What I Saw – by Jackie Philpott

The Lipton Cup

I was invited to go along on a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) ride to watch the 2022 Lipton Cup regatta with Richmond Yacht Club members Kim and Anna Desenberg.

The Lipton Cup Regatta on the San Francisco Bay was hosted this year by the Corinthian Yacht Club. We launched the boat at 9 a.m. and motored over flat water to the Corinthian in Tiburon in time for the Skippers’ meeting.

The boat we took is a Pro Open Zodiac with a single 90hp Yamaha (in this sailor’s parlance, a Zoom Zoom boat.)

Kim and Anna Desenberg.

I spoke with a lot of people about the Lipton Cup, and everybody had a different opinion. Isn’t that just the way of the world nowadays? According to the St. Francis Yacht Club’s newsletter, in 2018 “an informal meeting was held” in order to discuss the future of the Lipton Cup on the San Francisco Bay. In other words, a group of sailors were sitting around drinking beer at a yacht club. Kim Desenberg told me that he, Dick Loomis (aka “Mr. Fun”), Russ Silvestri and Kimball Livingston worked with members of PICYA (Pacific Inter-Club Yacht Association) to revive the moribund Lipton Cup.

When I did some research, I learned that there are Lipton Cup sailing events all over the world, but you’d never know it from the talk around here. It has been said that people come to California to re-invent themselves. The Lipton Cup itself, previously and everywhere else a single event, has been resurrected here on the San Francisco Bay as a three-day regatta. The impression I get after reading about its history and talking with people is that PICYA is hopeful that the Lipton Cup competition will lead to renewed rapprochement between sailors at its member clubs. As someone who sits in the cheap seats, I see sailors who are happy to be competing together on the water again. Certainly, everybody hopes to win the big gorgeous trophy too.

The proposal made by sailors at that meeting in 2018 was that yacht clubs would take turns hosting the Lipton Cup as a three-day regatta rather than a single race, making use of One-Design boats. One-Design races are when each boat is the same type, with the same rigging and sails. Theoretically that means that, all things equal, the sailing crew’s skills on the same course on the same day on similar boats should be the deciding difference in winning.

2022 is the fourth year of the Lipton Cup competition between Northern California yacht clubs. Next year, the San Francisco Yacht Club will be host and gets to decide what kind of One-Design boats will be used. Who gets to participate? Apparently, the first ten yacht clubs to sign up get to race against each other. I suspect what that means is that the first ten clubs who send in their money get to race.

There were nine teams participating this year, using J/22 sailboats chartered from the St. Francis Yacht Club. J/22s are popular boats among sailing clubs. Older ones are relatively affordable and they’re responsive and quick. They are also made of fiberglass, which means students can run into each other and then learn how to fix them. Learn to sail and when you break it you fix it. Excellent preparation for sailorhood.

Corinthian Yacht Club.

At the Corinthian pre-race skipper’s meeting, Race Officials explained new rules for the races which included all sorts of permutations. There would be referees in boats on the water and complicated hand signals like the kind major league baseball catchers use. “If we don’t see it, it didn’t happen.” Whaaa? That’s a new one. Sailboat racers are famous for squabbling. Sometimes it’s good natured, other times there are formal protests that cause hard feelings for years. Everybody remembers that time when they were wronged. They never forget it. It’s part of the culture, like the way weather conditions are embellished. “They were the SIZE OF MOUNTAINS! I THOUGHT WE WERE GONNA DIE!!” That sort of thing. After listening to the Race Officials, we got back on our own boat and headed out to the starting line.

After a couple of hours, looking ahead to my next meal, I asked my hosts what they had for dinner the night before at the Corinthian Yacht Club. Kim and Anna looked at each other: “Gin tonics,” they replied. Huh. I was already hungry and it wasn’t even noon yet. Crews that hadn’t practiced on the J/22s ahead of time? They were at a serious disadvantage. Yet I saw no one fall off a boat all day. Amazing.

Kim told me that we were the press boat, but that was just a ruse. The next day Kim would be on the Richmond Yacht Club boat, and this was an opportunity for him to gauge the competition up close. No matter where I asked him to steer (“if we went over that way, I could photograph the boats against the gate,” and “if we steered that way, I could photograph the boats against the City Front”), we never went over that way for long. Why? Because Kim is a racer through and through, not a boat photographer.

