Tested by strong system-generated, cross-current wind, a heavy ebb tide, and twenty-two J/105 teams hungry for their first win of the season, Rolf Kaiser, Shannon Ryan and the other crew of Donkey Jack finished on top at the 2016 StFYC Spring One Design Regatta, March 5-6, 2016.
Gale force winds were forecasted on Saturday afternoon, so PRO Bartz Schneider and his RC team compressed time on the water with three short races, featuring a .4-mile-long reach against the ebb tide to the offset buoy to enable a square downwind leg. Southerly winds built in pulsing storm-driven fashion and showed a westerly shift, challenging racers to find the early starboard layline. Donkey Jack posted consistent finishes of 4-2-2 to lead the day by 3 points, despite Tom Kennelly’s team on Wonder taking bullets in both race 2 and 3!
Kaiser credited their relatively conservative strategy with Saturday’s success: “Our goal was to start ‘upriver’ at the pin, and then make sure we could tack before we got to the port-tack layline as it [too] came up quickly on such a short course. Then we made sure to tack well under the crowd [fetching the windward mark] since you could always make it with such a strong left-to-right ebb. After that we just focused on keeping the boat upright downwind.”
Noted rules expert and sailing coach Dave Perry finished up a week of seminars in San Francisco with an all-day session Saturday, following the J/105 fleet on-the-water and providing a debrief in the evening. Following his advice, several boats got out to the starting area much earlier on Sunday to practice and collect pre-race information. Day two presented sailors with more customary winds from the West-Southwest and even some sunshine. “Now this was in the brochure!” remarked Santiago Said, owner of the Chilean J/105 Patagonia Virgin (#346), as he sailed out to the starting area aboard Bruce Stone’s Arbitrage. His smile grew wider when Arbitrage won the first race of the day. Santiago had come all the way from Chile to crew for Stone in this regatta, and he left for home with Dave Perry’s book and the hope that some of his colleagues read it. He seemed to think they could use help in following the Racing Rules of Sailing!
Both races Sunday featured tough decisions concerning the accelerating ebb and a rather large transition zone between westerly influenced outside pressure and southerly puffs along the shore. Pat Benedict and his team on Advantage3 demonstrated their savvy local knowledge by winning the final race of the regatta in convincing fashion. “In the last race we got a great start and stayed in the ebb upwind. Downwind we took relief along the shore even though the wind was slightly lighter. It must have paid off, because on the last leg we nipped Akula at the finish,” Benedict explained, and added, “These kind of days keep you coming back!”
In the end, it was Donkey Jack that held onto the overall lead with a 3-6 and clinched the first regatta win of the season. We “had challenging conditions to start the season but everyone seems to be able to keep their boats and people in one piece,” reflected Kaiser. “Plus, there were a few new faces out there we are happy to welcome to the fleet. Let’s get 20+ boats on the line for each event this year!”