May 3/4, 2003
Season Opening Vallejo Race

(If you like, you can skip down through the prose and go straight to the pictures below!)

As the Race Committee said several times over VHF channel 72, "There's supposed to be a big high parked over the Pacific with nice westerly winds this time of year." Instead, the big committee boat was idling under a postponement flag off the northern tip of Treasure Island, 2 miles from the expected starting area on the Berkeley Circle. Billowing cumulus filled big chunks of the sky, with an obvious downpour over Mount Tam drifting eastwad across the course to our north, but no wind rippled the waters of the Bay. Finally a little northerly breeze filled in and the race committee started the 90 sequence of starts to get the 150+ boats racing off to Vallejo.

By the time the I-36 fleet started at 12:55, there was a short 1.5 mile beat to the R4 mark, but also an apparent longer beat all the way to Point San Pablo - normally a nice, fast, 7 mile reach. The first Islanders to R4 were slowly headed into the shallower waters on the Berkeley side of the course. The middle of the fleet got a big lift near R4 as the traditional sea breeze filled in a little from the Golden Gate to the south side of Angel Island. Sailing higher, and with more wind, they quickly overtook the boats to the east, then ran into their own hole in the shadow of Angel Island. At the wind died, the typical "ladder" effect took over, with Pilot reaching up and over current leader Pacific High (Harry Farrell), while Don Schumach on Blue Streak held even higher than Pilot, close to the eastern end of Racoon Straits.

There this bunch sat and waited, with Mischief (Kathryn & Charles Hodgkins) not far astern. Jim Robinson on Pilot had appointments to keep, and at 1359 turned on his engine and powered away for Vallejo. Aboard all the rest we calculated what speed we had to go to reach Vallejo by the 2200 time limit. With hardly 3 miles behind us as 1500 approached, it was very tempting to hit that starter button.

Then a little breeze filled in from the west, with the windward boats getting it first as Blue Streak lived up to her name and took off in the lead. As the wind spread east across the Bay, the rest of the fleet reached after them. With the wind now abeam, and moving aft as we passed the San Rafael bridge and headed for Point San Pablo, other classes set their spinnakers and the parade was on.

But past San Pablo, the wind gods had not finished toying with the fleet. What should now be a joyous run up to Vallejo was not only again getting light and flukey, but off Point Pinole there was a rain squall with northeast winds - dead on the nose. As the spinnakers came down the fleet split with most going to the north side of the course in the stronger, though slowing, tide, and some to the south, trying to skirt the rain and northeast winds.

This agony lasted about 30 minutes before a rumble could be heard astern as whitecap-wind from the northwest drove 60 boats with bow waves roaring up to the rest of the fleet. Again the parade was on, and this time it held right to the end - more or less.

When the breeze filled in from astern, the whole fleet bunched up and marched headlong into the last 2-mile stretch up Mare Island Strait and the finish line. It's always a trick to make it without tacking, or running afoul of the shallows on the east side, but with 60 boats trying to cover the stretch it was a real circus. Not only did everyone but the most windward boats had to sail in bad air, but those struggling to lay the finish line had to contend with starboard-tackers coming back straight across the quarter-mile wide channel . Many a shout of "staboard" rang out.

Blue Streak ran the gauntlet staying to windward of every boat and finished first, Pacific High also fought to stay to windward, and passed, Nimbus (Daphne & MIke Dickson) , Windwalker (Rich Shoenhair), Tenacious (Kris Youngberg) and Tom Cat (Barry Stempe) to finish second.

There were a few mentor/crew swaps on the course too. Rick Van Mell sailed with Harry Farrell on Pacific High, while Jim Stover (Solace) sailed with Mischief, and Larry Terzian (I think) was also spotted. Another great fleet sailor, Peter Szasz, really "jumped ship" to sail on a shiny J 105. Peter tells his version this way, "I was sailing on “Larrikin”. (Owner/driver rule in the class). Tactics, mainsail etc. On Saturday a complete vacuum visited us at the Brothers with some remaining ebb (at about max flood time at the gate. At least according to the book.) Talk about run off. The fleet sailed around us, went from second to last, but managed to climb back to fifth. Sunday was something we don’t want to talk about. In the moderate wind maybe we were tooooooo heavily loaded. (From the party?!) We may have salvaged a 10th."

The really wonderful thing though was that 14 Islanders had started - the largest turnout in probably 10 years! A real tribute to Daphne & Mike Dickson as our Race Chair team for the last several years. Mike is now also Chairman of the whole Bay One Design Racing committee. Congratulations Mike!

It was after 1900 before the fleet was packed into the yacht club harbor, with the overflow directed to the marnia just upstream. The bar was open, dinner was served and the band started playing for a fun and lively crowd of tired sailors!

Sunday morning it was still showery, with a little sprinkle before the rafts broke up about 1030. More normal conditions prevailed and the sections got off to a reaching start down Mare Island Strait, and hardened up into San Pablo Bay to beat into the flood tide. Most stayed to the left (south) side in shallower water away from the current. Tom Cat was first out the strait, followed by Pacific High and Pilot.

Around Point Pinole the winds went light and fickle, shuffeling the order with Pilot catching better winds out toward the current than those nearer shore. (We wondered who had the fast hand on the wheel since Jim Robinson wasn't aboard. Maybe it was Martha!) Windwalker and Mischief also got good shifts and passed Pacific High.

Then it was a nice, long close hauled fetch, or a short tack, to the finish line near the San Rafael channel. It was a great weekend with a terrific fleet showing and a good time had by all.

To see the finish positions, elapsed and corrected times, click on Saturday 5/3 Results, or, Sunday 5/4 Results. You can also check out the 2003 Season Standings to date.

Pictures are compliments of Mike Dickson & Rick Van Mell. Click on images to enlarge, click "Back" to return.

Travis Huff's "Love It" patiently waits through the early postponement. Rich Shoenhair's "Windwalker" checks how the early starters fare on the course.
It's a crowd after the start. Blue Streak (Don Schumacher), Tom Cat (Barry Stompe), Windwalker, Pilot (Jim Robinson), and Tenacious (Kris Youngberg) beating for the first mark.
Pilot tacking to windward of Nimbus (Daphne & Mike Dickson). Pilot's crew trims in.
Pilot has it moving in light air. Mischief (Kathryn & Charles Hodgkins) ghosts through the light air.
Mustang (Joseph Krensavage) is striking against the rain cell moving past the fleet. Mustang, and 100 other boats, finally get some wind and roar off toward Vallejo.
Host Vallejo YC and it's "Command Tower". The entrance was blocked and the last finishers diverted to the Marina!
Panning right, note the I-36 burgee flying from Mischief with two more Islanders rafted to starboard. It's a packed house! Winner Blue Streak is 2nd blue sail cover up at center; Tom Cat is to port with no sail cover; Pacific High is just visible forward and to the left.
Looking forward from Pacific High, deep in the pack. Looking aft, with Blue Streak & Tom Cat second row back.
Pacific High crew Bill Brugler askes if he can finally go off watch! Bill & Art Fowler shed their wet gear and rig for party time.
Skipper Harry Farrell and Carol dig for the goodies. Carol's daughter Michelle does the honors to celebrate a good race and a great weekend.

Here's a link to some more pictures of the weekend from Charles & Kathryn Hodgkins: Mischief's pictures.

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