The Red Eye Regatta
The Red Eye Regatta was conceived of by Pete Reinhart and fellow partiers at a 1975 News Years Eve party held at Arak Bozyan’s home. There are unsubstantiated rumors liquor was involved, but the “rationale” now remembered for racing on New Year’s Day is an alternative to watching football.
Regardless of the true rationale, the hard evidence is that on January 1st, 1976 the first RED EYE Regatta was held, and was run by Pete from the comfort of his car positioned on the AYC point using his horn as the starting gun. That first race was a long-distance race held in great weather conditions, scored under the MORC handicap rule, and included about 20 boats. The complete participant list has not been found but the trophy evidence clearly shows Dennis Awbrey was the first winner. In addition to thinking it up and running the first race, he also donated the race trophy which included his artful attempt at engraving with a 10 penny nail. This trophy survives to this date and continues to be the smallest award ever made at the Austin Yacht Club (pictured above, yup that’s a ruler, and the cup is ~2″ tall).
Within a few short years following the inaugural race, the format was greatly enhanced by Hap McCollum through the addition of Bloody Mary’s (courage extenders) and breakfast. For nearly 30 years Hap was the RED EYE guru, chief bartender, and chef for now traditional Bloody Mary Breakfast. Hap was also always on the starting line for the race regardless of his sobriety or alertness, evidence of this is given by Trenton Wann who relates that during one RED EYE race he looked back at skipper Hap on the helm and found him fast asleep while driving to weather.
The RED EYE regatta has been held every year since 1976 and has been sailed in weather ranging from beautiful spring-like days to freezing rain to dense fog. However, with very few exceptions the weather has not stopped the race. Sailing RED EYE gives skippers and crew the bragging rights that their racing season starts on January 1.
On January 1, 2008, the “McCollum Cup” was introduced in memory of Hap’s passing, awarded to the overall PHRF Spinnaker fleet winner.
In a later year, the “Red I” trophy was created and awarded to the best performing multi-hull sailboat.