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!
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!
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!
Mays DickeyChalk Talk: Berkeley Circle Strategy w/ Brent Draney
“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.
Playing With A Loaded Gun By Ian Charles, Fleet Captain
The Regatta Pro Mid-Winter One Design Series wrapped up its final weekend under sunny skies, brisk temps, and strong breeze. With over 20 boats seeking overall honors in the series, the top contenders came prepared to do battle and left it all on the water.
The 8 race series on the Berkeley Circle brought a wide variety of conditions from super light & shifty and complex currents to breeze-on and big ebb chop.
Over the course of the three day series, we saw cameo appearances from former fleet champion Ryan Simmons, who teamed up with current season champion Tim Russell, and Quantum Sails top gun Jeff Thorpe.
The final day of the series started with a brief postponement, but the breeze soon filled in from the west and quickly hit 14-15 knots before the first gun. After a tight start, Russian Roulette rounded the top mark first with MAVERICK & NeNe close at their heels. As the breeze freshened on the two-lap windward-leeward course, the top boats’ battle continued with Jam Session joining in the mix, but at the finish line, it was Russian Roulette who took the photo finish win over NeNe with MAVERICK coming in a close third.
The excitement continued in race two–if you thought the game of Russian Roulette is played with one bullet in the gun, think again. Once again, the top boats at the windward mark were the trio of Roulette, NeNe and MAVERICK. While the top group appeared to distance themselves from the rest of the fleet, it was tight sailing throughout with multiple close finishes at the line. In the end, we learned that Russian Roulette was now being played with two bullets as they took their second consecutive race win in race 2. NeNe and MAVERICK rounded out the top 3 with Bruce Stone and Nicole Breault in fourth.
With the breeze now building into the low 20’s, a couple of participants called it a day, and some will be calling their sailmakers in the days and weeks ahead. It wouldn’t be J/105 racing without at least one general recall. The fleet stayed true to form as the building ebb and rising adrenaline levels pushed most of the boats over the line before the gun in race three. After a successful start under the Z flag and a ripping ebb, it was a game of tight crosses and calling lay lines at both ends of the course. The big breeze and choppy conditions made for some great downwind blasts and emphasized precise boat handling. We did see Russian Roulette try and build the picket fence, but they didn’t have a third bullet in the chamber. NeNe took the the win for the race and the overall series victory with MAVERICK in second and Russian Roulette in 3rd for the race and regatta.
Congratulations and thank you to all who participated. A special thank you to Jeff Zarwell for producing a great event (8 races in 3 days of racing) with a thin staff of volunteers and some uncertain conditions along the way. Thank you!
Next Stop: J/Go
We are all looking forward to seeing you on the water next weekend for the Fleet 1 Season Opener at the Sausalito Yacht Club. The J/Go regatta will happen on March 20 & 21 and is a season counter for the annual fleet rankings.
J/105 doublehanders and math nerds rejoice: registration for the Pi Day Regatta is now open! On March 14, PRO Don Weineke and Regatta Chair Bruce Stone will host competitors off the race deck of GGYC for the latest installment of the 2021 doublehanded series. Nicole Breault will be baking a delicious pie for the winner. Register Now!
The First Annual Doublehanded Tandem-Baum Regatta took place on December 12, 2020. Below is a recap of the event along with some illuminating comments from the competitors.
From Ian Charles – Fleet Captain – J/105 Bay Fleet One (SF Bay):
Hello Tandem-Baum Regatta Racers: Thank you for taking part in the first annual Tandem-Baum Regatta on Dec 12, 2020. Congratulations to all participants!
Ryan Simmons & Brent Draney on Blackhawk took the win, followed by Justin Oberbauer on Strangelove and Bill Woodruff on Russian Roulette.
Ryan Simmons, Blackhawk
Justin Oberbauer, Strangelove
Bill Woodruff, Russian Roulette
Tim Russell, Ne*Ne
Bruce Stone & Nicole Breault, Arbitrage
Charlie Pick, Box of Rain
Tom Struttmann, Arrived!
Greg Arkus, Streaker (RET)
Comments from participants:
From Brent Draney – Blackhawk
On the start, the secret was out to start at the pin, which was upwind and uptide as the R/C boat had drifted west. Blackhawk was the 3rd barger, and we threatened a late hook to help move the boats down the line. Bruce held up for a second-row start and still ended up as a blocker with a very good start. You have to be careful not to get too far advanced, or you can’t get down to the mark.