Members of the day two RYC Lipton Cup team and family: Bart Hackworth, Mike Quinn, Simon Winer, Rob Dubuc, Skylar Dubuc, Christine Dubuc and Natalie Dubuc.

He tried to steer over that way, I could tell that he tried. But he just didn’t have it in him. Instead, we would follow along with the fleet. If the pin was the preferred start, we went toward it, never far behind the boat most likely to win. Then we chased the boats. He couldn’t help himself.

Both serious racers themselves, my hosts kept parking the boat, especially during the starts. They forgot all about the photographer bouncing around in the bow of the RIB. Kim would briefly remember me. “Where would you like us to go?” he asked once or twice. I would tell him, but inevitably we would end up where he could see whatever it is racing sailors watch. Listening to Kim and Anna was like listening to a sports radio station: “Luffing! Luffing!” and “Well done!” and “What happened there?! Trim it!”

We chased the boats around all day, watched so many races I lost count, then headed back to the Corinthian and tied up to a guest dock just after 4 p.m.

I watched Brendan Meyer of the Inverness Yacht Club boat come bouncing down the dock toward a competitor’s boat as it was drifting slowly in. He called out, “Ok, that was a fun practice! Now! Let’s go sailing!”

Lipton Cup J/22 boats ready to go.

Later in the evening I spoke with Skip Allan, who would, along with Brendan, be a crew member on the Inverness Yacht Club boat the following day. He asked me to imagine a small boat with no place to store the necessary spinnaker pole. He said, “Think about that: four people on a small, lightweight sailboat in big wind have to figure out how to drag that pole up from below every time they circle the weather mark in order to attach it to the mast, raise the spinnaker, trim all the lines without tripping over all the other lines, then GETTING IT UP AND FILLED!”

By the end of the weekend Richmond Yacht Club had won the regatta.

Later, sitting on the deck of Corinthian Yacht Club with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the City Front, I spoke with Susie Hubbard, the Richmond Yacht Club delegate to PICYA. She explained that “back in the day” there used to be four divisions in the Lipton Cup, according to the size of the boats: small boats and incrementally larger ones. They were divided according to their PHRF (Performance Handicap Rating Factor) rating, which is a subjective determination of how boats might be compared when they are different shapes and weights and with different headsails. There are lots of arguments about PHRF assignments. Then the Lipton Cup became the purview of The Big Boats on the San Francisco Bay until the owners of The Big Boats moved on to something different. Maybe the Volvo races? The Big Boat Series? I can’t keep track.

Lipton Cup boats crossing the start line.

Next year’s host of the Lipton Cup will be the San Francisco Yacht Club (SFYC), which gets to decide which type of boat will be used. The SFYC has a fleet of small lightweight boats called RS’s. RS stands for Racing Sailboats, and is billed as the world’s largest dinghy. I overheard conversations between sailors who were already planning ahead, conniving about how they could locate an RS to practice on. The RS is apparently very lightweight and easily overpowered in the Bay’s windy conditions. Maybe the San Francisco Yacht Club will throw everybody a curve ball, let them think they plan to use RS’s then propose a different boat at the last minute? Strategically speaking this would be brilliant. Racers are sneaky that way.

Pacific Inter-Club Yacht Association

Simon Winer, one of the Richmond Yacht Club racers, uses the phrase “fantastic” when he wants you to do something. He came over to where Susie and I were talking on the deck of the Corinthian, told me that it would be “fantastic” for me to talk with Winston Bumpus, Commodore of PICYA. Then he grabbed my arm and dragged me through the crowd, over to a fella who looked as startled as I felt. I give Winston credit for recovering quickly. He started to talk into my iPhone without missing a beat.

Winston: Today there were fantastic racers, this venue is fantastic, a chance to have a little beer and celebrations. Pacific Inter-Club Yacht Association (PICYA) has all these Lipton Cup trophies; I think there are eight trophies.

Lipton Cup race results.

On July 11 PICYA will sponsor an awards dinner celebration at Loch Lomond Yacht Club. We’ll have all the trophies engraved and the winning club gets to keep them for a year. PICYA was created for interclub activity. Over the years YRA (the Yacht Racing Association) has taken on a lot of the responsibilities for racing in San Francisco Bay, but we have all these beautiful trophies and now we’d like to give them to the winners.

