Mike Donohue

San Francisco Yacht Club Elite Keel Regatta: A Thrilling Weekend on the Bay

The San Francisco Yacht Club hosted an exhilarating weekend of competitive sailing with the Elite Keel Regatta on May 18th and 19th. The event drew top sailors from the region, all eager to test their skills against the bay’s challenging conditions. PRO Forrest Gay and his Race Committee team organized a series of five exciting races that kept both competitors and spectators on the edge of their seats.

The regatta featured very windy conditions coupled with a strong ebb tide, creating a dynamic and thrilling racing environment. Amidst these conditions, Tim Russell and his team on Ne*Ne emerged as the regatta champions, securing the top spot with a score of 13. Their victory was hard-fought, with Russell and his crew’s adept handling, fast starts, and strategic tactics guided Ne*Ne through the challenging waters.

Shawn Bennet and his crew on Jose Cuervo delivered an impressive performance, finishing in second place with a score of 18. Doug Bailey’s Akula claimed third place with a score of 19, showcasing resilience and skill throughout the races.

The regatta not only highlighted the competitive spirit of the sailors but also the intense camaraderie and sportsmanship that define the J/105 sailing community. Each team faced the challenging conditions head-on, resulting in close races and multiple lead changes that kept everyone engaged.

In addition to the fierce competition, the regatta was a testament to the exceptional organization by the San Francisco Yacht Club. The club’s commitment to promoting sailing and providing a platform for top-tier competition was evident in every aspect of the event.

As the 2024 Elite Keel Regatta comes to a close, sailors and fans alike are already looking forward to next year’s event, anticipating another weekend of thrilling races and memorable moments on the San Francisco Bay.

Mike DonohueSan Francisco Yacht Club Elite Keel Regatta: A Thrilling Weekend on the Bay
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Arbitrage Wins 3rd SF Bay J/105 Women Skipper Invitational

On May 11, the St. Francis Yacht Club hosted nine teams for the 2024 SF Bay J/105 Women Skipper Invitational. PRO Gerard Sheridan and his RC team ran four action-packed races on the city-front course while Karl the Fog danced across the sky. Nicole Breault’s team on Arbitrage, which included some of her match racing friends from up and down the California coast, topped the field for the 3rd time. 

In addition to playing the shoreline for relief from the flood tide on the beats, Breault credited the work of her team sailing the boat through challenging shifty and puffy phases at the top of the course under Fort Point. “Keeping the boat steady and moving through transitions was hard work, and this added to some tricky tactical decisions we faced as boats converged.” 

The reputation of Fleet 1 with its intense one-design culture was upheld well by all nine women drivers who led their teams in close racing with heavy-air maneuvers and multiple lead changes. Team Arbitrage had their hands full all day with fierce performances by Kristin Simmons’ Blackhawk (2nd place), Samantha Gebb’s Peaches (3rd place), and Maggie Bacon’s Niuhi (4th place). Usually foredeck, Gebb, who had the father-son duo of John and Michael Rivlin on board as well as her dad, found taking the helm to be fun and rewarding. “I can now appreciate the level of drama in the back of the boat when short-tacking the city-front!” 

Breault, who served as regatta chair and who is the current J/105 Class President, expressed gratitude to the owners who made their boats available. “It is such a worthy endeavor to promote the women in our Fleet and in our sport, to give them a chance to lead and prove their mettle.” This regatta was created as part of a larger J/105 Class initiative to encourage local fleets to come up with solutions to persistent areas of gender disparity in sailing. Zeroing in on the lack of women owner-drivers in the Class, Fleet 1 adopted a woman-skipper with mixed crew format. As Breault explained, “having owners and regular crews lean-in to the event and participate makes it extra meaningful. It is an opportunity for women sailors, sure, but the racing community owns it together.”

As the trend may suggest, the SF Bay J/105 Women Skipper Invitational has found its home on the Saturday of Mothers’ Day at the St. Francis Yacht Club. Looking forward to next year’s fun already!

Full results: https://theclubspot.com/regatta/Xq68efp2kn/results?class_id=CeaG5JKCLX

Event photos: https://stfyc.pixieset.com/j105womenskipperinvitational/

Mike DonohueArbitrage Wins 3rd SF Bay J/105 Women Skipper Invitational
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2024 A Season Schedule – Now Posted!