The wind was up and down a lot. I adjusted the jib halyard twice before the first tack, and I played the jib sheet a fair amount. Blackhawk had the advantage of coming over from SFYC, and we passed close to Harding on the way. The ebb was on and ripping much more than I expected early on. Ryan and I chatted about the criteria for leaving the starting line on port or starboard and whether or not to play the reverse cone or go to Angel Island. We thought with the stronger early ebb on the North side that there would be a significant risk of running out of wind before getting to the relief. The tide chart you show with current out of the South Bay at Alcatraz is what I expected with port tack lee bow up close to Alcatraz. That was the play we were hoping for and expected to get significant relief and a leebow.
We were starting to lose range to Arbitrage and crossing into stronger ebb, and I was getting nervous that we would miss the reverse cone. Blackhawk tacked first to Alcatraz, giving up a controlling position to NeNe, but it turned out to be a really bad spot with light air. We barely crossed Bruce when I thought we were a good three boat lengths. NeNe followed and covered in more pressure and on the inside of lifted puffs. They put five boat lengths on us in about 2 minutes, taking a solid lead. Strangelove joined us while Bruce and Nicole continued on starboard, which was a significant gut-check. Blackhawk took another short hitch to the North to get more wind and flipped back to port just shy of a tideline. NeNe came over and covered with a slam dunk, and we opted to pinch up out of Tim’s gas. Two more tacks would be really expensive, and Tim is a fast footer meaning a down option is not likely to work. We got a clear high lane, and NeNe sailed fast to the reverse cone relief. Strangelove avoided the extra tacks and was in the best current relief but less wind. It looked like it helped or was at least break even. The port tack lee bow current was not what we saw at Alcatraz. The current was definitely North to South, and it accelerated from 2 to 2.8 kts. My guess is we had a little runoff from the rain, and the North Bay ebb came early and stronger. Both NeNe and Blackhawk had to tack to get around little Alcatraz, and NeNe’s tack back to the rock looked marginal and not worth two tacks as they couldn’t clear the island. Looking at Arbitrage while we were on starboard, they were way ahead of us with the left shift we had. If we crossed to Angel, we would be behind them. We chose to tack back to port and see if we could find the lee bow south bay current. Tim may have seen the same thing as he let us go, and we got a couple of hundred yards of leverage to the South. For the next 10 minutes, we saw the current slowly clock to coming from the South, and it shoved us up under Tim. His 15 boat length lead closed to about 3. We waited for Tim to tack and followed him to round YRA-8 hoping for a downwind opportunity. Opportunity came fast. After a simultaneous set, we dug deeper, and NeNe had to rerun the kite tack line. We pulled a seven boatlengths to leeward advantage to bow even by the time they got it sorted. We had some trouble balancing the wind direction vs. the wave action of the current of Blunt, and gave back 3 of those boat lengths by the time we were at Harding. We were feeling overstood but were planning a simultaneous jibe and lead back to Blackaller. We finally jibed as JC was dancing on the bow, trying to sort something out. We were definitely overstood, and the chart plotter helped a lot to show us how much. Finding the mark was hard, and it was 1/2 submerged in the ebb. An early letterbox douse paid off, but we didn’t have that much extra time. We sailed close-hauled to Anita Rock and then cracked off a bit to get closer to shore, tacking at the finish line at 12:47:00. I’m not sure if the current relief was worth the extra distance to finish at the club—I’d be interested in hearing what it was like at Angel Island.
From: William Woodruff – Russian Roulette:
Congratulations to Brent and Ryan for the win. If you all are game, I would like to review the race a little. I’ll start with the observations from my boat.
1. At the start, the pin end was favored. RR tacked to the line late and got totally shut out.
I was hoping the current would open a gap at the pin, but this is the J/105 fleet: not gonna happen.
We did a nice power loop and crossed at the pin, which seemed to pay off versus taking sterns. We were back in the mix in about 5 minutes, but we were not pointing well.