Up until 2018 the Lipton Cup was a single race (PHRF). Some clubs, they took their boat out, did the race, then went back to their own club. With this One-Design format, everybody sails the same type of boat, which levels the playing field. This year the Saturday races were umpired, which adds excitement. You know what makes things interesting? When something is DIFFERENT! If it’s the same old thing every time it gets old. So, this year it’s a different format. Another thing that’s nice? Umpiring! All the decisions are made on the water. You come back here, there are no protest committees. It all happens out there.

Skip Allan of the Inverness Yacht Club team with Sir Thomas Lipton.

There are currently about 107 member clubs in PICYA now from Tahoe Yacht Club, Elkhorn Yacht Club up to Inverness Yacht Club in Tomales Bay, and everywhere in between. PICYA sponsors Opening Day on the Bay and the Wheelchair Regatta at Encinal Yacht Club, where 200-300 veterans come and we help them onto large, mostly power boats. This year the 26th Wheelchair Regatta will be held September 24 at Encinal Yacht Club.

Jackie: Why do yacht clubs belong to PICYA?

Winston: Part of it is for communication between clubs. We have two conferences, one in the spring and one in the fall during which there is a lot of discussion regarding issues that yacht clubs care about, like how to increase membership and how to develop camaraderie.

According to the PICYA website, there is also this advantage:

One of PICYA’s greatest contributions to the betterment of boating has been its effort in the legislative field. Each year nine directors appointed by PICYA and nine directors appointed by SCYA (Southern California Yacht Association) join in Sacramento to visit with Senators and Assembly members from their areas. This has been a very effective method of communication.

Winston: We’ve been having a lot of discussions in Sacramento. Together with the Boating and Waterways Commission we will probably make a number of recommendations. PICYA is concerned about issues such as the Delta Tunnels, but only as they impact navigable waters. Water wars between north and south, that’s beyond our lane. For instance, money was put into the budget to close False River. They spent money to put those boulders in, but there’s no money in the budget to take them out! Those are the types of issues that we address.

We are looking at registering nonpowered watercraft like kayaks. Once they’re registered, if a kayak washes up on shore, for example, someone can figure out who it belongs to and whether a search should begin. Small nonpowered watercraft users use a lot of resources but they’re not connected into the system. By charging a small fee, safety programs can be funded, and launch areas added in marinas for paddleboarders, kayakers and kiteboarders. We might also recommend that the current registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles become a web-based application instead, where the user would go directly to the Division of Boating and Waterways rather than through the DMV. We want to get vessel registration out of the DMV. It’s extremely expensive and they don’t know anything about boats over there.

I thanked Winston for the information and then he was off, responsible for handing out big shiny trophies and plaques.

Pacific Cup 2022

The Pacific Cup bills itself “The Fun Race to Hawaii.” Certainly, it is one of the most impressive offshore events for West Coast sailors. There are 63 boats registered this year. The race course is from the San Francisco Bay to Kaneohe Bay on the island of Oahu. Richmond Yacht Club is host for the race, offering what is called Pac Cup Village, which means that boats from out of town are staging in its harbor. Boats have been coming in for weeks from all over the West Coast. There are also boats representing the Cruising Club of Switzerland, the New York Yacht Club and the Duluth Yacht Club of Minnesota. Danny Harris, harbormaster at RYC, is shoehorning big boats into small slips in an effort to give everybody a place to stage before the big event.

The first start of the race will be July 4, with staggered starts through July 7. If you are interested in following along, here is the website: https://pacificcup.org/

By the time you read this the race will be over, but there will be lots of nice photos on the Pac Cup site if you are interested in looking at sailboat bling and happy, sunburned people.

My contribution to coverage of the Pacific Cup is as follows: there I was, walking on C dock at the Richmond Yacht Club, when a perfect stranger smiled at me as I walked by his boat.

He seemed like a nice man, so I stopped and asked if I could interview him for this magazine. “Sure,” he said. So I did. Yes, a smile and a gorgeous racing yacht is all it takes to be interviewed by me. Jonathan Cruse is the skipper of Freya, an Aerodyne 43 in pristine condition, ready to roll in the 2022 Pacific Cup. His home port is listed as the Sloop Tavern Yacht Club. Is it really a tavern? Yes, it really is a tavern. Is it really a yacht club? Apparently. Certainly, you have to know what you’re doing to sail down that coast from a tavern.

