Southern California’s sailing calendar is jammed packed with regattas this time of year. From distance races up and down the coast, to one-design weekends, and high school and college squads upskilling for their spring championships, there’s plenty of action on the water. But the annual spring highlight is the Helly Hansen <i>Sailing World</i> Regatta Series in San Diego, the second event of the five-regatta national sailing series.
With more than 100 entries registered across an array of keelboat and dinghy classes, this year’s edition is sure to be another standout weekend of races and post-race parties hosted by Coronado and San Diego yacht clubs.
The racing begins on Friday, March 25, with the regatta’s smaller boats, which will be spread across two racecourses set on South San Diego Bay, between Coronado Island to the west and bustling National City on the mainland. The bigger boats of the ocean courses race Saturday and Sunday, and the low-key one-day North Sails Rally Race entrants will race around the bay on Saturday only.
The International 14, arguably the coolest performance dinghy of all time, has become a fixture of the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series’ South Bay action. It doesn’t take much breeze to get these double-trapeze dinghies racing at full-tilt, send-it mode. Feast your eyes upon one, on land and underway, and it’s easy to see why the “14” appeals to sailing’s thrill seekers, skippers and crews who love to tinker in the pursuit of boatspeed and efficiency gains measured in fractions-of-a-knot. These sailors, young and old, are athletic types that flow delicately from wire to wire in tandem. One misstep can be the difference between a fluid turn or a tumbleweed and swim.
Skippers, and their crews especially—who do most of the work—are notably devoted to the care and maintenance of these complex crafts, which have been refined as a development class for more than a century and are now almost one-design. The nuances of each raceboat and its unique tuning are many to consider: webs of control systems, mast-bend characteristics, foil dimensions, rudder angles, sail shapes and trim…the list goes to infinity and beyond.
Kris Bundy and his crew Jamie Hanseler, the 2000 International 14 World champions, (yes, that’s 22 years ago and they’re still top of the heap) know the drill, as well as each other. They started sailing together in 1986, back when President Ronald Regan was running the show.
They were also the top International 14 team at the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in 2021, and they will return to the Coronado racecourse to defend. Bundy, who now lives in the sunshine and warmth of Tulsa, Oklahoma, having lived in Seattle for nine years, says he hasn’t sailed his 14 in six months, but he’s been keeping up on his fitness.
“That’s the number one thing,” Bundy says. “I’m steering, which doesn’t require as much fitness…but I’ve been hitting the gym every day, and Jamie, well, he’s always in shape from mountain biking and stuff.”
He is fit, yes, but Bundy admits it’s not so easy to jump right back into an International 14 and expect the balance and mechanics to return in a flash. “It’s definitely hard when you haven’t sailed it in a while,” he says. “There’s been plenty of times when I didn’t feel very mechanical, but you get through it somehow.”
Fortunately, San Diego’s South Bay is a more forgiving racecourse. The smaller waves help take the edge off. Their boat is dialed in and ready, them having put in a healthy number of sailing days last year.
“We’ve had our boat for quite a while,” Bundy says. “We have an excellent hull [a Bieker 6 Model] with good sails, a good mast and foils, and it’s been really reliable. We have our marks, so it’s pretty much, launch it and off we go. Right now, we’re set up right and we’re as good as anyone in the States, and that’s all we need—to be going the same speed as the other top guys.”
The International 14 fleet is a tight-knit community and Bundy knows all the characters and their craft registered for the regatta. His assessment of the fleet is that theirs is one of the older boats, but most are the same Bieker 6, and says, “It’s as pretty much as one-design as it’s ever been.”
The reigning national champions will be M.I.A., so Bundy feels he and Hanseler have a pretty good shot at winning, but that all depends on what the wind gods deliver. South Bay, he says, is pretty complex and it’s easy to get hung out to dry. He generally likes the left side of the usual racecourse, upwind and downwind, but if the weather mark happens to be set in the right-hand quadrant, it gets “really goofy” and usually comes with a big right shift. But generally, he concludes, the sea breeze tends to go back and forth, shifting 10 degrees or so until it settles in and “comes back to the center.”
Thus, his advice for fellow South Bay sailors is this: “If [the mark] is on the left side, you have to be pretty aggressive on the shifts and not committed to anyone particular side. But the worst place to be is the middle. You have to be brave in the corners—upwind and downwind. The broader tactic downwind is to start linking puffs as soon as possible. That, and stay out of trouble, don’t hit anybody, and remember that even when you’re behind you always have a chance.”