|What do you get when you tumble 13 Islanders into a 130 boat fleet in beautiful weather and send them off to Vallejo for two days? A Great Race! Well, also a great party, but that's getting ahead of the story.
The traditional racing season opener brought one of the best weekends for sailing so far this year. Saturday May 4th dawned with a modest 12 knot westerly blowing through the Golden Gate into the starting area at the edge of the Berkeley Circle. The first mark was can R4 to provide a short leg to windward, then the long run begins up to Pt. San Pablo, past Pt. Pinole, and down the Mare Island Straits to Vallejo Yacht Club.
Mother Nature did her share to make it interesting by throwing in a nice ebb tide to fight all the way up there. With bright sun and clear skies, the nice starting breeze wavered in the stretches between Angel Island and Richmond - as it often does. This sent Islanders is all directions. A couple tried to stay in more wind, but out in the current, while many stayed east of Southampton Shoal in shallow water to avoid the current, but were reduced to running downwind wing and wing at times. This proved to be the right strategy, as the inshore boats both got away from the current and could make use of what little wind there was by eventually sharpening up with a better angle going under the San Rafael bridge.
By then, Blue Streak had long succumbed to the temptation to set their spinnaker and officially entered the Spinnaker Division (the fleet had generally agreed to try this season without chutes.) As Blue Streak walked away from the fleet, past champions Pilot, and Zoop, and new racers Tom Cat traded positions while tiptoeing along the old piers at Point San Pablo to stay out of the current - then running about 2.4 knots. Since most of the other fleets were flying spinnakers, even small boats were catching the Islanders and it made for very tricky right-of-way issues. Boats were claiming obstruction room, overlaps, proper course, room, Room, ROOM with great frequency, and occasional bursts of volume. Pacific High, Nimbus and Mustang had a similar battle as they passed the piers and rounded the San Pablo buoy. (Perhaps a "rules refresher" session would be in order!) But no damage done and we all rounded up with a beam wind for the reach up San Pablo Bay.
The afternoon winds were delightfully modest, making for a great sail. Again, the fleet stayed close to the shallow water to stay out of the tide. One Tartan got a little too close and spent half an hour trying to rock it's way off the mud. Blue Streak finished first, then Pilot, Tom Cat and Zoop, followed a while later by Pacific High, Nimbus, Woden, Mustang, Tenacious, Razor, Lean Times, Raspberry Tart, Mischief - DNF. Mischief was sighted starting, but apparently turned back about the San Rafael bridge. (This finish order is not official, and is a best approximation before the official results are posted on the ODCA web page.)
Packing 130 boats into the Vallejo Yacht Club harbor is simple - it's just like stacking cordwood. Go until you are up against another boat, then tie up. You can easily cross the whole harbor going from boat to boat rather than using the docks! Of course, if you get that many sailors in one place, there is bound to be a party somewhere. Tenacious became the host for much of the Islander group - it was reported that 26 folks were aboard at one point. The Nimbus crew was headed that way with at least three tequila bottles - don't know if any came back!
For many reasons, it was a quiet Sunday morning for the return race. The Race Committee had wisely reversed the starting order on Sunday with the little boats starting first - that's because they were the last boats in on Saturday were the first to be able to get out. Light winds and an ebb tide made for a very challenging start. There was just enough wind to make headway against the ebb, but that meant your stern was pointed down the course line! The trick was to come around late enough that you were not swept over the starting line early. Again a bit of "contact sports" was played by several classes, but a good spirit prevailed and no shots were fired.
As expected, it was a long beat all the way down San Pablo Bay. The sun was out, the tide ripped along at up to 2.4 knots, the wind behaved and stayed under 15 knots and a beautiful sail was had by all. We remarked that we could not remember a day sailing the whole length of San Pablo into a westerly with an ebb and not getting a drop of water on deck. It was beautiful.
The return finish order was Razor, Tom Cat, Zoop, Blue Streak, Pacific High, Pilot Nimbus, Lean Times, Tenacious, Mustang, Raspberry Tart, and Woden.
Jim Robinson always has the right attitude - enjoy this exchange of emails on Monday:
Jim: "Can someone please tell me what the heck happened on that return trip with the currents. I always thought deeper water meant faster currents. On Saturday we hugged the south coast to stay out of opposing currents.... on Sunday the guys that hugged the south coast did much better in supposedly lighter currents...what gives?
1) A southerly lift?
2) Shorter rumb line to finish?
3) Better karma?
4) A clearer mind? (one of my friends held me down and poured scotch down
my throat the previous night)
My GPS showed at least 1.5 more favorable current out in the channel but every time I went out there I'd loose one or two positions......dang.
Enquiring minds want to know....."
Rick Van Mell replied, "That's what we thought too! At one point it looked like Zoop had sailed too far to the shallows and was going real slow. The next time I looked he was pointing high and going fast!
I lost Blue Streak for Harry by holding on to the Point San Pedro side, rather than taking a hitch up toward San Pablo. My Daddy always told me to stay between the competition and the finish line!"
And Jim finished it with, "Your daddy wasn't lying.
Somebody asked me what my tactics were on Sat. and I responded that I had no idea...ask Barry on Tom Cat. We just stayed between him and the next mark, wherever that was."
Pictures are compliments of Mike & Daphne Dickson and Rick Van Mell. Anyone with more pictures, please send them along so we can add them! Click on images to enlarge, click "Back" to return.