50th Cal 20 Class Championship at Alamitos Bay YC

Cal 20 Champiosnhips 2011
The Cal 20 Class Championship 2011 is set to take place from the 12th August to the 14th August in Long Beach at the Alamitos Bay Yacht Club.

In these days of onrushing technology, one-design boats seem to come and go as fast as turning the pages of a sailing magazine. An exception is the Cal 20, which will celebrate its golden anniversary with its 50th annual Class Championship at Alamitos Bay Yacht Club Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 13-14. Online entry is $125 until July 31, when it jumps to $175.

There will be a three-race qualifying series on Friday, Aug. 12, followed by two days of competition with seven races over Saturday and Sunday. A Junior Championship, possibly featuring a third generation of Cal 20 sailors, is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 20.

Organizers are hustling to attract an appropriate entry list of 50 boats, including a 'Bronze' fleet of recreational Cal 20 owners of stock boats who just want to join the fun on their own laid-back terms. The Bronze entry fee is $50.

Chuck Clay, an ABYC member who won the 2009 title at King Harbor in Redondo Beach and is president of the Cal 20 Class Association, said, 'That's geared more for the guys who go out on weekends with their friends or family but don't really race. They'll have their own class and a modified race schedule, with only two races Saturday and one Sunday. We just want them there as part of the event.'

Among champions over the last three decades is 1984 winner John Kostecki, whose later successes include an Olympic silver medal in 1988 and victories in the Volvo Ocean Race on Illbruck in 2002 and the America's Cup with BMW Oracle in 2010.

Kostecki, preparing to defend the AC in his hometown of San Francisco in 2013, is not likely to appear---he's into multihulls these days---but recent headliners on deck include five-time winner Mark Gaudio and defending champion Jib Kelly.

Competitors from out of town may bring their boats or charter from local owners. Such interest has been expressed from as far north as Vancouver, B.C. and as far west as Hawaii.

Jon Thompson, fleet captain of Fleet 8 in Tacoma, Wash., e-mailed Clay: 'I am looking to crew in the class championship. I have been racing for about 40 years, mostly in one-design … [and] have been racing Cal 20s for about a year and would like to experience the next level.'

Cal 20 Champiosnhips 2011

A quick history from Cal 20 archives: 'The California 20 was designed by C. William Lapworth in 1960 and went into production in 1961. It quickly became the most popular of the Cal line of fiberglass sailboats; 1,945 were built. Most of the production occurred throughout the 60s when the Jensen Marine factory in Costa Mesa, Calif. was turning out as many as one boat a day.

'For the 20-foot length, she is one of the most practical boats imaginable. … A lot of people wanted an active, simple, inexpensive one-design class boat that wasn't going to be outdated by the next measurement rule change.

'Today the Cal 20 enjoys popularity throughout North America as both a competitive and fun one-design racer and a stable and forgiving day sailor. The beauty of the Cal 20 is its simplicity. It can be raced with just two people in lighter air and three people in moderate to heavier winds. Even today the resale value of a good, clean Cal 20 is approximately what the same boat might have cost new 30 years ago.'

As a matter of fact … 'I've had my boat for probably 30 years,' Clay said. 'It cost $4,000.' It might cost more now. 'It all depends on how the bottom is and if it's been fairly competitive,' Clay said.

In recent years some owners have spent up to $15,000 on performance modifications, especially streamlining the lead keel, slicking up the hull and running control lines below deck. Nowadays the class by-laws dictate measurements, including keel and rudder profiles.

'Back in the early 90s we had a lot of people in the class that were trying different things,' Clay said. 'Usually just before the class championship somebody would do something crazy and we'd have to deal with it, [but] it's been pretty tame [recently]. We reeled it in and in the last five to eight years it's been really quiet … no fancy stuff. People have just gone out and enjoyed the boat and gone racing.

'The bottom needs to be in good shape and rudders can be at minimum measurement. If somebody has a big fat keel they can thin it out a bit.'

Most of all, Clay said, 'It needs to look like a Cal 20. Years ago I asked if I could take the windows out of the boat … just to go for a different look. I asked [world class designer] Alan Andrews [of Long Beach] to do an analysis if it would alter the integrity of the boat by basically making it stiffer. He said it would make no difference whatsoever, so I went ahead and did it … and one of the members protested and I had to put the windows back in.'

Cal 20 website