2. a. Russian Roulette was off on sail trim. We figured out after the race that the jib halyard was left loose. We had to drive down quite a bit more than the other boats. Big forehead slap on that one, it was obvious.
b. Downwind we were not flying a great kite, but we still seemed to stay about even with Strangelove. Blackhawk and NeNe were too far ahead at that point.
c. Strangelove and Russian Roulette were pretty even upwind, Blackhawk and Ne-Ne drove away from us. I think we have figured out what was wrong on insight on what Strangelove should change.
3. Tactics upwind:
a. The top four boats tacked towards Alcatraz early. My thought was to tack towards Alcatraz and sail up into some current relief. I targeted the NW end of appears the other half of the fleet went towards Angel, what was the thinking there? I did not see much current relief at Alcatraz. We still had about 2 kts between water speed and ground speed, but decent wind. The current gained a southerly component and the wind shifted a little north, so port tack after very favored. I am attaching a current map from noon on Saturday.
4. Tactics downwind:
a. Nothing too complicated here. The main thing was to locate Blackaller (something that always seems too hard – why?!?) and making sure we put enough against the current to turn DDW to douse. Particularly important shorthanded – making sure you can drive down to help the douse. In hindsight, we should gybed earlier as we had to sail pretty hot near Blackaller.
5. Final leg:
a. We tried to stay closer to shore hoping for a little current relief. Again, we were not pointing well and got to watch NeNe sail up our backside. Strangelove out a little on RR, so had better trim, but NeNe was still superior to both of us on speed and point.
Thanks all for making this happen. RR had a great time today. Looking forward to more doublehanded races against other J105s.
From Nicole Breault – Arbitrage:
Despite separating ourselves back from the front group a fair bit by the time we rounded R8, the sailing on Arbitrage was a welcome break from cabin fever. We set up too high and late at the pin so had to settle for a few seconds delay while we waited for room to open on Blackhawk’s hip. We had to work in point mode to stay there and were pleased with how long we were able to hang.
We had the cone in mind, and about the time the lead boats were tacking to port to cross us, we decided to play through a bit and enjoy a few minutes of open water.
The wind seemed better toward Angel, and we also thought the ebb would be less than it was. We got a nice header near Harding and tacked in comparably better pressure than the fleet heading to Alcatraz. In spite of the adverse water we were cookin’ and I was feeling great. Still behind Angel we were pointing at the mark! But then we started talking about what to expect if we continued. The pressure looked great toward Point Blunt and so we went with Arrived for more relief. Then the picture changed. The Alcatraz boats emerged into the better breeze and water east of the island and we found the relief play ineffective and too far. We had to crack off to get to the mark as we sailed uphill through Ne*Ne, Blackhawk, Strangelove, and Roulette demonstrating their double handed spinnaker hoists.
Comfortably behind those four and comfortably ahead the rest, we thought about cleating the spin sheet and having lunch. But instead we decided to do some gybes. Playing a more ‘inside’ route, though not so aggressive as to cross the cone, we put ourselves in a safer position concerning the tide as we sailed into the lighter city front area. We closed up a lot of distance on the four boats we were chasing as they got swept a bit past layline – though that also may have been because Blackaller was hard to spot. Unfortunately, close is no cigar… we trailed into the finish with the last leg a veritable fetch.
I applaud Bruce for managing the pit tasks and singlehandedly turning the boat upwind while getting the main in somehow… I was busy taking forever to squirrel the kite into the forward hatch. In hindsight, tactically we should have stayed close to the pack, hipping up on Ne*Ne and staying ahead of Stangelove and Roulette. Next, having taken extra risk to gain more leverage in better pressure, and then looking good, we should have consolidated our gains and converged with the cone boats in the merge of South Bay flow and North Bay flow. Who knows, maybe we could have taken the lead or at least settled somewhere into the pack to play rather than chase.
Great sailing, Nicole
From Bruce Stone – Arbitrage:
Congratulations to Ryan, and kudos to Ian for lending the Protector and to Don as our PRO. Let’s do it again in January!
From Charlie Pick – Box of Rain:
Pitching in on this debrief, we had a good time out on BOR in my first double handed race ever! I had tried one of the Quarantine cups back in April but that was non-spin. So this was really our first and it went better than expected.
We certainly had some funny moments like the douse where I had to let go of the helm, come what may, to go up and release the halyard.