Jonathan Cruse And S/V Freya

Jackie: You just arrived from Seattle on Sunday (June 19). How was your trip down?

Jonathan: We had a mix of conditions. We had light air at first, with rain, we had to do a lot of motoring and that meant refueling at a little town called Westport in Southwest Washington. We got going again and the wind filled in once we crossed into Oregon waters off the coast. It filled in and we had nice sailing all the way down to just off Cape Mendocino and then we turned in and gybed toward San Francisco. The coast kind of turns left there.

Jonathan Cruse in front of lines still wet from the trip down the California coast.

At that point the wind really started to build up, I think it was late Saturday night, we were getting 30 knots gusting up to 40. By that time, we reduced sail down to just a double-reefed main. Surfing down the waves we were going 14-15 knots. It was exhilarating. The greater team hadn’t been out in those conditions before. I’ve been out in those conditions, along that stretch of the coastline along Cape Mendocino, Point Arena and Bodega Bay before, so I kind of knew how that was going to go. It was challenging, but we did really well getting through it. There were no major problems, nothing broke.

Sunday into the afternoon the winds were still pretty strong but they had moderated into the 20s and low 30s. The wind wasn’t really a problem for the boat. The crossing swell/wind wave pattern of the waves made steering a challenge for the team. I think the prevailing winds had shifted from one direction to another, so we had the leftover waves from one direction and new waves from another direction. I think that was part of it.

While the other four sailors aboard have been out in heavy weather, they hadn’t done that part of the coast before. It can get rough out there, so I think it was a good learning curve for them. Our Pac Cup start is on July 7, when there will be eight of us. We’ll stay here at Richmond Yacht Club until then.

S/V Hang 20 racing in the Oakland Estuary.

Jackie: My understanding is that, in the Transpac, where you start out of L.A., it is a gentler start to a race than from San Francisco.

Jonathan: Yes, Transpac out of L.A. was nice sailing. I remember that it was a really pleasant day, going out past Catalina Island, sailing along, kind of beating, reaching, we got into light air for a while, then we got into the trade winds and finally we were off and running to Hawaii.

Jackie: You’ve heard about the first three days out of here?

Jonathan: Yes, I’ve heard it can be rough. I think we know what that looks like now. [laughs] Yeah.

Jackie: How is RYC treating you?

Jonathan: Really well. Everyone has been very supportive, very friendly. They are helping me find where to go, how to get things done. For instance, we had damaged the cruising mainsail a little bit, nothing major. I went over to Quantum Sails this morning, they said, “We’ll just do this now.” They basically did the work right on the spot with me helping and watching. That’s as good as it gets.

Jackie: Are you now a Quantum man forever?

Jonathan: I’m heading in that direction. That was a good experience. One of our crew knows Allison Lehman and her husband, Jerry Keefe, who are members here. They have loaned me a car. I am all set. They even helped us get settled into this slip yesterday.

I really like this interviewing business. I get to meet nice people with pretty boats. What is not to like? I left Jonathan then, and drove over to Brickyard Cove for my second interview with a sailing friend, Lori Tewksbury, who will be racing doublehanded with Cathy Meyer on her 27-foot Express 27 S/V Hang 20.

Lori Tewksbury And S/V Hang 20

It’s an unusually hot 98 degrees on this day when I find Lori up in the cockpit of her race boat. The S/V Hang 20 is an Express 27 and Lori dry sails her, which means that the boat is kept on a trailer when she isn’t racing on it. Trailerable boats are lowered by a hoist into the water, and because they don’t sit in the water their bottoms don’t collect growth which would require cleaning by divers. Hang 20 is high up on its trailer. As I walk toward it from my car, I hear water spraying against plastic, then water comes splashing down in front of me.

Cathy Meyer and Lori Tewksbury.

I hadn’t called ahead of time. “Hey, Lori!” I called.

