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A new midwinter regatta shows up the East

If the 26th Annual Mid-Winter Regatta of the Southern California Yachting Association isn't the largest sailing event of 1955, it won't be the fault of Fred F. Harris, general chairman of the event and a promoter par excellence. Harris, a short, dark-complexioned, enthusiastic and hardworking Californian, has put all his bantam cockiness, well mixed with amiability, behind this venture. The fact that he is a yachtsman and a good one (his ketch Sea Queen won in her class in the 1954 Mid-Winter) is a big help in putting the regatta across. It assures Harris the support of the serious yachtsmen, for whom good racing over well laid-out courses is the primary consideration.


The sailors who will race this year on Feb. 18, 19 and 20 will be plenty busy trying to win against tough competition. Twenty-four of the 33 entries slated to race to Honolulu in this year's Trans-Pacific Race are entered in the Mid-Winter. In the smaller classes, the best sailors of Southern California, many from San Francisco and even one from Denmark (Emil Sorenson, who will race a Dragon) will battle it out for the silverware.

It is becoming recognized that what's good publicity for Southern California also means better yachting for the yachtsmen, with more and keener competitors to sharpen wits and skill. Easterners who have never run across a yachting promoter, and who might look a bit askance if they did, might well ponder what promotion has done. As the big Eastern fixtures barely hold their own numbers in national importance and in competitive quality, those in the Far West which are better ballyhooed are rising in all three respects.

The Orange Bowl Regatta, the St. Petersburg Mid-Winter Lightning Championship and the Mardi-Gras Regatta in New Orleans all show how civic backing and hard promotion can, in a few years' time, create events of top stature in the yachting world. Southerners and Californians have more than oranges in common.

The full name of this year's event is The International Mid-Winter Regatta. Nothing like an important sounding name to add lustre and, thanks to the Danish entry, it's not really a misnomer and someday may be truly accurate. No less a person than Charles S. Thomas, Secretary of the Navy, has agreed to act as honorary chairman. Local radio stations will announce full results of each day's racing.

The courses off the three host clubs (The Los Angeles Yacht Club, Alamitos Bay Yacht Club and The Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club) have been so laid out as to be in easy view of spectators on shore. The starting line off The Los Angeles Yacht Club, however, has been moved more to seaward this year to give steadier winds and provide fairer racing. Fred Harris claims that over 200,000 people are expected to view the regatta this year. How many watch Marblehead or Larchmont Race Week?

The master stroke, however, is a float which will be attached to a tug and will follow the last start and present a sportswear fashion show to the viewers along the shore!

Revealing that Harris' promotional flair can contribute as much to the strictly serious side of yachting is the establishment of a challenge cup race between a crew from The New York Yacht Club, The Eastern Yacht Club of Marblehead, The Chicago Yacht Club and The Los Angeles Yacht Club. The local yachtsmen will furnish the boats—sleek 38-foot sloops of the K-38 Class. How did the other clubs happen to think of challenging? They didn't. Fred Harris did. He flew East and not only persuaded crews from each club to enter but got top-notch representatives.


Harry Nye, a past Star Class world champ, will sail for Chicago; Edmund S. Kelley Jr., skipper of the highly successful Owens Cutter Departure, will sail for Eastern; and Gabriel M. Giannini, whose Marie Amelie was second only to Hoot Mon for 1954 Southern Circuit honors, will sail for New York. All three skippers have keen crews lined up. Upholding the honor of Southern California is Bill Horton, a member of the 1952 Olympic Yachting Team.

The Challenge Cup Race is in many respects the feature of the regatta, and even without Harris' future prodding may well develop into an annual fixture of leading national stature.

Last year slightly over 250 boats competed in the Mid-Winter. Harris expects 450 this year, which might make it the largest sailing event of the year.