Seven defending champs will have their hands full at the North Sails race week this weekend

Seven skippers are returning to defend championships in the 17th North Sails Race Week Friday through Sunday, but they’ll have to fight their way through some emerging forces to get back to the trophy podium. Off their performances in last weekend’s Long Beach Race Week, Mike Campbell’s new Andrews 52 Victoria from Long Beach and Cita Litt’s bright yellow Schock 40 Cita from Balboa figure to be handfuls for their rivals in the top handicap classes.

Entries reached 150 this week, promising a full spectrum of grand prix competition for boats from 20 to 53 feet.

Victoria was designed to the new Transpac 52 box rule. It won’t be competing in the Transpacific Yacht Race this summer, but it showed its legs by pushing a similar boat, Yassou, to first place, boat for boat and on corrected handicap time. Joined by John MacLaurin’s Davidson 52 Pendragon IV at NSRW, the new state-of-art 50-footers racing alongside proven designs such as Dennis Conner’s Reichel/Pugh 50 Stars & Stripes and Dale Williams’ Farr 46 ILC Wasabi from San Francisco in a five-race series over three days should sharply define the speed potential of the boats and provide valid data points for local handicappers down the road.

Apart from Victoria, Pendragon IV and Stars & Stripes, NSRW also will post awards for winners of a sub-class of PHRF 1 boats with higher handicap ratings, such as Wasabi, which won the class last year. Conner’s boat built a formidable reputation as Morning Glory with former owner Hasso Plattner.

Cita’s stock has soared from the boat and crew that finished sixth among 11 entries in PHRF 2 last year, its first season on the tour. It turned heads with a strong performance at Key West in January, then peaked in sweeping all five races last weekend. Two other Schock 40s finished in the pack as Cita beat two rivals – Ernie Pennell’s defending NSRW champion Bravura, a Farr 44, and Ross Ritto’s Farr 40 ILC — that placed ahead of it at NSRW 2000.

The difference, Litt said, was, “We put in more time on the water than anybody. Every dog and cat fight, we’re on the water. We know the boat well and we work together well as a team.”

Other defending champions are John and Deneen Demourkas’ Farr 40 Groovederci from Santa Barbara, which also was crowned “Boat of the Week”; Scott Birnberg’s J/120 Indigo, Long Beach; Tom Carruthers’ J/105 Incorrigible, San Diego; the triple-owned Winnard-Infelise-Bell Santana 20 Altitude Sickness, Seattle, and Roland and Stephanie Fournier’s J/92 Blue Moon, Long Beach.

Five handicap classes will complement nine one-design classes competing on three courses — one inside and two outside the breakwater of Long Beach’s outer harbor. The first race is scheduled for 4 p.m. Friday, followed by two races each Saturday and Sunday starting at noon.

World-class sailors competing include 2000 Olympic silver medalist Pease Glaser, calling tactics for Dave Ullman’s Melges 24, and two-time Olympian Jeff Madrigali driving Victoria with Campbell. Others working as tacticians for Farr 40 owner-drivers are John Kostecki, John Cutler, Robbie Haines, Craig Healy, Chris Larson, Peter Isler and Eric Doyle.

Event organizer Bruce Golison also has expanded the scope of the event by welcoming its first multihulls. A dozen F-28s and F-31s will spread their wings in the celebrated Long Beach sea breeze.

The Farr 40s and Schock 35s will use the event as a stage for their Pacific Coast Championships. The Melges 24s will feature it as their Western Open and the Santana 20s as their Western Regionals. Other one-design classes are J/120, J/105, Olson 30 and Express 37.

Results and news as it happens