Keeping One Design Racing Alive During the Pandemic

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 Issue:

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?

Here Is Where They Are

US Sailing has a list of all certified race officials including PROs and Judges. Here’s the link:

For the management of the entries, bookkeeping, communications and scoring we used: Regatta Network:

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:

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.

Here’s the link for Regatta Network for our race documents, scoring, protests, and probably everything else you might have questions about:


Find a Race Official: Officials to run the event and capable of taking insured responsibility:

Become an Organizing Authority. US Sailing Organization Membership:

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:

The Racing Rules of Sailing for 2021-2024:

Fleet #1 AdminKeeping One Design Racing Alive During the Pandemic
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2020 J/105 Covid Champ Take-Aways

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.

Thanks, Tim, and congratulations Ne Ne!

For full results, click here.

Fleet #1 Admin2020 J/105 Covid Champ Take-Aways
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Blackhawk Tied With NeNe, Leads COVID Series After Weekend Two

Regatta report by Brent Draney of Team Blackhawk

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!

Full results here.

Fleet #1 AdminBlackhawk Tied With NeNe, Leads COVID Series After Weekend Two
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Maverick on Top in COVID Series

The air was smokin’ and so was Mav! On August 22-23, J/105 Fleet #1 rendezvoused on the Berkeley Circle for the first of three 6-race weekend regattas dubbed the 2020 J/105 COVID Series. Ian Charles did a lot to inspire and organize the series, and now he and his team took the opportunity to kick off the racing by showing us how it’s done! Here’s his take on the weekend’s action:

What a great weekend of racing.

Saturday started out with 12-15 knots that built into the high teens and low twenties by the second race.  We saw 20-22 knots in race 3 and gusts up to 23-24.  Wind was 215 to 220 with not a lot of shifts, but an increasing flood tide called for careful lay line planning.  We saw tight racing up at the front but the big gainers were made after the windward mark. We saw driving conditions change from flat to lumpy which brought with it some adjustments to trimming and apparent wind angles.

The picket fence on Saturday was a first for me.  I’ve taken two bullets in a row but never three. This was especially sweet when we added a fourth consecutive bullet in race 1 on Sunday!  I think the secret to our success is the scrimp construction of our boat.  It adds a certain something that made it difficult for the pre-scrimp boats to keep pace with us (;-}). All kidding aside, it was a dominant day for us and our crew work really shined.  Our tactician, John Oldham, was in the groove on every call, and hoists, douses, tacks and gybes were tight and right.   

Sunday was more of a dog fight in races 2 & 3 with bogies like fire flies all over the sky.  NeNe got the jump on us in race 2 and while we ground them down, they had half a boat length on us at the finish.  Sunday’s race 3 saw us break right on the first beat after a less than stellar start, and when a 208 shift came through we were hung out to dry.  Rounding 5th or 6th we battled back and passed NeNe with a wing on wing approach into the leeward gate.  On the last leg into the finish, Nene tried for a tight lee bow maneuver which was her only move at that point.  Unfortunately, Arbitrage took a windward position to Maverick which forced us to tack away for clean air.  Coming back on starboard as we approached the pin end of the finish line, we shut the door on NeNe – though they still tried to stuff it in on port with no rights. We topped the day with a 1, 2, 3, taking 4 of 6 bullets and total of 9 point across the 6 races. 

I am very excited that we came together as a fleet to produce this event.  It certainly wasn’t easy. Having the luxury of two Protectors, a very experienced PRO in Don Wieneke, great course management and coaching with Jeff Thorpe, and great volunteers made it all possible.  I can say with certainly that I will never take an NOR or set of SIs for granted again.  They take an enormous amount of effort and careful consideration to get them right. We have 17 boats signed up for the series so far and will likely have 20+ boats in the next two events. My protector took a little damage but boats can be fixed. 

All in all, a great weekend of racing at a time when our entire season has been cancelled due to Covid.  Looking forward to seeing everyone out there again in September.

Fleet #1 AdminMaverick on Top in COVID Series
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Save The Dates – 2020 COVID-19 Season Series

While the ordinary club-sponsored 2020 racing season was a bust, we are happy to announce that we’ll have our own regattas this year.  Thanks to the hard work of Ian Charles and Jeff Thorpe, Fleet #1 will be running a 3-weekend (B-Season) series starting in August.  Mark your calendars now, and line up your crew.

  • August 22nd & 23rd
  • September 12th & 13th
  • October 3rd & 4th

This will be for full 6-person crews and it will be the responsibility of the skippers to ensure safety guidelines are followed.  More details to follow soon via the fleet owners mailing list.


Berkeley Circle

First Starting Sequence 11:00 AM each day 

Racing (Sat & Sun)

2 Practice Starts and 3 Races each day

Full Crew


Remote debrief following each weekend (day TBD)

Entry fee

$250 per boat per weekend ($650 for 3 weekend series)

Fleet #1 AdminSave The Dates – 2020 COVID-19 Season Series
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New 2020 Crew Weigh-in Form

You can download the fleet weigh-in form, with the new weight limit of 1102 lbs., as a fillable PDF that you can download, print, and save. If you have trouble opening this file, right-click it to save it to your desktop, and then open it from there.

