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This Handicapper Draws No Fire

June 05, 1987|Rich Roberts

The powers of sailing, in their wisdom, realized many years ago that there were many different kinds of boats, and they were not created equal.

So they devised various handicap systems to equalize competition so the better sailors would not be penalized because they sailed slower boats.

The boats would all start even, but the first to finish would not necessarily be the winner. Nobody would know who got the trophies until the clockings went into the calculators.

Long Beach Race Week, which started Thursday and runs through Sunday, is such an event (except for one class), using the International Offshore Rule of handicap ratings. It fell to Tom Dessel, chairman of the eighth annual event for the Long Beach Yacht Club, to assign the classes according to handicaps--a task nobody envied.

Some skippers simply do not like to race against others because they believe they give up too much time.

For example, Pat Farrah's Santa Cruz 70 Blondie is the only ultralight entered, so instead of being in a separate class, it became the scratch boat in Class A. It must give Ron Kuntz's Nelson/Marek 44 Travieso 108.5 seconds per mile, so in, say, a maximum 26.9-mile race, Blondie could finish 48 minutes ahead of Travieso--and lose.

Dessel explained Wednesday that he was still awaiting the arrival of updated United States Yacht Racing Union rating certificates for four of the boats. Then, at the skipper's meeting before the first race Thursday morning, he passed out the class assignments--and ducked.

But instead of an explosion, he heard only silence. The skippers quietly accepted their assignments and went off to sail. Their acquiescence said to Dessel, "Well done."

"I was surprised as hell," Dessel said.

The final entry list had 43 boats, assigned to classes A through E, with nine J-35s sailing in their own level class, without handicaps. Those included Bill Rosenberg's Raging Rosy from Channel Islands Yacht Club, winner of Class A in last week's Sobstad Race Week.

Organizers had hoped to have an ultralight class, but Blondie was the only one to show up. The others apparently were buttoning down for the Transpac starting July 2.

Iain Murray won the Grundig Cup match racing series in Cannes, France, Wednesday, defeating Paul Cayard, 2-1, in the finals. Cayard was Tom Blackaller's tactician on USA in the America's Cup.

Murray picked a profitable time to sail out of his slump. The Kookaburra skipper was shut out, 4-0, by Dennis Conner in the America's Cup final and followed that by finishing dead last in the Congressional Cup at Long Beach a month later. But he claimed the Grundig and $100,000 in prize money by dominating a dynamic fleet.

The Grundig is the fourth of eight events in the World Match Racing Conference series and the first to award purses. It had an all-America's Cup semifinal, with Murray and three Americans. Murray and Cayard eliminated Eagle's Rod Davis and Stars & Stripes navigator Peter Isler in the semifinal.

Cayard collected $25,000, with the third-place Davis and fourth-place Isler picking up $12,500 each--for the Americans, their first official paydays ever in racing.

In all, 12 skippers sailed French-built Selection 37s, which are built of kevlar, the same material used in high-performance racing sails and bulletproof vests.

It was a light-air series until the last day, when the Mediterranean winds whipped up to 20 knots, and there were frequent protests.

Murray flew a red flag against Cayard in the last race Wednesday--shades of Fremantle--but dropped it when he won. Peter Gilmour steered through the starting sequences, then handed the helm to Murray, which also was their routine in the America's Cup.

With Murray's victory, the first four World Cup events have had different winners. He follows Wales' Eddie Owen in the Congressional, Davis in the Squadron Challenge at New Zealand and Chris Dickson in the Royal Lymington in England. They qualify for the first World Cup of Match Race Sailing at Long Beach in August 1988.

The next event will be the King Edward VII Gold Cup at Bermuda July 8-11.

Sailing Notes

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