Ryan Simmon’s and his team on Blackhawk once again took home the top spot on the podium in the highly competitive SF Bay J/105 fleet, this time in the 5 race 2017 Swiftsure Regatta run off the western face of Alcatraz. Saturday’s racing saw a wind prediction on the lighter side in the low to mid-teens but this proved not to be the case. With windward marks to port in the vicinity of Blackaller, and early ebb on shore, the clear early strategy was to get to the City Front. Complicating this, however, was a good deal of sheer in the wind, making the deep left corner less advantageous than higher lanes slightly out from shore where breeze held constant, especially in race 2. By the end of race 2 and then in race 3 the ebb had established itself across the course and the right side of the course came into play. Port-roundings to windward made for exciting offset mark action where gybe setting became a must. Breeze in race 1 was low to mid-teens building to high teens by race end. Race 2 saw high teens to low 20s and race 3 saw breeze in the mid-twenties gusting to 30 as racing concluded. Arbitrage’s roller furler malfunctioned in the third race so they made for a jarring visual as they took off on a 3-sail hot reach on the first downwind leg, planing at 11-12 kt and separating from the fleet, passing three boats.
Sunday started once again with wind in the low to mid-teens with the same City Front play prevalent on Saturday. Blackhawk entered the last race with a safe cumulative scoring lead of five points over Arbitrage. Historically, this regatta has been a warm-up for Big Boat Series and the race committee kept to that tradition by giving us a 17 nm Bay Tour, adding some jeopardy to Blackhawk’s dominance and, with no throw-outs, Arbitrage was still within striking distance.
Starting at Alcatraz, Arbitrage opted for a pin start with Blackhawk a few rows up the line. Nearly all boats chose to go to the City Front for tide relief before crossing under the Gate and then working up the north shore to Bonita. Blackhawk and Arbitrage mirrored each other up the course out to Pt. Bonita with Blackhawk in the lead followed by Arbitrage, Akula and Jabberwocky. Some careful positioning with the currents enabled Arbitrage to pass Blackhawk in the last half mile approaching Pt. Bonita, and then they set kites and went high toward Baker Beach for relief from the ebb. Jibing around the Golden Gate Bridge’s south tower, the fleet then rounded Blackaller and zig-zagged across the Bay, touring Harding and Blossom, up again to Blackaller and then a race deck finish. Arbitrage lead the whole way, with loose cover over Blackhawk, but then overstood the last windward mark (Blackaller) and had to cede the inside spot to a boat from a different fleet, the mighty Swiftsure II, forcing Arbitrage to round wide and opening the door to Blackhawk. Arbitrage jibed out for fresh air while Blackhawk played the inside. With very little advantage to either boat Arbitrage was able to pin Blackhawk against the H Beam until they called for sea room. Arbitrage gybed away for the win by a nose in a near photo finish over Blackhawk, followed by Akula and Jabberwocky.
The final results were Blackhawk with 9 points (3,1,1,2,2), Arbitrage with 13 points (2,3,3,4,1), Akula with 18 points (4,2,6,3,3) and Jabberwocky with 20 points (5,6,4,1,4)