High Sierra Regatta 2004
Times at High Altitude: High Sierra 2004
By Mark Forrest
Those who made it to last years nationals at Huntington Lake can attest to the beauty and ambiance of this destination. After a steep and winding climb up and over 7200 feet, past Sierra Summit Ski Resort, you descend into a valley transformed into a man-made sailing paradise by several large dams. The regatta days were warm and dry, with intense sunlight and deep blue cloud dotted skies. A swim in the cold mountain water after racing numbs any bumps or bruises and sharpens the senses. The evenings turn cool, with a dark sky and a blanket of stars above.
For 51 years, Fresno Yacht Club has hosted the High Sierra Regatta. The total number of boats is limited to 150 by the Forest Service, so the regatta is spread over two weekends to accommodate many classes. Some competitors stayed over the week and sailed both weekends in different classes. The tradition at this regatta is for only three races; two on Saturday and one on Sunday. It may seem like a long way to travel for only three races, but the courses are fairly long and it is nice to get off the water early and have time to socialize, relax and enjoy the other activities at the lake. This is surely one of the best locations to bring children and spectators, as the race committee sets the start/finish line just off the beach, and employs a color commentator to add excitement by calling the finish over a loudspeaker.
Eleven Santana 20s raced July 17th and 18th. To accommodate more classes, our start was combined with the four boat Holder 20 fleet. I had the pleasure of sailing Mini-Me with Steve Washburn and former class president Bruce Golison. The summer thermal action generated a westerly each day by 10:00 am, and racing started at 11:00. Winds averaged 8-12 kts., and were a little gusty and shifty most of the time. Getting in phase and changing gears were the key to making gains upwind. The dominant strategy was to start near the leeward end and drag race toward the Boy Scout camp on the south shore. Sailing in as close to shore as possible, the lead boats then tacked up the shoreline, tactically balancing shore lifts against slightly higher velocities off-shore. This made for some exciting tacking duels between Mini-Me and Aggressive Tendencies for the middle part of the first upwind legs. Steve did an excellent job calling the wind and getting Mini-Me in phase with the wind on the critical first beat. This strategy worked consistently, except when it didnít, and several boats charged off to the right side of the course and making out like bandits in the process.
The downwind legs were equally tactical, as teams looked for increased velocity along the North shoreline. In the first race, gybing duels ensued, taking the next two nearest competitors, Aggressive Tendencies and Gremlin on a reach toward shore while we sailed low and extended our lead. The first race included two zig zags, each with a starboard rounding, tight reach across the lake, and port rounding on the south side of the lake. The second race had just one zig zag. Sundayís race was a straight, windward-leeward, with long legs and good breeze.
Congratulations to all the teams that participated, and thank you to Fresno Yacht Club for a well run event and beautiful venue.