Is San Diego the Sailing Capital of the World?

Associate editor Tony Bessinger makes the case for this SoCal sailing haven. "First Beat" from our March 20, 2007, /SW eNewsletter/

FirstBeatSanDiegoSt

Tony Bessinger

Although I live in the self-proclaimed sailing capital of the world, Newport, R.I., I may need to re-think that proclamation after spending the weekend covering the Sperry Top-Sider San Diego NOOD. San Diego sailors are good, most likely because they sail year-round, and they have one of the better venues I've ever seen. The Pacific Ocean, while a bit nippy (58 degrees this time of year), is only a short motor away from the docks at San Diego YC, as is a large, well-protected sound between Coronado and the city proper that's perfect for dinghy racing. The Navy owns a lot of the waterfront property in San Diego and Coronado, but there's still plenty of room left for marinas, which are everywhere. And they're huge, each one home to hundreds of boats. One dock we passed every morning on the way to the racecourse was home to Dennis Conner's first-generation America's Cup Class yacht Stars & Stripes. It looks different from the latest ACC boats, since it was designed for the waters off Point Loma, but it sails every weekend on corporate team building charters. On another dock sits an original Santa Cruz 70, and near that, an old IOR boat that looks just as good as it must have the day it rolled out of the shed. All of the above means that San Diego is a perfect place to hold a NOOD regatta, and the host club, San Diego YC, completes the circle by putting a first-class race committee out on the water. Since they run races year-round, there's no rust, and they fire off races quickly and efficiently. During one race I watched on the first day of the NOOD, two Flying Dutchman crews hit the starting line a full minute early, and dragged every other FD across the line with them. The RC fired off a general recall, and hailed the fleet on VHF, but nobody turned back. Rather than let the FDs sail a meaningless race, the RC sent a mark boat to corral everyone and get them back to the line for a restart. I'm currently sitting at the airport waiting to get on a plane and head back to Newport, where the air temperature is 36 degrees and the water temperature is a numbing 38 degrees. I won't be sailing on my bay for another couple of months. While I'm getting rusty, the racers in San Diego will continue to sharpen their skills. Is San Diego the sailing capital of the world? I'll leave that answer to someone less biased than me, but I will say that it's a great place for a racing sailor to live.