Big Boats in a Big Race

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The Irving Johnson and Exy Johnson, crewed by the Bahia Corinthian and Balboa yacht clubs, hit the starting line for their match race last weekend. Photo by John Vyn

Last weekend, Balboa and Bahia Corinthian yacht clubs sailed a special match race in identical 90-foot brigantines.

Both replica boats – the Irving Johnson and the Exy Johnson – were built in the 1990s by Los Angeles Maritime Institute as part of their educational program. The only minor difference between between them is that the Exy Johnson carries a replica cannon and the Irving Johnson does not. (BYC drew the Exy for the match race.)

The brigantine Irving Johnson docked in Newport Harbor before its big race with its sister ship, the Exy Johnson. Photo by Jim Collins

This was the first time ever that the pair had raced each other.  For some reason there was a definite consensus among sailors that somehow Exy’s cannon improved boat speed.  The BYC team was delighted to draw the Exy, while the BCYC team was forced to sail “un-gunned.” And according to BYC’s Stacie Brandt, BYC didn’t take it for granted that the boats were equal; even though the “Exy” had a cannon on board, the  BYC team brought own cannon, too.

The race was run as a charity fundraiser by American Legion YC, with Long Beach YC providing Race Committee support.  Both boats used aggressive starting tactics – America’s Cup tactician Andy Rose maneuvered to push the BCYC boat over early.  It was unclear who came away ahead in this exchange; BYC used their engine to power back to the starting line for their restart, and it’s not clear that BCYC ever got back to the “non-course side” of the starting line for their start.

Either way, independent sources agree that both teams got off the line “fairly.”

By the first reach mark, BYC’s Exy had pulled ahead and would never look back – in fact they even did a 360-degree turn to help absolve any starting infractions and to further help exonerate themselves from their start.  Apparently, a 360 on a square-rigged Brigantine is a bit of a challenge.

The Exy Johnson flies the BYC burgee. Photo by Bronny Joy Daniels/Joy Sailing

Both teams dlsplayed conspicuous flags for their teams.  BYC’s team set a spectacular 20 foot by 30 foot custom Club burgee made specially for the event by Nikki’s Flags.  Not to be outdone, BCYC’s team on the Irving Johnson had their own oversized burgee that was flown on a 10-foot staff.  BCYC also had a custom pennant to help show off the club’s colors.

At the end of the day, it was a win all around.  The 50-plus local sailors who participated enjoyed a fun new racing experience, and this event helped raise several thousand dollars for the Los Angeles Maritime Institute.

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