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Sailing / Richard Buffum

These Power Boats Perform Better Than Their Drivers

February 12, 1986|Richard Buffum

Horror stories are piling up over so called "performance boats"--power boats that can rocket along at speeds of more than 100 m.p.h. Anybody with enough money, but not necessarily the skill and knowledge to control such seagoing broncos, can buy these boats.

The horror stories refer to the deaths and destruction that these racers are leaving in their wake, not to mention the danger and discomfort to which these boats subject their slower sisters.

As an example of the latter, I was puttering toward the mouth of Newport Beach harbor the other day, traveling at five knots under power, when two macho personalities in one these speedsters decided to play tag with my little sloop. First, they buzzed past my bow, cutting as close to it as possible. Then they swung around and accorded the same treatment to my stern.

Seething, I cooly held course and speed. I was trapped, dependent on the driver's judgment to avoid colliding with me. A guest sitting at the bow was liberally doused from the sharp wake these doltheads kicked up. You'll notice I referred to the man at the helm as a driver and not a skipper. He had brought to the sea with him a freeway mentality suited to a high speed automobile, which is at least equipped with brakes and is somewhat controlled from such dangerous shenanigans by traffic cops and laws.

Aside from the five m.p.h. speed limit in Newport and other harbors, enforced by harbor patrolmen, there is nothing much on the high seas to dampen the reckless ardor that afflicts far too many drivers of performance boats. There are, of course, the rules of the road and common courtesy and prudence that guide most true skippers, but these seem to have no effect on those cursed with the freeway mentality.

I have been staunchly opposed to the licensing of recreational boaters, along with the imposition of speed limits on offshore coastal waters, but I must confess to some weakening in these regards. You can blame my attitude largely on the hot-rodders, along with a few other innocent souls who put to sea in newly bought vessels and possess only the most rudimentary acquaintance with what constitutes good seamanship.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadron are doing excellent work in educating tyros in the elements of seamanship and marine safety, but attendance at their courses is purely voluntary. Perhaps courses should be mandatory for tyros before they qualify for recreational boat licensing. They could be administered by a branch of, say, the State Department of Motor Vehicles. Seasoned skippers who could pass a licensing test would not have to take the seamanship course. The Coast Guard could devise the tests.

Licensing is something to consider seriously now that recreational boating is gaining popularity and our marinas, offshore coves, harbors and the open sea are becoming more crowded.

Sailing Notes

Hobie Cat, the World Hobie Class Assn. and the North American Alpha Class Assn. have announced preliminary details of major 1986 events. They include the Hobie Cat Midwinters West in San Felipe, Mexico, Feb. 22-23; the Midwinters East, Tampa Bay, Fla., April 12-13; the Alpha Speedweek, a new event for sailboarders, at the Ponds recreation area near Palm Springs, April 17-20; and the Hobie Cat National Championships at Fort Walton Beach, Fla., April 27 through May 2. Also, on Lake Mead, the Las Vegas Grand Prix, May 2-4; the Lake Havasu Hobie Cat Family Fun and Recreational Regatta, May 8-11.

The Alamitos Bay Yacht Club will host six races of the Turnbuckle Tightener Regatta, an invitational event to members of the Southern California Yachting Assn. and members of the U.S. Yacht Racing Union outside the Southern California area, March 8-9. The first race starts at 11:20 a.m. ABYC's George Caddle is regatta chairman and may be contacted at (213) 439-3481. Lee and Dee La Jeunesse will relate their cruising adventures in the Western Caribbean on Orange Coast College's Sailing Adventure Series on Feb 7. Al and Beth Liggett will be featured on the final program of the series on Feb. 21. The couple have cruised about 44,000 miles in 20 years of poking about the world. The programs start at 8 p.m. in the Robert B. Moore Theatre, Costa Mesa.

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