Note that this version includes ISAF ID’s and sail tag numbers for all 3 sails. This information is only required for the Rolex Big Boat Series and National events; for other events these sections can be ignored.

Instructions for obtaining current ISAF certificates can be found here.

Fleet #1 AdminNew 2020 Crew Weigh-in Form
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2019 Season Wrap-Up

Rolex Big Boat Series

Wow! Great regatta, Blackhawk! Ryan Simmons and his team on #40, trounced the field of competitors during the 2019 Rolex Big Boat Series. They posted a score line of 2, 1, 1, 2, 4 and a point total of only 10 points that gave them a 10-point margin over second place Ne*Ne. Tim Russell’s #003 grappled with much tighter racing for their runner-up position, taking second place by only 1 point over Maverick and Arbitrage, the third and fourth finishers respectively on the tie-break.

2019 Rolex Big Boat Series Winner, Blackhawk – photo credit Sharon Green

Racing on Thursday and Friday suffered postponements due to the slow arrival of the westerly wind, and only one race was completed each of those days. Yet, good things come to those who wait, and the fleet was graced with classic, big-wind conditions both Saturday and Sunday. The RC served up the BBS-patented bay tour races that highlight geography as a strategic factor. That plus the regular hard-core challenges of J/105 fleet racing on the Bay remind us why this event is special. Take for example the long beat out to Diablo during race 4 when Godot and Donkey Jack hugged Angel Island and played early ebb along the north shore to end-around the lead pack, all while those leaders split… some went to the city front via the Alcatraz cone and came roaring back on a fat angle under the bridge, converging with the others who drag-raced right up the middle. Incredible spread of fast-sailed boats! And man, that return leg back through the Golden Gate to the StFYC race deck in gusting 20s sure is FUN on a 105!

2019 RBBS Action – photo credit Sharon Green

For full results and coverage of 2019 Rolex Big Boat Series, go to:

Season Championship

Ne*Ne Blasting in from Pt. Diablo 2019 RBBS – photo credit Sharon Green

Huge congratulations to Tim Russell and his team on #003 Ne*Ne for their monster win of the 2019 Fleet #1 Championship. They won 16 of the 40 season counters, posted all single-digit finishes before throw-outs, and kept only top 5’s to tally a mere 58 total points. That’s an average score of 1.45! What an amazing accomplishment!!

Ryan Simmons’ Blackhawk did about as much damage to the rest of the field. Save for one 6th place finish, their keepers were all top 5’s as well, with plenty of bullets posted, totaling 81 points and a solid 55+ points over the rest of the pack. Rounding out the top 3 was Adam Spiegel, jammin’ with his team on Jam Session this summer with a convincing win at the J/Stop Regatta and a strong second place finish at the SFYC Summer Keel.

While these sailors are deserving of recognition for their command performance over this season, we all know that scores don’t tell the whole story. This fleet is TOUGH and getting TOUGHER all the time. We all deserve kudos for the time and effort and competitive spirit we put into our boats and our racing. Fleet #1 wins together for that in 2019.

Fleet #1 Admin2019 Season Wrap-Up
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Fun Racing in Shorts and T-shirts!

Who knew summer sailing in San Francisco could be so warm? Even our bowman wore shorts and a T-shirt for two days of sailing hosted by South Beach Yacht Club. What stands out for me after a weekend of sailing south of the Bay Bridge was how different this venue was from the fleet’s usual spots. And for what my vote is worth, I hope we come back for an event next year.

Difference number 1: The wind fills in late. At least it did this weekend. On Saturday morning, the fleet went out to a hot and windless race course. We saw wind out in the central bay, but we didn’t know when it would make its way to us. As a result, we spent the early afternoon floating and enjoying the scenery. For those of you who haven’t spent a sunny few hours between San Francisco and Alameda, the panorama from the new Warriors stadium through Oracle Park, the San Francisco skyline, both parts of the Bay Bridge, and Treasure Island is really quite pretty. And it turns out that the weather can be nice enough to sit back and enjoy it. Which brings us to…

Difference number 2: It was hot and sunny. In fact, it was perfect weather to lie down and take a nice nap on the deck. We sail in sunny weather often enough, but even in the sun it’s usually still cold. For those of you who missed the event this year, remember your sunblock when we come back. Remember that on those rare days you don’t wear spray pants you’ll need to keep your legs from burning. I bet our boat was not the only one to forget that.

Difference number 3: The current. There are strong currents everywhere on the bay, and each location has its own character. Sailing out of South Beach, the current runs across the course in a westerly. For this event, we were in two knots of flood both days. The race committee was fully prepared. They set a starboard rounding at the weather mark, and set very long offset leg to square the run. The fleet, on the other hand, took a race or two to figure it out. Most of us overstood the first weather mark due to the current. Godot, notably, nailed the layline call and ran away with the race one.