Tactics were our downfall. We totally missed the start thinking A buoy was X but we had decent speed towards Alcatraz and started gaining boats. We were in the mix at Alcatraz and played the cone well and pretty much as I expected. But then we decided to tough out a cross to Point Blunt with the idea of getting more breeze and splitting the difference btw the North Bay and South Bay ebbs. Alas it didn’t work because the South Bay ebb ruled, but we wound up making a clean finish and sharing a sweet day on the bay with you all.
Reply from Bill W.:
If it helps, on my boat we have settled on the following for the double-handed spin douse. Wrap the tack line on the primary winch, open clutch, and hand tail to driver. Wrap spinnaker halyard on the cabin top winch, open clutch, and hand the tail to driver. We have tried both handing the spin sheet to the driver or letting the bowman take it forward, both seem to work equally well. The bowman stands in the hatch and grabs the tack retrieval line (we have a second line attached the tack). In this position, they are very secure and can use both hands to work the sail. On douse, the driver heads down and blows the tack line. Once the tack flies up about five feet (well clear of the pulpit), the sheet is blown. The bowman collects the foot of the spinnaker like a madman until he has both the tack, clew, and the bottom of the sail in a bear hug. What works well for me is to pull the tack to my body and stand on the tack retrieval line. Then pull on the foot of the sail until you have the clew. This forces the sail into a nicely depowered tube and you can relax. The halyard is then dropped as the bowman, hugging the kite, drops down into the hatch onto his butt and then swims the rest of the kite down. If things start going south, the bowman can just drop in the hatch early with the tack and start pulling, concentrating mostly on the foot. Once down, the three corners are lifted back up and the kite is ready to go up again. The only trick is to make sure the lazy spin sheet along with the jib sheets are around the hatch on the side of boat away from the douse – you have to pull the kite “under” all the sheets or it will get hopelessly wrapped up. Once you practice this a little, the kite drops very easily and you don’t have to do any prep to launch it again. I’m sure all eight boats doused in eight different ways, but this works well for us.
Reply from Brent:
I am very partial to a letterbox douse shorthanded as I can douse the kite and have it safely below without ever leaving the cockpit. It is the safest douse but also one of the slowest and requires rerunning all of the gear for a reset.
It’s the best last douse. Not a good choice if you have to reset quickly. If you ever have to take the kite down solo it’s the way to go. If you’ve never heard of this you aren’t alone. Youtube only has 3 videos. Here is one:
Take the lazy sheet under the foot of the main and over the boom. Spike the tack and pull the kite in over the top of the boom and into the back hatch. The boom keeps the kite out off the water and you have it snuffed against the main to keep it from the breeze. Leaves a mess to deal with later after you get the sails in and driving upwind.
From Justin Oberbauer – Strangelove:
For the start, we could see a poor situation developing at the pin. Although it was the place to be, we chose to start clean down the line and try to stay even with NeNe off the start.
Our plan was to go to the reverse cone, but we needed to wait for Blackhawk, NeNe and Arbitrage. We tacked after Blackhawk, going behind Arbitrage, expecting all of them to tack on us. We were delighted when they continued sailing on starboard out to the left. We sailed deep into the cone until the wind got light, and tacked out for more pressure. We felt the pressure to stay in the cone, but in hindsight would have been better off staying a bit further to the left for pressure. We worked up to the Alcatraz buoy and exchanged tacks with Russian Roulette and Box of Rain, not pulling it off and came out on starboard behind BOR and just ahead of RR. We extended out into better pressure and then tacked onto port for the long tack to the east of Alcatraz. We did not feel super comfortable during this leg. I think in hindsight, we were too tight and not shifting gears fast enough. We saw. consistent 10-12 with short lulls in between and we should have played the jib way more than we did. We tacked onto a perfect layline to the red buoy, perhaps not holding our height as much as we should as we needed a short luff to get around the buoy. It was too close. We got a good set and settled into the run. Nene ran into trouble, giving us an opportunity to move into the second place position. We worked low for the most part until it was clear we were going to be overstood and the started up to give us room to come down for a clean drop. We rounded started in a high mode pointing directly at the finish. RR seemed to favor the shore for relief and out of caution, we favored covering RR, vs heading straight to the line. This caused us to miss fetching anita, we had to tack back out, then tacked back onto port for another cover on RR. We stayed on port until nearly the finish line where we tacked just below the line and crossed in strong adverse current on starboard, almost parallel to the line.
