Max Crittenden was a long time member of the SF based Singlehanded Sailing Society before retiring a few years back and relocating to
the desert of Southern California. After much time readjusting to his new locale, the call of the sea remains running in his blood stream and
he is engaging with the area's version of short handed sailing, the Pacific Singlehanded Sailing Association.

Curious as to his evaluation of the PSSA, we requested a short write up from Max on the organization and it differences and similarities to the SSS of north...







For a dedicated longtime member of Singlehanded Sailing Society like me, it’s been interesting to compare and contrast the shorthanded sailing scene in southern California since my wife and I moved down here. Naturally I joined Pacific Singlehanded Sailing Association, the SoCal equivalent of SSS. But it’s been a challenge to sail as many of their races as I would like, because my Martin 32 Iniscaw is berthed in Oceanside, the closest marina to our home in the desert. PSSA is based in Marina del Rey, about 75 miles upwind from Oceanside. For a Saturday race, I need to cast off about 3 pm on Thursday and allow 16 hours or more to get up to MdR. Crossing the shipping lanes outside Los Angeles in the wee hours, and interpreting the traffic display on my old AIS receiver while propping my eyelids open, is always an interesting experience.






Once I score a guest berth at Chace Park in Marina del Rey, I try to sleep through the afternoon Friday. This has become a little more difficult lately, as sea lions have taken over a few of the berth fingers and are very vocal all day. Then Friday evening it’s the skippers meeting. Like SSS, PSSA is a paper club and usually depends on the hospitality of brick-and-mortar clubs. However, this year the meetings are on Zoom, and conveniently there’s free wifi in Chace Park. Attendance is mandatory, unless the PRO gives you a waiver.

PSSA runs two series each year: Dan Byrne in the winter and spring when there’s a chance of more wind so the races can be longer, and Dave Wall in the summer and fall with short races. As you might guess, I haven’t bothered with the Dave Wall series: I’m not going to sail 100+ miles for a 15 mile race! The Dan Byrne races range from 40 to 165 miles, so the commute is somewhat more justifiable. They are conveniently scheduled as near as possible to the full moon, making for pleasant night sailing. And, sensibly, they finish near Catalina so that drowsy skippers aren’t crossing the shipping lanes again heading back north to MdR. This is another bonus for me, in that I’m a little closer to my home berth in Oceanside.








Like SSS, PSSA has singlehanded and doublehanded divisions in most races. But that’s as far as they subdivide the fleet. While SSS entries have been booming this year, PSSA gets only 15-20 boats for most Dan Byrne races, as few as six for the two long ones. There’s only one start, and usually no committee boat: it’s been a rabbit start every time I’ve raced with them.

Compared to the SSS fleet, the PSSA has similar variety but somewhat newer boats on average. At the last race April 24 there were one of the new Beneteau First 30s, a J/111, and that Edward Scissorhands boat, the foiling Figaro 3 (I gather it’s the same one that did the Pac Cup a few years ago, under new ownership). But the winner – as usual, it seems – was our commodore Tom Wilson with his well prepped Hobie 33. I got third singlehanded, my best finish yet with PSSA.








Other shorthanded racing in SoCal? This year Los Angeles YC’s Breakout Regatta added single- and doublehanded divisions, perhaps in response to Covid. I think there are a few standalone doublehanded races here and there. In San Diego, the only shorthanded event that I’ve found is Southwestern YC’s George Gray Race. It offers SH and DH divisions, but you can still count the entries on two hands. I know there’s interest in shorthanded racing down here, but apparently no club apart from PSSA is offering enough of it to generate critical mass. Or maybe the problem is that with the large geographical spread of marinas – from Marina del Rey to San Diego Bay – it's hard for any club to attract sufficient numbers of what is still a minority of racing sailors.

As for the crewed racing scene in Oceanside, it’s a bit of a backwater. We have a beer can series, a seven-race Coastal series up or down the coast with two overnight stops in Dana Point and Mission Bay, and several one-day three-race regattas. Fun schedule, and there are some very good sailors here, but again it’s rare to get double digit entries. Last year during the pandemic, the club ran a household-only non-spinnaker series that lured a few different boats out, and hopefully some of those racers will eventually be tempted to keep coming out as racing returns to normal.

We live in the desert, about as far from the ocean as I could tolerate. It’s usually an hour and three quarters to get to my boat, and fortunately a very scenic drive. Before we moved, I grumbled about Bay Area traffic, and someone asked me incredulously “You’re moving to SoCal to get away from traffic?” But since I’m coming in perpendicular to I-5, I rarely see the worst of it. I’ve found about 20 miles of hills per round trip that I can coast down, and that’s bumped my gas mileage from high 30s to usually a hair over 40. As long as I remember to bring all my sailing gear or the tools I need on a given day, it's not a bad arrangement at all.


Max at the helm in his happy place



PSSA Start courtesy Margie Woods