Hot and sweaty from cleaning off the inside of her boat, Lori has decided to give herself a cool shower. She leans over to see who is visiting and laughs. Lori laughs a lot. We’ve known each other for a few years now, waving to each other as we participate in races on the water on our own boats. She goes fast, I go slow. Her hair is plastered to her forehead. “C’mon up! But don’t take my picture!” she says. So, I don’t. I crawl slowly up the treacherous ladder at the front of her trailer, up up up and over the bow pulpit. This is dangerous business, interviewing sailors.

Hang 20 is scheduled to start the Pacific Cup on the Fourth of July. Today is 13 days before that. We talk briefly about several bigger Pac Cup boats which remain in nearby boat yards, last minute preparations still undone.

Lori: I am very grateful this boat is small. Rufus Sjoberg did a complete re-fit of my boat in 2019 for the 2020 Pac Cup, which was cancelled. I gave him a blank check, told him I was going to Hawaii, please do whatever the boat needs. Then I had him do it again a couple of months ago. The rigging is only five years old. I feel fortunate that I don’t have a bigger, more complicated boat.

Jackie: People might be interested in why a nice girl like you ended up sailing almost alone across an ocean. They might see your photograph and say to themselves, “Look at that nice woman. She looks so normal. But how normal could she be if she’s ready to sail across an ocean in a small boat without an engine?” [Lori laughs and laughs]

Lori: I’ve always loved the ocean. I grew up in Culver City, down in Southern California swimming in the ocean. So, I’ve been a beach baby my whole life. When I came up here to go to school at Cal, well, the water in the ocean up here was too cold to swim in. I didn’t start sailing until I was 30, when I learned to sail at Cal Sailing Club. Learning to sail on dinghies is the best way to learn to sail.

After that every weekend was taken up with racing. Then I decided I wanted to do offshore racing as the next challenge. I did crewed offshore racing for a long time, but I really like doublehanding this boat. I don’t know other boats as well.

Jackie: So, you know this boat intimately?

Lori: Oh yeah.

Jackie: What does that mean: to know a boat intimately?

Lori: It means that I can tell from the wind what sails we need to have up, I know where everything is and can reach for it in the dark. Notice that my main sheet is on port and my spinnaker halyard is on starboard. They are the same type of line but on different sides of the cabin top. I’ll never mix them up. That is the tensioner for the jib halyard. This is the vang. And the textures of each are different, so I can find them in the dark.

Lori touches each line in turn, smiling. Vang, tensioner, halyard. Racing sailors have so many additional bits of rope on their boats and each tweak affects the boat’s performance. It takes time to learn it all, and then you’re part of the arcane racing culture within the sailing culture. If you are going to play with the big kids on the ocean, you need to learn a lot of stuff. Lori knows a lot of stuff.

This boat, when we race fully crewed in the bay? I worry about my crew. And that’s just in the Bay. I would be too stressed out with a full crew on the ocean. I’m okay with just one other person, especially if they know what they’re doing.

Jackie: Could you explain why that makes you nervous?

Lori: When we race with full crew there’s five people on the boat. I trust them all to do their job while I’m supposed to focus on driving. But I still notice what the person on the foredeck is doing, and I watch to make sure they all stay on the boat. Things like that. Which probably makes me not as good of a driver, because I’m paying attention to them.

I would be super worried offshore having that many people on the boat. I have never wanted to take crew offshore on this boat. So, I’m sailing to Hawaii with only one other person aboard. Her name is Cathy Meyer. I’m not worried about her because she feels the boat.

Jackie: What does that mean when you say “she feels the boat?”

Lori: She’ll be able to handle the waves. She’ll be able to surf them, take them the right way instead of bashing into them. While I sleep.

Jackie: Sleeping offshore seems to be a big deal. People ask, “When do they sleep?” Could you explain how you plan to do that?

Lori: I will be sleeping when she’s driving and she’ll be sleeping when I’m driving. There will be little bit of times when we’re both up when we have to do stuff like sail changes. We’re really gonna try to get a lot of sleep. I’ve been trying to waterproof everything. I got us a really nice Volvo ocean-racing sleeping bag. It’s made of Gortex, it’s waterproof, so we shouldn’t be cold when we’re sleeping so we can maximize our sleep. I’ve been told that the Expresses are notoriously wet offshore. We’ll see.

Jackie: What does a “wet boat” mean?