Here are the dates for this Season’s A Regatta Schedule:

Saturday, March 9, 2024 – Sunday, March 10, 2024: SYC March Regatta

Saturday, April 6, 2024 – Sunday, April 7, 2024: Spring Fest

Saturday, May 18, 2024 – Sunday, May 19, 2024: SFYC J/105 Invitational

Saturday, June 8, 2024 – Sunday, June 9, 2024: Encinal J/105 Regatta

Saturday, June 22, 204 – Sunday, June 23, 2024: J/Stop Regatta

Saturday, July 13, 2024 – Sunday, July 14, 2024: Sausalito One-Design Regatta

Saturday, July 27, 2024 – Sunday, July 28, 2024: Summer Keelboat Regatta

Saturday, August 17, 2024 – Sunday, August 18, 2024: Phyllis Kleinmann Swiftsure Regatta

Thursday, September 12, 2024 – Sunday, September 15, 2024: Rolex Big Boat Series

See you on the water!

Mike Donohue2024 A Season Schedule – Now Posted!
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2023 Annual Awards Dinner Tickets Available Now

The 2023 annual Fleet #1 Awards Dinner will take place at the St. Francis Yacht Club on Sunday, November 19th at 5:00pm. Tickets are $30 per person.

This event always sells out, so order now to reserve your seat!

2023 Annual Fleet #1 Dinner

Mike Donohue2023 Annual Awards Dinner Tickets Available Now
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Blackaller is back

Thanks to the efforts of numerous individuals and organizations, everyone’s favorite nearly invisible mark is now much easier to locate.

For those who may be new to the bay, YRA 16, otherwise known as Blackaller Buoy, is located just off of Fort Point, and is named for famed Bay Area yachtsman Tom Blackaller, who tragically passed away in 1989 at the age of 49. Tom was a larger-than-life figure in the sailing community not just in the Bay Area but worldwide. 

Blackaller cut his teeth in the Star Class, and after experiencing success locally here on the Bay, he moved into the 6 meter class where he became world champion in 1973. He worked directly with Lowell North as a sailmaker, and parlayed this success up to the pinnacle of sailing, eventually becoming tactician for Russell Long’s upstart America’s Cup campaign Clipper which gave a good run to Dennis Conner’s Freedom.

In addition to a prolific sailing career, Blackaller was a motorsports enthusiast who accomplished a great deal as an amateur race car driver. Tragically, he suffered a heart attack during a race and died.

Blackaller was known not just as a successful sailor but as a colorful personality. Anyone who knew him had a Blackaller story, and after his death a tribute was held by his friends at St. Francis, and many of those tales made their way online.

After his death, St. Francis established the mark to honor his legacy. Since that time, anyone has raced on the bay has experienced the frustration of trying to find this tiny little mark. No longer! Thanks to the efforts of the Army Corp of Engineers, Scott Easom, the St. Francis Yacht Club including Bruce Stone and others, Blackaller Buoy is now cleaner, more secure & more visible, and will continue to confound racers for years to come.

Mike DonohueBlackaller is back
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Awards Night: 2021 is in the books…Plus, MUST SEE TV! (VIDEO)

The 2021 Season is in the books!

On November 20, the fleet gathered at St. Francis Yacht Club for an evening of merriment & a chance to congratulate all of the teams for what was truly an epic year of racing. Fleet Captain Ian Charles hosted the festivities in the Chart Room.

Special thanks to Justin Oberbauer for putting together a video year in review. Give it a watch here!

Congratulations to the season’s podium finishers and to all of the boats that sailed with the most competitive one-design fleet on the Bay!

1st Place: Tim Russell, NeNe
2nd Place: Ryan Simmons, Blackhawk
3rd Place: Ian Charles, MAVERICK
4th Place: Bruce Stone, Arbitrage
5th Place: Jeff Littfin, Mojo


Ryan Simmons shares Blackhawk’s secret to success.

2022 promises to be quite a year for Fleet 1 with the 2022 North American Championship being hosted by the San Francisco Yacht Club on the heels of Big Boat Series.

Mike DonohueAwards Night: 2021 is in the books…Plus, MUST SEE TV! (VIDEO)
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J/105 Doublehanded Winter Series: Register Now!