It was a very fine day. Let’s do it again in January.
From Joerg Esdorn – Arrived!:
From the forward cockpit of Arrived!: My lips are sealed as to some key causes of our embarrassing (non) performance, but let me say this in the spirit of contributing to the mutual learning experience, which is much appreciated. Initially, we looked good on the way to Angel with 14 knots of breeze oscillating between 45 and 40 TWD. So then the idea to just wait with a tack over and go for the presumed current shadow of Angel was born. Interestingly, however, we never really found the shadow. On port, we were 2 knots slower on SOG than BSP, on starboard some .7 knots. This did not change much until we were close to the beach. But then, in the last 200 yards, the breeze was down quite a bit so there was no big advantage there although we took several boat lengths of Arbitrage initially. This contrasts with my experience of another winter regatta last year where every time you permitted a boat to get closer to the beach than you, you were giving away boat lengths. Looking at the current charts after the fact, it is now obvious that going left was a clear looser because the adverse current was forecast to be less on the right and with the South Bay ebb, helping with a push from leeward, resulting in a lift and more wind speed. A double whammy. Lesson learned: it’s possible to look at the current charts after the start! On the downwind, we did not jibe early enough and we did not line up compass course to Blackaller with COG which would have been a good start to avoid sailing extra distance. And then the disaster of our take down – I should call it a let down instead. Never attempt a letter box drop on a reach! Tom and I are much looking forward to the next opportunity to embarrass ourselves!
On National Bittersweet Chocolate Day – Sunday, Jan 10 – nine J/105s gathered informally near Golden Gate YC’s X buoy in what has become a monthly rally to get some fresh air and double-handed sailing, and earn the prizes of Bruce’s bittersweet chocolate brownies. With a 4-7 kt northeasterly and a few knots of ebb, expected to build significantly, several skippers wondered whether we could even make it around the course. Actually, an hour before the start, the current was strongly flooding INSIDE SF Marina’s West Harbor driving Bruce Stone’s J/105 Arbitrage sideways into the corner of the guest dock, earning a severe scrape of the hull. After Co-owner (and spouse) Nicole Breault applied a healthy amount of duct tape, the team headed out to the starting area.
With the wind starting to clock north just before the start, and the windward mark being YRA 8 (channel marker R “4”), most boats started at the wind-favored X buoy, while Akula, skippered by Doug Bailey, started on port at the Wave Organ, the shoreside end of the line, in less adverse current. Akula headed along the shore all the way to Pier 39, and looked way behind, especially when the wind shifted further north and both Ne*Ne and Arbitrage were able to set their spinnakers while still on the first leg. With most of the fleet gaining current relief by passing Alcatraz to the north, Akula seemed to be a mile behind. The northerly then ramped up to 12 kts and the “leaders” were sailing on a tight spinnaker reach, barely under control since they were missing 800 pounds of crew! All of a sudden, Akula poked out into the ebb exiting from South Bay and achieved a massive VMG as he headed north toward the mark, arriving there a half-mile ahead of Ne*Ne, Russian Roulette, Arrived! and Arbitrage rounding together in that order. Akula then headed southwest (with the westward flowing ebb) in a fast close jib reach to Blackaller, and the next four boats traded places behind her. It was quite tactical as Ne*Ne and Russian Roulette sailed high so they could reset their spinnakers, while Arbitrage sailed low with the jib barber-hauled to the rail and Arrived split the difference. Approaching Blackaller for the final rounding to finish at Golden Gate YC, Arbitrage moved up to third by passing Roulette and Arrived!, while Ne*Ne held on for second behind Akula in first.
In Doug’s words:
“The J105 BitterSweet Double-Handed Race: aka: Reach-around with Bruce:
Racing on The Bay in winter is always a crap-shoot with respect to the wind. Sometimes it shows up, and sometimes it doesn’t. The forecast for Sunday did not look promising, with a high level Northerly flow in relatively stable air, leading to predictions of just 5kts max across the race course. Couple that with a vicious ebb, and I was in half a mind to stay home, cook brownies for myself, settle down on the couch and watch the wildcard games in comfort. There’s nothing worse than hanging out at the Wave Organ for 2 hours in just enough wind to get to it, but not enough to poke your nose out into the current and pass it. Been there, done that. As this was an informal race, Bruce communicated the course – X (start) to Red 4 to Blackaller to X (finish); my crew Roberto Giramonti and I discussed our options.
