An Idea to Add Some Power to the Local Boating Races

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I hope everyone had a wonderful Fourth of July.

The Fourth is the busiest day of the year, every year, on the bay. It’s very uplifting on our harbor during this time. Family and friends are on their boats in very festive moods, and happiness is the rule of the day. Isn’t life grand!

Catalina moorings are usually full days in advance to ensure a spot for the Fourth. Many times in our youth we spent the Fourth in the Isthmus area. Most of the young ones decorated their small skiffs and shore boats with red, white and blue themes and would parade through the moorings of the Isthmus and adjacent coves. The rest of the crew aboard the yachts smiled and waved as the armada weaved in and out the mooring areas.

I recall one year an adult sat in a chair on a wakeboard being towed behind a skiff. We young ones were amazed that that was possible.

Speaking of Catalina, I wanted to pass along an event coming up that’s worthwhile to witness aboard a boat. On July 21, high-speed off-shore boats and race boats will pull water skiers from Long Beach to Catalina and back to Long Beach. It is as exciting to watch as an offshore power boat race. If I recall correctly, one year a 14-year-old came in second overall.

The race preview is at the Maya Hotel near the Queen Mary at 7 a.m. The race starts at 8:53 a.m. between the two oil islands adjacent to the Queen Mary. The race should be over by 10 or 10:30 a.m.

The ski race brings to mind the several international offshore power-boat races held and sponsored by Bushmill Spirits outside of Newport Harbor. The teams arrived several days before the race and would practice and sea trial their boats. There were times the public could get close and inspect the boats either at the Balboa Bay Club or the Dunes, depending on the year.

About an hour before the race all the racers would single file through the bay at 5 mph to the race course. Naturally, hundreds of spectator boats would accompany the race boats out to the course. One year when at the Bay Club, John Wayne was still with us, he stood on his pier with a big smile, waving to the racers as they went by.

Remembering the big guy enjoying himself sends a good chill down my spine. When he wasn’t working, we would see him grocery shopping with his kids. He was living in Newport and doing what most people do, but was almost always with his kids. His green station wagon, which is what he drove, had a custom raised roof so he could drive with his hat on.

As the Bushmill’s, as it was called, brought international business attention to Newport Harbor, wouldn’t it be great to start up a similar activity for now and the future? These high-speed race boats travel close to 100 miles an hour – in the ocean! We have sailboat races annually paired up with charities like the Leukemia Society and Hoag Hospital. An offshore power-boat race paired with the Sea Scouts or American Legion would be a noteworthy cause. Maybe the Marine Division of our local chamber could pair up and lead the charge!


The owner of Popeye’s Chicken raced a 50-foot catamaran with four engines. Rocky Aoki, owner of Benihana’s, raced a monohull and then switched the following year to a catamaran. Several years later he was involved in a severe accident and retired from racing. If anyone knows Bruce Penhall, maybe we could involve him in helping us entice the association to come back to Newport Harbor for an annual race.

Bill Gross, are you in town? You and Mrs. Gross are clearly responsible for the new tower at Hoag Hospital. Your charitable endeavors are well-known and commendable. When you lived on Promontory Bay, your bright red 50-foot Cary, Truly Gross, looked like an offshore power boat racer. You also have the international notoriety it would take to achieve something like this. We would love to help you make this happen. Call me! Our harbor and community could benefit greatly from another great event such as this.

Another great boating event is the Flight of the Lasers. This event is managed by the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce. This year, the race will be held on July 22. The race course includes up to the Newport Boulevard Bridge area, around Lido Isle, the mark near the American Legion, downwind to the mark near China Cove, and the start/finish line adjacent to the Pavilion.

This race originally was the Flight of the Snowbirds. I raced our family Snowbird several times in this event. The races I sailed in had around 120 Snowbirds participating. As in the present race there are five or six trophies, including those for youngest skipper and oldest skipper.

This is another annual boating event held in the summer that exemplifies the uniqueness of our world-class boat harbor. The Turning Basin Anchorage area should be available by then, as the present dredging in that area should be completed. This race is another spectator event that is exciting to watch.

Sea Ya!

Skipper Steve

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