I have been living in Ventura, CA for over 30 years and have found it to be an ideal location for my favorite pastimes of surfing and sailing. Other than a launch ramp in the harbor that makes for a tricky landing at the end of one's sail, Ventura is an excellent venue for Weta sailing. Typically, between St Patrick's Day and Labor day we have reliable westerlies in the mid-teens in the afternoons.
In a normal year, here in California, we have at least 4 chances to get together and race in regattas. 2020 has been far from normal, though, and we have not raced at all. Bruce Fleming, he of great Weta renown and magnetic personality, announced that he and his wife, Shelley, would be leaving from their San Diego County home and doing a Great Weta SoCal and CenCal Tour and Road Trip. That is, they intended to drive up to San Luis Obispo to visit their son who is a senior at Cal Poly SLO and bring the Weta along to sail at Ventura, Morro Bay and Lake Lopez.
That was all the incentive we needed to create a Weta Swarm in Ventura. Originally Bruce and Shelley were going to do their trip in late August, but due to other obligations, they postponed the trip to late September. As seems to be typical of 2020, the late August date saw perfect sailing conditions with 15 to 17 knots of wind, but, as the September date approached, predictions were for very light winds. It figures, this is the time of year when the westerlies begin to lay down for the winter. But, the Swarm was on. Ben Teitelbaum drove in from Fresno, John Dutton drove down from Santa Barbara, and we had 4 boats meeting at the ramp for the Great Ventura Weta Swarm!
Bob pestering Bruce while he tries to rig up. (all photos courtesy of John Dutton)
It was a beautiful, sunny Saturday so the ramp was quite busy and finding a parking spot was difficult. But Bruce and Shelley got there early and scored the best spot, right next to a lawn and picnic table. This proved to be very fortuitous later.
We all assembled our boats, and were ready, but where is Ben? After driving over 3 hours, Ben got lost in the new apartment complex right next to the ramp. He was a stone throw away but couldn't find us. Eventually, with the help of a friendly security guard, Ben made his way over to the ramp. We didn't mind waiting for him, it was sunny, warm, and the wind had not arrived yet anyway. We all helped Ben assemble and rig and were ready to go soon after 1 p.m.
The wind only ever blew at 5 - 10 knots. Fortunately, the seas were sedate, and we did have enough wind to move steadily along. It actually made for a very pleasant sail. According to the trip computer on my GPS, we ended up sailing about 14 nautical miles, averaged 5.9 knots, and I hit a max speed of 9.6 knots. For me, the best part of the sail was being comfortable in board shorts and a tech shirt and PFD. No wetsuit, no splash smock necessary. It was a rare treat here in Ventura.
First we sailed up the coast, hard on the wind on port tack, towards the pier. As we neared the pier I radioed the fleet that we could tack out to sea and be on the lay line for a local racing mark 1.25 miles offshore. They agreed and we headed out.
As we neared the mark, though, it seemed to me that the wind was lessening. As we gathered at the mark, I suggested that we 3 sail reach back in towards the pier, gybe, and reach back to the harbor. We didn't want to be too far away if the wind died on us. As we neared the pier I suspect we hit our fastest speeds. Once at the harbor, we did a short W/L race between the navigation aid marks just outside the entrance. Bruce and Shelley gave us a rabbit start and we did a quick lap. But, the water was a bit rough there from the powerboat wakes bouncing off the breakwall, so we headed back upwind towards the pier one more time and then 3 sailed reached back.
By this time it was about 4 p.m. and Bruce and Shelly and Ben had some road time to do. So we headed on in, helped each other land at the dock, retrieved and washed down our boats at the ramp and gathered on the lawn near Bruce and Shelley's car to nosh on sandwiches, chips and beverages and talk story while the boats and sails dried off. Enjoying each other's company and learning more about each other I found fascinating, but, after about 45 minutes of distant socializing, it was time to finish off a great day so the others could get on their way.
We didn't get to do any of the fast and fun blast reaching that Wetas induce old men like me to giggle like little girls. But, the weather, the socializing with great people, and the comfortable cruising on the water still made for another great day on the Weta. We all agreed to make the Ventura Weta Swarm an annual event, but, try to have it sometime in the Spring or Summer when the wind is much more reliable.