Lori: It means that the inside of the cabin gets wet and stuff doesn’t dry very quickly or… that much. [she grins] and you may end up putting back on wet gear again. Maybe.

Jackie: You’ve already sailed this boat offshore a lot. How wet has it seemed so far?

Lori: In 2019 Andrew Redfern and I did the OYRA (Offshore Yacht Racing Association) Farallones Race doublehanded. The window was cracked, a bunch of the screws were leaking, the boat was a mess. We ended up getting a lot of water inside but we didn’t notice it. We had the hatch boards in because it was pretty rough that day. Where had I put the EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon?) It activated as we were super busy rounding the Farallones. My phone was in my little pocket of my PFD, and as we got around the Farallones I felt it ringing. I was driving and I pulled it out and saw a phone message from my friend, Jen. I had given her name as my emergency contact for the Coast Guard. I handed my phone to Andrew and said, “Call her back!”

The Coast Guard had called Jen because the EPIRB had gone off. We opened the hatch into the cabin and saw it floating in water. Andrew turned it off and pumped the bilge. I got on the radio to tell them we were not in distress. In all the confusion, for a while the Coast Guard thought we were sinking.

We came back after that race and re-bedded everything. Replaced every screw, replaced the windows. Then I did the water test. The cost from Tap Plastics was shockingly reasonable. I also sewed a dodger. We will probably still get water through the hatch when it is opened up.

I’ve been doing work on this boat since 2019 to go to Hawaii. For three years. So, I hope the boat isn’t too wet. But upwind? As we get waves and wind we will get water over the top, we’ll be wet when we’re driving. We have brand new ocean foulies and will hopefully keep ourselves as dry as possible. I have Zik (pronounced Zike) bottoms and a Gill top. I got the Gill top extra big so I can wear my big poofy synthetic down jacket underneath.

Jackie: Have you ever been scared out there?

Lori: In 2008 I was doing the return trip with Jim Fair after the Singlehanded Transpacific Race to Kauai. Five hundred miles out from Hawaii we got hit by a whale. Jim’s boat was a 46-foot Outbound, the S/V Chesapeake. We were sailing about 11 knots on a close reach. I had been sleeping in the v-berth and we were about to change shifts, so I was standing up. I literally saw the hull flex inward and the wooden cabinetry pieces flew at me. It was terrifying. For about 15 minutes we tried to decide whether the boat was going to sink and whether we were going to get into the life raft. That was pretty terrifying.

To give perspective to Lori’s story, note that the Outbound 46 sailboat weighs 28,000 pounds, and that’s before 400 pounds of water and fuel. The boat she and Cathy plan to race to Hawaii is a 27-foot Express that weighs 2450 pounds.

Jackie: What do you think you and Cathy each bring to the table that makes for a good team?

Lori: She lives in Portland, Oregon, so she hasn’t been able to be down here that much to prepare. What she can do from Portland? She’s becoming the expert on Expedition [tactical and navigation software for offshore sailboat racing] and she set up our blog: http://hang20sailing.blogspot.com/?m=1

Jackie: How many days do you think it’ll take you?

Lori: We’re hoping twelve. If it only takes ten then that means the conditions were a little bit scary. If it takes fourteen it means that the wind was too light. So, twelve is our goal.

Jackie: How about provisioning?

Lori: We don’t have any refrigeration so we’re doing freeze dried meals using a Jetboil to boil water (a Jetboil is a very small camping stove powered by small propane canisters). Apples, peanuts, hard cheeses, nuts and fish jerkies that I really like. Cathy’s getting gummy bears and things like that. I suppose if I really get sleepy on a watch, I can eat one of Fred Paxton’s brownies. He puts espresso in them.

I love being offshore. I love the ocean. I teach biology at Acalanes High School in Lafayette and I love the ocean critters. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a mermaid. Being out there? It’s amazing. That is how I ended up doing this. And Cathy’s just as crazy. My sister lives over there and she will meet me with poke. She’s never seen my boat. She’s probably gonna flip out when she sees how small it is. I’m supposedly her responsible older sister.

Then Lori and I laugh together again, and I climb down off her boat, over the bow pulpit and down. Carefully. Slowly.

Thank you for reading and make sure to let me know at jackie@yachtsmanmagazine.com if you have anything you would like to share. Enjoy the summer and let’s all be careful out there.