As luck would have it, we were blessed with 4 kts wind at 11:00 AM and what looked like better air out in the central part of the bay. However, I was not sure that there was enough breeze to overcome the central bay ebb and I was particularly concerned about the wind shadow of Angel Island because of the northerly component. I wanted to try to get our nose out into the long fetch down the bay quickly to avoid parking or worse, getting washed backwards to Harding and beyond. We decided to take the long way around and hide from the ebb along the city front, before making the call to cross the (stronger, but shorter distance) ebb flow to relief at the back of TI.
Surprisingly, no-one came with us, and by the time we figured that out, there was no way to get to the boats that were already well out into the wind line – we were stuck with our plan. It did not look good for a while as we made 0.1 kts SOG past Ft. Mason. The breeze in there was very light – I speculate that it was coming undisturbed at 4kts or less down the bay and the laminar flow was lifting up over the land leaving us with just zephyrs to use to make progress in the more or less slack water behind Aquatic Park. What kept us motivated was the flags flying strongly on Pier 39 – we were pretty sure that if we could make it past the ebb on the marina wall and into the next section of relief, we would be in good shape.
The money decision was when to head out into the current and go for the mark. It was already easily “fetchable” in the absence of current and so the decision rested on the relative strengths of the wind and current on the run up to Red 4. In the end it was clear that we stayed on the cityfront too long – we never had to go above 40 degrees apparent on what turned into a fast white sail reach past Blossom and Red 2. We saw the central bay fleet coming fast carrying kites (and staysails in some cases) at fine angles, but we were pretty sure that we would get to Red 4 with plenty of gap, which is what happened. At that point it was simply a matter of covering the fleet on the way back out to Blackaller and home to X. We had a kite ready to go and we were watching to see if anyone took a flyer south of Alcatraz, but no-one did and we felt that the guys that did launch would not be able to catch us. We elected to keep it simple and reduce the risk of a mistake by holding our kite in its bag. We won with a few minutes to spare, followed by Ne*Ne, Arbitrage and Arrived!
Bruce handed over our prize – the eponymous Bittersweet Brownies, much better than I would have made if I’d stayed home. A delicious, but nerve-wracking and somewhat lonely, day on the Bay.”
Next double-handed rally for the fleet will be on Valentine’s, Feb 14.
Don Wieneke, fellow fleet member and PRO for our recent COVID series, contributed the following article to the November issue of US Sailing’s One Design Central, an excellent resource for information on J/105s and One Design.
How did San Francisco’s J/105 Class Fleet #1 Stay Happy and Healthy while Racing During a Pandemic?
The answer is by continuing to race. Here’s how we ran a safe six-day series over the summer without a yacht club.
The major clubs usually run our races but this year it was quite different. By mid to late March, most big clubs that host racing events for fleets, including the J/105 class, began listing as “canceled” events that had been on their racing schedules. They did this for good reason, the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fleet #1 of the J/105 Class in San Francisco is the largest fleet in the country. With 57 dues paying members and 25 plus boats regularly racing, we needed to do something to keep the fleet active besides practice. After all, you don’t buy a racing one design boat like a J/105 to just day sail. Okay, for full disclosure, we actually have more than a few J/105s that do exactly that; but this article is about racing.
So, with that in mind, we needed to develop a plan to keep programs active and perhaps provide incentive to grow the racing fleet. How to do it was the question.
Earlier in the year, we had a coaching event with Quantum Sails’ Jeff Thorpe. Jeff worked with Ian Charles and produced racing exercises that were designed to improve racing skills no matter what your level of competence was.
But by early summer with no events scheduled, we knew we needed to do something more than just practice, we needed events. We needed to race. So, we began to seek a solution based around a coached series and here is what we came up with.
We could run our own races at least until the various clubs began hosting their events again. The big question was: Could we allow coaching during the series and still stay within the parameters of the Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) and Class Rules? How should we do this?
What we came up with was a series with more coaching provided by Jeff Thorpe of Quantum Sails. The class allowed us an exception per RRS 87 to have coaching and stay within the Class Rules. We modified on-the-water coaching to stay within the RRS and did Zoom coaching debriefs a few days later.
