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“We were just there to have fun": Recollections on a Midwinter's Day

This article started off as a follow up to my Saint Nick article last month and questioning the identity of BYC’s 1977 Santa. Well, I still don’t know, though I did learn about another Santa, but that’s a story for the Old Salts dinner in May. So off I went in another direction and I’d like to share this correspondence with our 1971 Commodore, Larry Telford.

To Larry, from Betty:

I believe you are the longest running racer in the midwinter races. You raced when it was just the Metropolitan Yacht Club of Oakland midwinter races (MYCO) and continued racing when MYCO and BYC merged the race and are still racing.

When did you first start racing in the midwinters? Do you remember any old stories about the midwinters? How many first place division titles have you won? It seems like you have won most of the Sunday division races that I can remember.

I would like to write an article for the NHT about the history of the midwinters. I would love to share some of your memories of them.

Thanks and will see you in January.


To Betty, from Larry:

Hi Betty. Challenging an old fart’s memory are we? Oh my!

My first Midwinters was indeed the MYCO version, 1963-64. Yup, 60 years ago. I crewed foredeck on a red Triton 28 named Harlot owned by Frank Lossy, but I don’t remember seeing him aboard during that series. The skipper who got me aboard was Ken Wylie, a fellow member of UCYC (predecessor of Cal Sailing Club). At the time, the UCYC facility was mostly in the lee of the original BYC Dining Room. UCYC kept their fleet of Lido 14s and a Kite single-hander dinghy on trailers and dollies there, dropping them into the water with a hoist on the pier. I met Ken shortly after joining UCYC when I started law school at Boalt Hall in the fall of ‘63, and he asked if I would like to crew for him. At that time, the MYCO Midwinters started from a committee boat anchored south of the old Berkeley Pier, and most of the time, the club sent the fleet on courses headed south toward NAS Alameda and beyond, using a windward (usually) mark of one of the NAS carrier channel buoys or another buoy farther south and over toward the Cityfront.

When the ‘64-‘65 Midwinters rolled around I was crewing for Jim Lucas aboard Rebel, his 1938 Rhodes 33, known affectionately as The Yellow Submarine. The Rhodes 33 class was much like the IOD, except the trunk cabin was a little longer, and the boats all carried 150% genoas. There were 9 or 10 of them on the Bay and they were an active one-design class for many years, though they were much more at home in Southern California, with big concentrations at Newport Harbor Yacht Club and Balboa Yacht Club. I crewed for Jim for the summer YRA series, the MYCO Midwinters and the Corinthian Midwinters for several years, from 1964 to 1968, and Billee and I became members of BYC at the end of 1966.

MYCO kept the same starting line and courses taking the fleet into the South Bay until the Olympic Circle was established north of the pier, in 1968—if memory serves. What stands out the most about those races is playing the NAS rock wall to stay out of the ebb tide, and the number of times the ebb was so strong and the wind so light we had to anchor to keep from being swept backward. Finishing a race on one of those ebb tide affairs was an accomplishment to be savored. After the Circle was established, MYCO moved the Midwinters north of the pier to take advantage of the more consistent wind and manageable tides on the Circle.

We acquired our first boat, a Columbia 22 which we named Spindrift, in the summer of 1968, and sailed the summer YRA series and MYCO Midwinters from 1968-1971 in that boat. We acquired our Islander 30 II Antares on Labor Day of 1971, and sailed the ’71-72 Midwinters in her, as we have every year since until she lost her mast on the return from Vallejo in 2016. So, we missed ’16-17 series. And then COVID canceled the series.

Antares was quite successful during the YRA one-design class years, and for a long time in YRA HDA summer series, as well, after the one-design class died. It was a likely victim of the introduction of the ultra-light/sport boat classes. Throughout her competitive years Antares has enjoyed modest success racing on the Bay, including several YRA One Design Season Championships and when matched up with similar boats of the era, as well as helping raise two kids, and then a grandson, while cruising the Delta, mostly anchored at the north end of Steamboat Slough. While your recollection of Antares’ success in the Midwinters is more than a little flattering, I know we have not always been the Division winner. Old guys, old boat, mostly laughing our way around the course at some joke. We were just out there to have fun. My two youngest crew members are closing in on 65, and my foredeck is run by an 80-year-old who’s been handling it since 1975. Antares no longer races the YRA Summer Series but has continued to sail the annual Vallejo Race with some success, including one first in the entire fleet on the Sunday race back to the central Bay.

Thanks, Betty. This has been a fun tour down Memory Lane. Always available to answer questions.

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