Three years ago, when Lyle Kerr staged the first fund-raising regatta for Childrens Hospital of Orange County, the event netted just $2,500, but it attracted attention from around the country.
"I got calls from all over the United States about how to start a charity regatta," said Kerr, a member of the Padrinos, CHOC's men's support group.
At that time, fund-raising regattas were few and far between. Based upon the phone calls Kerr received, he thinks that the CHOC Regatta was one of the first in the country. Most groups sponsor tennis tournaments, golf tournaments and 5-K and 10-K runs, according to Kerr, who saw a regatta as a way to attract more hospital supporters from the beach areas of the county.
Although the first CHOC Regatta attracted just six entries, the event made money--thanks to race sponsors and donations. The second regatta attracted 17 entries, but even more important it attracted the support of one of the area's best-known and most influential sailing groups: the Newport Ocean Sailing Assn., sponsor of the Ensenada Yacht Race.
"We wanted people to know we do some other things," says Lorin Weiss, president of NOSA. "There is more to NOSA than the Ensenada Yacht Race. We feel that we have a social conscience, but that we probably have not expressed it, and this is a means of expressing our social conscience to the community."
This year, with NOSA's continued involvement, Kerr says the regatta, which is being held today and Sunday in Newport Beach, is expected to draw about 50 boats. The event will consist of an ocean race for large sailboats, an inside-the-harbor race for small sailboats and two powerboat races--one for large powerboats and one for dinghies.
"We mailed invitations out from San Luis Obispo to the Mexican border," Kerr says, "but we expect most of our entries will be local Orange County boats."
The entry fee is $100 per boat. Because of donations and corporate sponsorship, Kerr says, "we have a zero budget, so everything goes to Childrens Hospital direct."
The fund-raising goal this year is $7,500, according to Kerr, who is confident the goal will be met, thanks to the corporate sponsorship of Northern Trust of California, which has pledged $22,500 toward the regatta over the next three years.
The company sponsored a kickoff party for children at the hospital, held a regatta poster design contest for students and is donating trophies, according to David W. Stein, a vice president with the Newport Beach office of the Chicago-based financial firm. Stein, who is also a sailor, will be among the race participants.
To attract more entries from women sailors, this year the regatta will offer a trophy to the first all-female crew to finish the race, according to Kerr. And to attract more interest among powerboaters, the regatta will also include a powerboat portion called a predicted log race, a popular form of navigation competition in which contestants predict how long it will take them to finish a given course.
Neil Foster, who is helping plan the powerboat part of the regatta, said a predicted log race is "a precision navigation contest."
"Speed has nothing to do with it. A boat that runs seven knots has just as much chance as a boat that runs 25 knots," said Foster, a member of the Southern California Cruising Assn., which runs many such races.
"You are given a course of places to go, buoys, oil islands, whatever, and you predict the time exactly to the second that you will be there at that point. You can't use a clock or a speed indicator. You can only use a compass and a tachometer.
"You have an official observer aboard the boat, and the skipper is not allowed to know what time it is during the race. He never sees a clock until the race is over. The object is that the person with the lesser amount of error (in the time he predicted it would take him to run the course) is declared the winner."
Winners are often separated by mere seconds, Foster says. "A lot depends upon the waters, the currents and the wind. You have to have good navigation skills, and you have to know your boat."
To add a bit of fun to this year's regatta, Kerr says there will also be a dinghy race, patterned after the predicted log competition.
"There's no way you can take a dinghy and accurately predict what you are going to do," Foster says, "so nobody is really taking this part seriously. We're mostly doing it for fun."
Skippers will be expected to run a one-mile course in the harbor and predict exactly how long it will take them, Foster said.
All events except the dinghy race will be held today. Activities begin with a skippers' meeting at 11:45 a.m. at Lido Isle Yacht Club, 701 Via Lido Soud, for participants in the inside-the-harbor sailboat races. The race for large sailboats will begin at noon in the harbor off the Grand Canal, between Balboa Island and Little Island.
Boats will then race a course that will take them out into the ocean. Entry forms for the race may be picked up at Balboa Yacht Club, 1801 Bayside Drive, Corona del Mar.
The predicted log race for large powerboats will also be held today, but the starting time is up to the discretion of individual skippers. The race is being run out of the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club, 1601 Bayside Drive, Corona del Mar.
A hot-dog dinner will be served at Balboa Yacht Club today about 4 p.m., after all three races are over. Activities Sunday will begin at 8 a.m. with a skippers' meeting at Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club for contestants in the dinghy race. The regatta will conclude with a brunch and awards ceremony at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Balboa Yacht Club. For information, call (714) 640-1351.
Shearlean Duke is a regular contributor to Orange County Life. On the Waterfront appears each Saturday, covering boating life styles as well as ocean-related activities along the county's 42-mile coastline.