More Issues and Solutions
Okay, we devised a solution but wasn’t there still a Pandemic going on? How could we deal with that, especially considering that the venue we picked crossed several counties with different health guidelines.
The solution we worked out was that instead of writing specific rules to try and police compliance with a complicated set of county requirements, we simply wrote following in our racing documents:
“COVID-19 POLICY: All boats entered in this series are expected to follow state and local health requirements.”
Judges especially don’t like words like “expected” which sets an unenforceable requirement, much like using the word “may” vs. “shall”. Nevertheless, expectations needed to be set and stated publicly with the intention of preventing unnecessary protests and hearings for no-mask protests.
Still, staying healthy was important to all of us. Fortunately, in California and the San Francisco Bay area, we are allowed to participate in outside activities with masks. Mask compliance in this area has been very good. Since there were no post-racing get-togethers for trophies or drinks at a club, compliance was pretty easy for teams. Since the weather tends to be a bit chilly and windy here, wearing a mask is also good protection against the adverse effects of sun, wind and cold. We were good on this requirement too!
Next to consider was: Who was going to write the NOR, Sailing Instructions and then actually run the events? How were we going to take entries? And what about boats, marks, flags and people who knew the behind-the-curtain art of running an event? How do we secure a Race Committee? These people walk among us or so we’re told. But where do we find them?
And, of course, at the top of every NOR and set of Sailing Instructions you typically see: “The Organizing Authority is” (usually the club running the event). A quick read from the Racing Rules of Sailing RRS 89.1 showed how to solve that issue too. And a quick look at the US Sailing website showed how we could be an Organizational Member giving us the ability to be a regatta Organizing Authority under The Racing Rules of Sailing ($225 a year). Here’s the link: https://www.ussailing.org/membership/organizations/
Once we did that, we’ve got an Organizing Authority and were then entitled to write a NOR (under the RRS). We secured a PRO from the US Sailing’s list of officials and last, but certainly not least, secured a Chief Judge who would arrange a Protest Committee and solve rules issues for the competitors in a knowledgeable, fair and impartial way. Sounds good, huh? Read on.
What Actually Happened
It turned out we had fleet members with RIBS to use as coach, mark-set boats and a Signal Boat. The PRO had a long list of race committee regulars to choose from. The Chief Judge had no trouble assembling a stellar jury of all National Judges for hearings via Zoom.
Turns out the clubs were more than happy to allow us to use some of their race assets but no boats or identifying equipment. It was enough to make it all work.
How Did It All Work out
We ran three weekends of coached racing over three months. Each weekend had six races scheduled. After each weekend, we held a debrief over Zoom with a review of possible improvements including analysis of the top boats since their techniques could be applied to the mid and back of the fleet. In fact, the front of the fleet improved too. Everyone improved and as a result, most teams are suggesting that our fleet host another coached event in the early part of next year. Chief Judge, Rob Overton, held several protest hearings that left competitors shaking hands instead of heads, all done virtually via Zoom.
Regatta Network: For everything needed to organize and communicate with competitors from an NOR to Protest Hearings and Official Notice Board: The best part of Regatta Network is Ken Taylor’s almost instantaneous tech support: https://www.regattanetwork.com
We caught up with Tim Russell for some feedback on weekend three after he and his team on Ne*Ne won the 2020 Covid Series by a respectable points margin.
1. What did you think of our sailing conditions for the last weekend of the Covid Series (October 17-18)?
The weather for the weekend was by far the best yet! Maybe the best ever? Shorts and t-shirts (although Sunday it was a long sleeve t shirt). The flood kept the seas quiet. I think we only took water on the deck on the close reach home after the finish. The balmy conditions behind Angel Island quickly dried them off.
2. Did any particular strategy pay off for you in prevailing over the other top boats?
With the scheduled 18 races with no throw outs we thought the winning strategy was to be conservative and not to take any flyers. We started near the favored end but never at it.
3. Did your team try anything new to help your speed or point or boat handling – something you would share with others in the fleet?
We listened to Jeff [Thorpe] at the debriefs and studied the pictures of our set up. We concentrated on making sure our upwind settings matched the wind conditions. Sailing with a softer rig than normal seemed to help our boat speed in the lighter conditions.
