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Sailors Jake La Dow and Alex Curtiss win regatta in Newport Harbor’s friendly waters

Alex Curtiss, left, and Jake La Dow won the US Sailing Championship of Champions in Newport Harbor on Sunday.
Alex Curtiss, left, and Jake La Dow won the US Sailing Championship of Champions in Newport Harbor on Sunday.
(Courtesy of US Sailing)

Jake La Dow and Alex Curtiss did not have to travel far to compete in the US Sailing Championship of Champions last weekend.

The regatta was held in Newport Harbor; La Dow and Curtiss both call Newport Beach home.

“The starting line was literally my backyard,” Curtiss said. “It felt good to protect home field.”

Representing Newport Harbor Yacht Club, La Dow and his crew Curtiss did not disappoint.

They won the prestigious Jack Brown Trophy after three days of racing on Newport Harbor. The 46th annual regatta, featuring the Harbor 20 class, was hosted by Balboa Yacht Club.

“We thought that we were only going to sail 19 races,” La Dow said. "[Sunday] morning, when we realized that it could be a longer day, we knew there was a lot left to play for. That was just motivation to go out there and not worry about any one competitor, just go out and get a good start, find the good wind and race our own race. We did that, and it paid off for us.”

La Dow won by 44 points over second-place Chris Raab and crew Robert Kinney, also representing Newport Harbor Yacht Club. That could lead to some good-natured trash talking, as La Dow said Raab recently became his father-in-law after La Dow married his daughter, Kayla.

Bill Menninger and crew Brian Bissell placed third, making for a clean sweep for Newport Harbor Yacht Club.

Jake La Dow, left, and Alex Curtiss won following three days of racing on Newport Harbor.
Jake La Dow, left, and Alex Curtiss won following three days of racing on Newport Harbor.
(Courtesy of Tom Walker)

“It’s impressive,” La Dow said. “Going into this, we knew Newport was going to have a strong showing. Nobody thought that it would end up top three. I’m sure some of that has to do with familiarity with the racecourse and the boats, but they all sailed very good events.”

La Dow and Curtiss won six of the 21 races in the regatta, and earned a top-four finish in 17 of them. The final day featured excellent conditions, with eight to nine knots of wind.

They have been racing together for about eight years, Curtiss said, after they were college roommates at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. They qualified for the Championship of Champions regatta after winning the 2019 Barney Lehman 12 Class National Championship.

The Championship of Champions is designed to pit sailors from a wide array of one-design class boats against each other. It was also unique this year because it was the lone US Sailing National Championship event to be contested since the novel coronavirus pandemic began in March.

“We’ve had a few unofficial regattas, but it’s been pretty low-key,” Curtiss said. “Especially for myself, I work for a sail manufacturing company, North Sails, so I’m on the road doing regattas all the time during normal operating times. But yeah, definitely it was cool to restart 2020 on a positive note.

“The Balboa Yacht Club did a great job of just owning the whole COVID protocol thing. They made it super-easy and safe for all of us to participate in this regatta.

“We’re really hoping that their basic framework can be transferrable to other sailing events, not only in the country but all over the world. Even during these weird times, the show can go on. As long as they stay safe and follow protocols, it is OK to continue having regattas.”

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