CYC hosts NAI Cruiser Navigation Championship
By Judith Endler

Fourteen cruiser navigation champions from the USA and Canada tested their skills in the North American Invitational (NAI) Cruiser Navigation Championship hosted by California Yacht Club August 5th through 9th.

The Santa Monica Bay Power Fleet — which includes CYC, Del Rey Yacht Club and Marina Venice Yacht Club — in conjunction with the Southern California Cruiser Association (SCCA) conducted the contest.

This is the first time in 23 years that the NACA (North American Cruiser Association) premier event has been held in Santa Monica Bay.

CYC, under commodore Anne Sachs and event chairman Joe Castagna, pulled out all the stops in making this a superlative occasion.

The new champion is Tom Collins, from Huntington Harbor Yacht Club who won with less than one percent error in his predictions — 0.823 % to be exact — on how long it would take him to run the 37.5 mile course.

He had to calculate his time between eight check points and four blind points. He won on Family Affair, Gerry Terris’ Californian 55 from CYC.

Though Collins was 2002 NACA champion, he said, “I’ve been trying to win this (the NAI) championship for twenty-seven years.”  This event is considered the crème de la crème of championships.

NACA awarded Herb Dover, of CYC, its highest honor — the Lou Gandleman Hall of Champions Perpetual Trophy for distinguished service.  Dover is the only NAI champion from CYC. Mel Lurie, of DRYC, MdR’s only three-time winner of the NAI and also a Gandleman recipient, presented the intricately designed trophy to Dover.

Lurie said, “Herb Dover has been a principal supporter of virtually every aspect of predicted log racing throughout the years.

“He has performed so many services for every officer and committee that he has been far more active and essential than if he had run for offices that everyone has been suggesting throughout the years.”

Where to begin? I had a 3-day crash course in learning the basics, forget the nuances, of predicted log racing. What is predicted log racing? For one thing, it’s not really racing and the log is a sheet of paper.

So how is it a sport?

The goal is to predict how long it will take you to get from A to B and then do it. On a motor boat. Without a watch or speedometer.

You need a compass, a tachometer and a chart.

And if you’re not the navigator, then a couple of math or left-brain inclined friends.

One of you drives the boat — the wheelman — who watches rpms, the compass and works the throttle.

One navigates, calculates and finds the checkpoints. These functions can also be done by a team of three.

My education started Thursday morning. These are precision folk.

Looking over the CYC slips, at the stroke of 8:00 a.m. you could see powerboats all simultaneously moving out of their slips — and this wasn’t the start of a race, but the beginning of a four-hour — 8 to 12 noon — practice.

Fortunately, Black Jack, the boat to which I was assigned, was a little more relaxed — we left at 8:20 a.m.

This would be the only chance the contestants and their teams would have in the boats before the contest Saturday morning.  Contestants are not allowed to pilot their own boats or a boat they have used in a prior contest.

The purpose of the practice was to calibrate the rpm curve — to determine at what rpms the boat runs most consistently.

You do this by running a measured mile from outside the breakwater, starting at the flagpole and heading north to line up with the lights on the south side of the Venice pier.

And then back. By checking with a stopwatch the difference in each direction you can detect any current effect.

This is also how you figure out how long it takes to go a mile. This is also where I learned there is a north heading current running along this mile.

For this championship, Race Master Herb Dover of CYC devised a 37.5 mile course starting at the flag pole — actually where the two yellow markers located on the rocks, just south of the pole, line up — then North up the coast to Point Dume and back to finish at the Venice Pier at 1:30 p.m.

The first boat, Tom Collins, as it turned out, was to start at 9:19:19.

The rest leave at approximately two minutes intervals. Interestingly, Collins was on the same kind of boat as the Johnsons on Black Jack — due to leave last.

They were the two fastest boats in the contest. But Collins chose a slower rpm to run than Black Jack. Collins was taking into consideration the fact of an added handicap given to the faster boats.

The Black Jack team was most hospitable and entertaining.

The actual contestants were Bob and Pat Johnson from Puget Sound. Bob was the wheelman and Pat the navigator.

Peggy Bent, the owner of Black Jack, brought her boat up from Long Beach. She is the head of a clan of predicted log racers — two sons, a daughter and their spouses who were on various boats, plus relatives Pat and Ernie Howard. Her daughter, Jan was the official observer and Pat Howard the official scrutinizer on Black Jack.

The scrutinizer double-checks the observer’s log entries.

At each checkpoint, when the contestant says, “mark, ” the observer tracks the time it takes until the next vocalized, “mark.”

The observer is the only one with a clock. Shortly before our standing start at 10:14:57, Pat collected all of our watches.

As Jan, the observer, called the time to go: nine minutes, five minutes, Bob Johnson said: “This is the longest time in the race” — four minutes, three minutes, two minutes. We creep forward to be in position.

“One minute.” then the seconds.

“Mark. Away we go,” said Bob.

Peggy Bent advised me that on certain boats the tension is so thick you can cut the air with a knife. A strict decorum is adhered to. I was grateful to be on Black Jack. “ Serious but fun,” was their motto.

Bent, herself is a many trophied log racer. Her son Dave said, “In five years, she has never finished worse than second.”

She is also a member of the 500 club for 2002. That means she finished a contest with less than a .5% error. She qualified twice for 2002. Her son-in-law Craig Ryan, is her wheelman.

Ryan, vice commodore of SCCA, also emceed the notorious “peel off, ” when blank vertical strips are pulled off the results board leg by leg (checkpoint to checkpoint ) to finally reveal the winner.

Tom Collins, the new NAI champ, qualified for the 500 club three times. There are only seven other members of the 500 club for 2002.

Collins’ winning team consisted of his wife, Joanne, on throttle; J.D. Smith, helm; and Tom Scott, navigator.

Burnell Blockhus, of CYC, represented the SMBPF (Santa Monica Bay Power Fleet). Pete Healy of Hollywood YC was the champion from SCCA.

Third place finisher Bill Memees, from Washington, on Chiles Play, had a tough finish. His score was 0.96% to second place Robert Vanlandingham’s, .0955%. Both less than on percent error.

Bob Johnson, of Black Jack, received the award for finishing closest to his predicted overall finishing time — 13:30:10.  Only 10 seconds off.

If this sounds like a new sport for you, on Thursday, August 21, you can see the “pictures, results and inside scoop from the NAI Championship” at CYC ‘s luncheon. Call 3310-823-4567 for information.