The J/105 Winter Doublehanded Sunday Series will be held off of the GGYC race deck by PRO Don Weineke.

Why not leave your boat rigged after Jeff Zarwell’s SYC Midwinter Series and sail with your best crew on Sundays? Way fewer sandwiches!

Dates: 11/14,12/12, 2021 & 1/9, 2/13, 2022 

Register at the link below. NOR, SI’s and the Official Notice Board can be found here also. No fee to register!

https://www.regattanetwork.com/event/23459

Mike DonohueJ/105 Doublehanded Winter Series: Register Now!
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Oh my GODOT!!! – Springfest Recap

Racing at the St. Francis Yacht Club came roaring back to life this past weekend with the 2021 Springfest Regatta. It’s been more than a year and a half since Fleet 1 hit the city front en masse, and weather conditions didn’t disappoint. Twenty teams brought their A-game to face a strong ebb and solid 15-20 knots of breeze for the two-day 6 race series on May 22nd & 23rd.

Ian Charles and Team MAVERICK drew first blood with a bullet in race 1, followed by a 2nd & 4th place to lead the series after the first day by 1 point over Tim Russell on Ne*Ne. The real story of the day was the heroic port tack start by Ryan Simmons and the Blackhawk crew in race 3. The perfect start at the pin resulted in a horizon job and a bullet to end the first day of racing.

Asked about the brilliant start, Simmons said, “We had been watching the wind shift 30 degrees at the start all day and knew it was a matter of timing. The right had paid huge the last three upwind legs, so the fleet jockeyed for the boat, which left 3 of us fighting for the pin. Godot and Arbitrage were clearly going all-in on port tacking the fleet, but we had positioning and were able to ambush them on starboard at the pin as the gun went off. That move forced two huge ducks and allowed us to start at full speed and layup inside the whole fleet on a huge left shift. From there, it was a drag race to lay line. Clear air is king in this fleet.”

Even more impressive was the return of Phillip Laby and his Godot crew after an almost 18-month hiatus. Godot was dismasted in the 2019 Rolex Big Boat Series, and this was their first A regatta with the new mast. It didn’t take long for this previous 2016 Season and Rolex Big Boat champion to shake off the salt and make his presence known at the top of the fleet with 1st and 2nd place finishes in races 2 & 3.

The fleet headed into Sunday with similar sunny, breezy, and ebb conditions, which made for tough layline calls and tight and precise gybing down the city front. The 20-boat fleet picked their angles carefully, with the rocks on one side and starboard gybe boats on the other. Phillip Laby on Godot continued where he left off on Saturday with a bullet in Race 4 after an impressive pin end start and 2nd in Race 5. Ryan Simmons on Blackhawk wasn’t about to lie down either and produced another bullet in race 5. With one race to go, any of the top 5 boats were in a position to win the regatta, so it all came down to the last race.

Tim Russell on Ne*Ne battled it out with Ian Charles and team MAVERICK with close tacking and gybing duels on each of the 4 legs on the 2 lap windward-leeward course. Neither boat was giving anything away with slam-dunk tacks and tactical deployments of the wing-on-wing maneuver downwind. The overlapped finish saw Ne*Ne take the bullet and the regatta win with MAVERICK in second. MAVERICK tied on points with Godot, but Phillip Laby’s 2 bullets vs. 1 for MAVERICK in the series broke the tie. Welcome back Godot!

“Who ordered the Samurai Douse?” 

Elsewhere in the fleet, Charlie Pick & his crew on Box of Rain spent the weekend identifying weakened gear after a year of COVID. On Saturday, their main fine-trim control decided it was going on strike & ripped itself completely off its pedestal. After some quick jury-rigging, the race was back on, at least until the spinnaker halyard cover rudely parted itself from the well-meaning core during the last race. Thus, it was time for the dreaded Samurai Douse

Luckily, this was the least traumatic samurai douse that has ever occurred on the bay. The kite came down gently, new parts are in the works, and the Box will live to sail another day. The MFO Charlie is presently seeking volunteers to go up the stick. A kangaroo court to identify the crew member who ordered the samurai douse will take place later this week. All signs point to the bowman.

