By Margie Woods

From the starting line located near Palos Verdes buoy “10PV”, leave the West End of Catalina to port, finish when Catalina East End light position 33 18.1162N 118 19.0570W is within 0.5 NM and bears 350°M from the helmsman’s position. The skipper shall take his (or HER…I added this 🙂 ) own finish time. Handicap distance 41 NM.

This is my 3rd year racing in The Pacific Singlehanded Sailing Association’s Catalina to Port race. I doublehanded with my boyfriend, Stephen. It was our first time doing this in a race, and we were very excited about the opportunity to share in this experience. I absolutely love this race, because of the varied conditions and points of sail over the course of a day, but mainly because the backside of Catalina Island is a magical world. It’s uninhabited and dramatic coastline makes one feel light years away from the intense energy of LA. And if you look to the right, you can see my favorite sight of all time, and without obstruction……the horizon over the wild Pacific!

Our start was at 11am off of Palos Verdes point. I was very happy to see so many boats out there as we approached the PV buoy. We had eight boats all in all, 3 doublehanded, and 5 singlehanded. DIstraxxion, Jeff Coyle’s XP 44 was our rabbit boat. She always takes my breath away when I see her sleek lines and powerful rig! If Jeff weren’t such a wonderful guy, I might feel pretty intimidated by the sight of her!

We had a bit of a rugged start, but once we got on track, we were moving quite well. The winds were light at first, which caused a bit of a confusion for me as we tried to figure out which tack towards the island was favored. We made a mistake by heading out on a port tack for too long. Distraxxion, Velocity (Thomas’ Hobie 33) and Katin (Jason’s Jeanneau Sunfast 3200) headed the other direction and it became apparent to us pretty quickly the mistake we had made. One thing I learned from that, is to be more patient when the wind is light, and not feel pressure to DO something about it, but rather to allow it to show me the way. Despite our bad call, we were moving along well towards the island once the wind filled in and we were on a starboard tack, and made it to the west end of Catalina by about 3pm. We rounded the island and headed out to sea for a bit trying to get into a good position for our downwind run towards the East end. With our spinnaker flying well, filled by a steady breeze, we made good way down the coast (even though I was still kicking myself because knew that the aforementioned three boats had left us in the dust). It was fun to be out there flanked by the rest of the fleet though, who were at various positions around us, flying spinnakers of many colors.

Brian on Slow Poke (Ranger 23T) kept all of the boats connected and communicating all day by checking in with us to see how we were doing. It was fun to hear how everyone was faring, and especially to get the report from the boats ahead that there was big wind around the point coming into the east end and our finish. We heeded this warning and doused our spinnaker just in time. The wind was up around 20 knots by this time and right on our stern, and we were able to move quite well wing and wing with mainsail and a reefed genoa the rest of the way. At one point (see the video below) I was steering us along towards the finish, and I was overcome with gratitude, not only for the majesty that surrounded me int hat moment, but also for all that I have learned as a sailor in the past four years. So much has happened, and so many lessons have been learned. Some were hard and some were magical, but through them all I am still so blown away that I am able to be out there in the wild blue, surrounded by nature in this way. It brings a tear to my eye as I write this. There is nothing like it anywhere else!

We finished around 7:30, graced by one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. The sight of the sunset over Church Rock and the East End is probably my favorite thing about this race! Church rock seems the most appropriate name, for I felt I was in the most sacred house of worship in that moment. After we finished, the wind shadow of the island slowed us to a peaceful pace, and we cranked up the engine and headed into Avalon for a much needed and well-deserved meal at the Lobster Trap.

I am as always, so grateful to PSSA and all of its seasoned sailors for the opportunity and inspiration to learn and grow as a sailor. I am also grateful to Stephen for being such a great teammate and for teaching me so much along the way. I am hoping that my autopilot will be ready for me to singlehand the next race in May, which is the Santa Barbara Island race.

More photos at