4. How did you like the series as a whole? Any final comments?
Series was awesome! We experienced varying conditions from the first weekend to the last. With Jeff’s help, I thought the fleet as a whole got much faster. The series wasn’t decided until the last Sunday. Up to then, any of the top three boats could have taken it. We learned a lot about boat set up, especially in the lighter breeze. I liked how everybody got better and we were all pushing each other as we improved.
Apropos for this crazy year, weekend two of the COVID Series threw everything at us, and it was a battle of attrition. Not giving up at times was tough. Getting clean(er) air to go sailing was a gift as it had looked like a potential smoke out once again the day before. However, all the aggressive starts and a dragging committee boat on Saturday kept us grounded to the angry mob vibe of 2020 with echoes of a Portland siege.
The wind followed the models fairly well and we had a really good late season blow on Saturday. We brought out our AP jib and left our heavy on the dock. That turned out to be a mistake and we were suffering later in the day when the wind topped 20. Fortunately, Sunday racing backed away from apocalyptic and returned to normal racing on the bay. We had our heavy jib for the second day and wound the rig up in the 18 kts sailing to the start, then adjusted as the wind backed off.
With practice starts and recalls, rumbling off the starting line was a theme of the weekend. Starting on Saturday was a challenge for sure. We would ping the boat end and see it was pretty heavily favored, but then see it shift to a pin favor before the time ran out. We may have been the first to realize that the committee was dragging and started to guess by how much. Eventually we just started at the stable pin. It was a good solution for us that fit with our evolving strategy to play the left side of the course after learning a hard lesson in race one.
The entire fleet was tight and a late port cross at the top mark was a winner if you made it. If you didn’t, you had a 7-boat starboard-tack wall to pick through! Arbitrage showed us this when they tacked under our lee bow, forcing us to the right in the first race and then to watch them lead the fleet around mark one and sail on for the win. Note taken.
We controlled the left on the second race to have the wind shift permanently left and skew the downwind run. The race lost any passing lanes and Jeff Thorpe kept us entertained on the radio trying to find a way to fix it.
Unfortunately, the repositioning of the marks for race three didn’t hold, causing the leaders some significant confusion. Ian figured out that a drifting top mark doesn’t necessarily kill a race since you have a valid offset that you have to get around as well, but the call was made to cancel and resume racing in the morning.
The first race on Sunday was definitely our favorite. The fleet again was tight, and it felt like any of 4 boats were in the lead at any given moment. Again, the left shift at the top of the course was a gainer. We had roundings where the consistent left shift moved us from 4th to 1st around the mark in the last 100 yards. Once we figured out that part of the puzzle, we protected the left and hit anyone who tried to swap sides, forcing them back to the right. Sorry Maverick.
The top of the leaderboard came down to the last race, and of course, we kicked it off with our weakest start of the weekend. Fortunately, we also sailed our luckiest race, cashing in all of our karma for the year! We pulled the trigger too soon and ate up our hole above Jabberwocky. This put us in a slow trapped position, with NeNe and Box of Rain above us. We were not going to live there long, but with Aquavit also trailing Box our escape was blocked by too big a tack and duck. We had to stand on for a few painful minutes. The lee bow from Jabberwocky was made even more painful with a left shift and we finally got out, tacking just after Aquavit and ducking Box of Rain. That made us the South boat of the North pack.
We immediately got a bigger port tack lift and moved into the lead of the North group. I was praying for any right shift to be able to get South with the leaders and cut their leverage to stop the bleeding. We also started to apologize to the rail for how hard they were going to have to hike to get us back into the race. Instead of a right shift to get us back in the mix, we had the biggest left of the day to 215. When I finally got eyes on the top mark, we were almost lifted to it with the South fleet well overstood. I wish I could take credit for a leg of brilliance but we were really forced into a perfect position and didn’t mess it up by tacking away from the port lift. We chose to focus on boat speed instead to win the side we were on. Fellow Blackhawk crew, Jonathan Rosen, summed up the rest of the race, “When we were the first boat to the round the mark, we made an offering to the gods of luck, and focused on sailing a clean race and trying not to give up our lead with an unforced error.”
We are looking forward to this coming weekend. We hope to muster the never give up, never surrender feeling again, have good starts, figure out the wind and current puzzle, and most of all sail fast. We’ll see how much sailing karma is left in the bank!