Seared Tuna

In the middle of a record-setting heat wave,_ Sailing World_ magazine hits the road for the 2011 Santana 20 Nationals in Oklahoma City, Okla.

Dave Reed| |**Road Tuna and a West Texas sunset **|

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June 26, 2011

**Every Tuna Needs Water
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**Vernon Green was up well past midnight **waiting for us to show up from our 17-hour, 60-mph haul through the southern half of Colorado, the northeastern tip of New Mexico, the distressed and barren Texas panhandle, and the southern frontier of Oklahoma. He'd been keeping tabs on our slow progress through our Facebook updates, and just wanted to make sure we were all set when we rolled in to town.

For days he’d been welcoming road weary Santana 20 teams arriving at odd hours of the night. Vernon was one of two local sailors pulling together the Oklahoma City Boat Club’s Santana 20 National Championships on Lake Hefner, and from the sound of it, it made more sense for him to a pitch a three-room tent out on the club’s distant glade, even if it meant roughing it for a few days, with daytime temperatures pinned in the 100s and 30- to 40-knot southerly buffeting his tent relentlessly.

“I’m sure glad to meet you guys and happy you made it alright,” says Vernon cheerfully after we pull our skipper’s Chevy 3-ton pickup into the parched boat club lot and meet him for the first time the morning after our late night arrival on Saturday night. “Thanks for coming.”

It may be approaching 90 already at 9 o’clock in the morning on this Sunday, but Vernon, laid back, cool and happy, seems oblivious to the heat. His to-do list is long. No time to worry about a little scorching. He and the regatta’s co-organizer John Barnett are sweating the many things that come with being regatta chairs: keeping measurement on track and fetching spare parts, lines, and advice for the new arrivals, ourselves included, and making sure the whole thing goes off without a hitch.

The talk, initially as we un-strap Dave Gillespie's Zen Tuna, is about the wind, which has been whipping Oklahoma relentlessly for days, but Vernon-the-optimist is putting his faith in the forecast that says the 20 to 30-knots sustained lay down to a honey of a 15-knot wind just in time for the first day of racing on Tuesday and right through Thursday afternoon.

“We’ll get out there early every day,” he says. “Run a whole bunch of races, and be in by 2 sipping beers under the shade of a tree.”

That tree, by the way, is overhangs the tables on the deck near the club’s beer keg and soda fountains. Self-serve is a beautiful thing.

But the wind is the least of his worries given the stress he and John were under two weeks earlier, when the lake was six feet lower than it is today. Lake Hefner, a compact circular public water source, Vernon tells us, isn’t a naturally fed body of water. The city decides when to send a little water on down from another lake nearby. And this year they were taking their sweet ‘ol time. A fishing tournament there held up the city’s promise of water delivery. But to Vernon’s relief, the pumps at the damn kicked in and the week’s racecourse was finally lapping just above the high mark. “It was looking kinda scary there for a while,” he says. “But we got our water just in time.”

Speaking of getting to the water. On Monday morning the regatta business kicks into high gear with Zen Tuna. We’ve got a busy day in store. We need to measure Dave’s new Neil Pryde inventory (so crisp and beautiful, he’s having serious thoughts of not measuring them in for fear of blowing them out so soon. Then it’s off to practice our maneuvers: who’s doing what, and when, and how we can make sure we make things happen. Or else, it could be a long drive for the I-70 return trip. In the meantime, time to hunker down in the hotel AC. Soaking it up for tomorrow.

June 24, 2011

Why Are We There?

**Long winters in Newport, R.I., can do strange things to sailors. **The smart ones head south. Those left behind get their aquatic fixes by dodging ice floes while frostbiting on Newport Harbor or by planning summer trips to exotic and not-so-exotic regattas (though, let's be honest, compared to Newport in January, just about anywhere qualifies as exotic).

It was during one of those hollow-eyed, rum-fueled planning sessions that the Sailing World editorial team realized that the 2011 Santana 20 Nationals on Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City, Okla, represented a perfect storm of opportunity. Firstly there was the boat. Few classes define grass-roots sailing like the S20. There are fleets across the country and despite the design being more than 35 years old and bearing many of the hallmarks of its generation—overlapping genoa, fractional symmetric kite, ample beam, and pinched ends—new boats are still being built by W.D. Schock in Corona, Calif.

Then there was the location. It's tempting for East or West Coast sailors to view the United States as two sailing hotbeds separated by a interminable wasteland that only serves to keep the two populations largely apart (and arguing over superiority via internet chat rooms). But the mountain and central timezones are loaded with small lakes and sailors whose passion for the sport is inversely proportional to the size of the body of water on which they sail. Or so they tell us in the letters they send wondering why we don't ever come to cover the (insert obscure class name here) Intergalactic Championship on their home lake.

The third part of the puzzle is the fact that Sailing World and Cruising World ad rep Dave Gillespie owns a Santana 20 and races it regularly around Denver, Colo., where he lives. Putting all that together, there seemed to be no good reason why we shouldn't put the regatta on our schedule. So we did. Of course, now Newport is beautiful, more or less, with more regattas than any one person can possibly do—even if you were gainfully collecting unemployment checks from the great state of Rhode Island—and there's countless house and garden projects that were put off during the wet and cold spring. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City is prepping for a nice round of triple-digit temperatures and gale-force winds. Denver is a solid 12-hour drive from Oklahoma City. And Mr. Gillespie keeps dropping hints about the suspect reliability of his truck. If you see a small sailboat running east on I-70 under spinnaker, dragging a beat-up truck, you'll know who it is.

So maybe this trip doesn't look as inviting as it did in January when the grey clouds hover so lower over southern Rhode Island you sometimes stoop so as not to scrape your head. But all those idiosyncrasies will only make for a better story. Right?

And when you get down to it, that's what we're going for. To meet some passionate sailors, to hear their stories, and to create a memorable tale of our own. One way or another. Which is plenty reason for a good road trip. We'll keep your apprised of our progress, or lack there of, and results, or lack there of, via videos, photos, and blog reports. Stay tuned.

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