Special mention goes to Bruce Stone and Nicole Breault on Arbitrage for abandoning their efforts in race 3 to pick up a sailor from another J/105 who had fallen overboard. This was a true example of the Corinthian spirit that exists in this class.

Arbitrage was awarded redress and a 2nd place finish in race 3 for their efforts to keep a bad situation from turning worse. Thank you, Bruce Stone and Nicole Breault.

Next on the calendar for the season is SFYC’s June Big Fleet Invitational to be held on the Berkeley Circle on June 12-13. See you there!

Mike DonohueOh my GODOT!!! – Springfest Recap
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Chalk Talk: Berkeley Circle Strategy w/ Brent Draney

Blackhawk Tactician & Fleet 1 stalwart Brent Draney was kind enough to share some of his encyclopedic knowledge of the moves to make on the Berkeley Circle after SFYC’s Resin Regatta which took place on April 17-18. Brent shows us how the valuable tool RaceQs can provide insight into the good, the bad, and the ugly after your race.

Takeaways from the video include how to prepare to race on the circle with your forecast, what to look for when considering which side of the course to choose, and a few tactical situations around the marks. It’s worth a watch!

The video is available here!



Fleet members can upload their data to RaceQs onto the website http://www.raceqs.com and analyze individual races with the site’s powerful analytics. You can use your cell phone, your Velocitek, or any other GPS tracking tools. The tool is only as valuable as the racer’s willingness to upload their tracks, so Fleet members are strongly encouraged to do so! If you have any questions about the site, send me an email!

Mike DonohueChalk Talk: Berkeley Circle Strategy w/ Brent Draney
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J/Go Recap: Fleet 1, Checking In

“Race Committee, this is San Francisco Fleet 1 checking in…”

Ok, sports fans, it’s officially that time of year. The season is now officially in full swing and your humble correspondent has been a slacker about posting event recaps. But, hey, better late than never, right?

The 2021 season’s first season counter took place on March 20-21, and Justin Oberbauer aboard Strangelove was kind enough to author this excellent recap of the event.

Take it away, Justin:

Well here we are! It’s finally March 2021 and so nice to be back on the water as a Fleet kicking off our 2021 Fleet 1 Championship Season and bringing back a bit of normalcy to our lives. The conditions and the competition did not let us down and it felt like everybody showed up with their A-Game.

J/Go Regatta, hosted by Sausalito Yacht Club and supported by PRO Jeff Zarwell and his team kicked us off on March 20-21. Conditions were pretty perfect with sunny skies, shifty, puffy 10-15K winds and moderate ebb creating some tricky tactical considerations and exciting opportunities for lead changes. The 6 races were a combination of our standard double sausages and longer bay-tour style courses that took the fleet out the gate to Pt Diablo. Overall, 16 boats showed up across the two days.

Saturday started in typical style with two standard double sausage courses. A moderate late ebb on the north side biased the course with most boats fighting for the boat end and the ability to tack out to right first. NeNe took line honors in both, with Blackhawk coming a close second. 

Race three took the fleet out the gate to Pt. Diablo with the majority of the fleet working the left side in a stronger breeze. MAVERICK led the run, with several 20+knot puffs and big swells making for some great surfing conditions. At the bottom mark, the big decision was which way to go back up wind, Alcatraz to starboard or port?  MAVERICK and Blackhawk chose starboard, working the south edge of the Alcatraz cone, while NeNe and Akula came in from the North. The south breeze was strong and it was looking very good, until boats started poking out from the north side. The right boats made up significantly with NeNe, Akula and Arrived climbing back capture 2, 4 and 6 respectively, but ultimately MAVERICK’s lead was too great and she held on for the win.

Sunday was almost a mirror image of Saturday. Winds were a bit more westerly on day two and the Race committee set-up a bit further south to balance the favored side a bit more. But the ebb still played a major role as boats in the current were generally more advantaged. In race three Blackhawk again demonstrated their expertise in managing the currents with a horizon job on the fleet, working the city front flood while the rest worked the light air in the ebb in the center of the bay.  

In the end it was NeNe, Blackhawk and MAVERICK topping the leaderboard followed by Akula and Arbitrage. Special mentions for top 5 finishes go to Mojo, Alchemy, Strangelove, and Jam Session. 

Full Results Posted Here!!!

Mike DonohueJ/Go Recap: Fleet 1, Checking In
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