says you need a carbon rig….not Glen, for sure!

The next race is uneventful and then it all breaks down on race 3. The Tigers go through not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 general recalls. This would later prompt a Viperer to hand in a protest napkin to Tempesta declaring the Tigers ‘clueless and arrogant’, a joke…sort of ☺ – Protest Denied….who would thunk? Pretty damn hilarious though.

Race 4 went off unimpeded by the Tigers and all the boats sailed back to the club. We copped a tow half-way in by Tiger 69, a friend that towed his 6,000 pound behemoth down from the Bay Area. Marc is a great guy, with a booming voice and a perpetual tan. He reminds me of a pitchman from Scotland with a deep brogue.

As you might imagine, the scene at the club is pretty damn wild. Coronado Yacht Club is a typical West coast club, no viper4real amenities other than a parking lot, some docks and of course, a bar. The bar being the key ingredient for a Sailing Anarchy regatta. The trash talking starts, beer, tequila, vodka, it’s all flowing like water. Lots of happy people mill about.

Dave Ullman drives down from Newport to debrief the racers. He’s always filled with great info and so happy to help. I look up to that guy. Good for the sport and a good man. Nice combo.

Somehow the club manages to put together a great dinner for $10 and what seems to be a thousand people eat, drink and definitely be merry together. The band fires up and the party shifts into high gear.

Two funny things come to mind through all this. For some reason I get the wild hair to call my friend Dan (aka, ‘Bubba’), from the Marblehead Viperers. It’s midnight his time but what the hell. I’m drunk and he’s sleeping…sounds like fun. Mahalynn jumps on the phone a tells him in her sexy voice she misses him, followed by Stacey in her sexy voice….I hold the phone up and 20 people in the room shout out, ‘We miss you Dan.” Just then, Pytlak, a 320 crew/friend from the U20 side of the regatta grabs the phone, puts on his hooker voice and tells Bubba to slide on over to California for a awhile….that gets the room going. Time to head out into the unsuspecting town of Coronado for some drinks.

vipergirlsI get a call from Bubba first thing the next morning. He says, “If you think having 3 hot chicks and room full of people shout out to me makes me want to be there….you’re abso-f’n-lutley right! By the way, I know the first gal was ‘M’ and the second was Stacey, I didn’t recognize that third hottie.” Pytlak, all 320 lbs. of him, damn near fell over when I told him this.

The only other highlight worth mentioning is Marc, my booming-voice Tiger-owning friend sits down in the Irish pub and declares that the entire Viper fleet are a bunch of pussies as Stacey is kicking all our butts (She’s crewing with Van Heel…a couple of bullets has sealed their lead). We all have a good laugh. He has two drinks, nods his head and starts snoring, head on chest, just kinda sitting there. Out cold. We politely balance two ice cubes on his head, snap a photo and walk away. We have to race tomorrow !!

Sunday’s breeze starts with a bang and ends with a whimper. First two races see maybe 10 knots, tops. The RC has to readjust the course several times, long delays. We finally manage to get to race three which goes way light and shifts 30°. The locals know this, shift gears, go the right way. Team BoomSlang is befuddled, still in the middle of trying all new rig tunes, we are slow, but having fun.  The regatta ends in a wild 3-4 knots furer …LOL

Back at the docks we go through a quick breakdown and cheer on the winners. I have to admit, the one-design within a mixed fleet is a pretty cool idea. Sailing Anarchy has cool triangular Lucite awards for the top 3 finishers in all three divisions and in the FT10, Viper, Open 5.70 and U20 fleets. It’s great fun to see just how well the Vipers did in this format. Glen Van Heel easily won the OD Viper fleet but also took third, just after the T-650 and Open 6.50, in Division B.  Second place falls to Bennett/Chapman on hull 71 “Hydra” and third goes to ‘TImbo’ Tim Carter aboard another tin rigged boat, #33.

Scot Tempesta and Sailing Anarchy put on one hell of a fun regatta. I hope he does it again. The West Coast Vipers are counting on it. Wait…..Wait….announcing the 2010 West Coast Circuit.

Jan 15-17      Leukemia Cup, Viper Pacific Coast Mid-Winters, Phoenix, AZ
Mar 19-21     San Diego NOOD, CA
Jun 25-27     Long Beach Race Week hosts the 2010 Viper Pacific Coast Championships
Jul 17-18      High Sierra Regatta, Fresno, CA
Aug 28-29    Sarcoma Cup, Pt Richmond, CA
Sep 24-26    International Sportboat Anarchy Festival, Coronado (San Diego), CA

We’re battling for the Yellow Kite. Keep your eyes out for more coverage from us Left Coasters!