Difference number 4: Even when the breeze filled in, it was still warm. If it’s not clear, I enjoy good weather. During the second and third races Saturday, the breeze built to the high teens. However, since we weren’t sailing in a fog bank, it was still nicely warm out. We were reaching for sunblock rather than spray gear. Both up and downwind there were opportunities to gain and lose boats. Both sides of the course could work depending on where there was better pressure and direction at that moment.

Difference number 5: Shifts and puffs. The South Beach race course is downwind of San Francisco. At the top of the course, you need to look out for wind shadows behind ships and warehouses, puffs coming out of McCovey Cove, and shifts as the breeze weaves between the buildings. A lot could change in the last quarter of the beat, and often enough it did. You had to keep an eye out for that final shift or gust that would mean beating or losing a handful of boats. Downwind it was easy to be on the wrong gybe or overstand the gates. This course rewarded the teams who kept their eyes out of the boat.

Difference number 6: South Beach Yacht Club. Like sailing out of St. Francis, the South Beach is a very short sail from the race course. After racing it was easy to pull into our slip and head up to the club. Like SFYC, there is a beautiful deck to socialize on after sailing. The atmosphere was very comfortable for relaxing with the other sailors after a delightful day of sailing.

Sunday the wind was lighter and shiftier, but still great sailing. We squeezed off another three competitive races. Thank you to the race committee team led by Jeff Zarwell. You did a fantastic job all weekend. Thank you South Beach for hosting such a fun event. We had a blast, and can’t wait to sail with you again.

See you all on the water,
Ben Pedrick, on behalf of the entire Jam Session team

Full results at

Fleet #1 AdminFun Racing in Shorts and T-shirts!
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Go left young man…

On Saturday morning it looked like the J/Fest was a repeat of the Spring One Design. Light winds, lots of current (albeit flood) and postponements. Fortunately on both days, the wind eventually filled in and six races were completed in 14-20 knots of breeze, but not without drama that typically comes with any J/105 event.

As it seems to always be when racing in the main bay in spring, it is always favored to be the first to one side of the course and the J/Fest was no exception.

Consistently, the top boats were the ones that started at or near the pin and were able to hold their lane to get left to the relief off the city front.  Visa versa on the run, big gainers were had jibing early to get left to get into the flood that was still pushing down the middle of the bay.

In race one, Russian Roulette played both legs perfectly and held off Black Hawk for their first win of the season.

For the second and third race, winds increased to the upper end of the range and went a little right. But the left side was still favored and Ne*Ne took both races leading wire to wire after nailing two pin end starts.

At the end of day one, the top three boats were Ne*Ne with 10 points, Black Hawk with 14 points, and Jam Session with 16 points.

Sunday brought lighter breeze so at the scheduled 11:30 start the “cat and the hat” flag was displayed instead of the class flag. The race committee lowered the postponement soon after, in what some competitors called an “anxious attempt” to get a race in. The 5 knots of breeze wouldn’t have been a problem except for the three knots of flood. The boats that got left and intentionally over stood looked really good a first, but they had to cross the flood into the main channel to round the weather mark. They soon realized they would need to tack again, and again and again, just to get around the weather mark. Then again, again, and again to round the offset. Some were better at this than others especially Godot who won their first race of the season.

Fortunately by race two, winds picked up to the mid-teens. The race committee resorted to the U flag in an attempt to stop general recalls. A couple of boats got UFD’d (U flag penalty). Everything else would have been fine except a rather large log, no, more like a telephone pole, decided to get a closer look at the action and completely shut the door on the boats choosing to start at the pin. This stopped the sequence until the race committee was able to clear the invader and get the race off.  Box of Rain won the start and went on to win their first race of the season.

Some boats, including Ne*Ne (who had assumed they won the regatta) thought the sailing was done for the day and headed for the barn. But it was only 3:40 and the race committee knew they still had twenty minutes to squeak in a start before the 4:00 o’clock deadline.  Ne*Ne noticed just in time that a race was going to start. They turned and motored back toward the line until the prep signal. With four minutes to go, they quickly set a kite but it looked to be too late. Luckily a puff came through and with 90 seconds to go, they jibed in a desperate attempt to exit the triangle created by the U flag flying. With just eight seconds to spare, they manage to clear the triangle do a Mexican drop around the committee boat, and line up for the start.  Donkey Jack took the final race but Ne*Ne took third to win the regatta by five points.

Top three boats were Ne*Ne 27, Blackhawk 32, and Jam Session 43. Full results at:

The lopsided course the last two regattas has many questioning the wisdom of racing in the main part of the bay in the spring because of the strong currents. I’m on the fence. One thing for certain, it appeared nobody wanted to win this regatta. The scores were all over place and we saw two boats win their first A series race ever (Box of Rain and Russian Roulette). That was nice to see! In fact, we had five different boats win races! It doesn’t get much better than that!

Maybe racing in the main bay in spring mixes it up a little, and adds a different element? This discussion will long be forgotten as we settle in to the rest of the schedule and the more predictable sailing in the summer and on the Berkeley circle.

See you in May.

Tim Russell

Ne*Ne hull #3

Fleet #1 AdminGo left young man…
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