03 February 2010

First Race, First Fiasco

Start in any direction. Go around the three marks (under or at the three bridges on the bay) in any order, any direction. Finish before 7pm. That's the Fiasco. Simple, huh? If not for 349 other other boats out there, big current, big wind shifts (and big wind holes), and every boat just single or doublehanded.

And did I mention it's a reverse handicap pursuit race? Being one of the slowest boats entered, that meant we got to go early in clear, albeit hardly a puff of, air. It also meant we had to pick our start direction and first mark without the benefit of watching others' mistakes.

This was the first time I've ever raced my own keel boat. Wait, what's this racing the cruising boat? Well, with Feraligatr gone, Lapras is pressed into double duty, and with Dean as crew we were ready. So, first time for Lapras, and save for a race/cruise across across San Pablo a few years back on Don Holden's boat, I hadn't raced anything bigger than a dinghy since high school. Incidentally, it had been that day on Don's boat out in the middle of San Pablo that I had one of those epiphany things and decided to get back into sailing after being away from the sport for . . . well . . . a long time.

Having started at the front of the pack, I almost feel bad that we made it look relatively easy getting out west and around Blackaller Buoy just East of Ft. Point. Our plan was to get Blackaller crossed off early so that we would not have to risk getting swept out The Gate on the afternoon max ebb if the wind never filled in. Before the start, we'd discovered a nice little eddy to counter the morning's flood tide. And it worked. "1.8, 2.2," I called off the the speed over ground as we crawled east from the start in a very fickle morning breeze. And even when the wind fully shutdown within spittin' distance of the mark, "0.5, 0.6", the eddy washed us along. By staying inshore, we had made the most of this and passed all the boats that started in front of us and went offshore looking for wind.

Oh yeah, back to making it look easy. Turns out about half the fleet decided to follow us to Blackaller first, the other half taking Yuerba Buena first-minus a few oddballs who chose Red Rock first. With this mass of a hundred or more boats bearing down on us we were sure to be overrun in no time. Then, the weirdest thing happened. A little puff from the East carried us and the four other little boats rounding the mark just behind us out into the middle of the channel while the mass of boats behind sailed into, perhaps created by their own, um, massiness, one giant hole. Once into the full strength of the flood mid-channel, the breeze filled in further from the Southeast and we were making eight knots for Angel Island. "Wahoo! See ya suckas!" Here's a good picture of the parking lot behind (I think that's us in the upper right of the photo ripping out to Point Blunt.) And here's a report from the ugly mess back there.

After rounding Angel Island to port (wanted to stay in that nice Southeast wind) we noticed a big honkin' boat, well more honkin' than Lapras anyway, coming directly across from San Francisco with no spinnaker flying. "Are they racing? Surely they must have a spinnaker on a boat like that. Heck, I bet they have more spinnakers than anchors on that thing." Check out the report from Valis for the other side of the story and the "spirited race with a Catalina 22". Er, um, that would be a Catalina 250.

After that it was pretty much just a nice sail around the bay. We rode the flood to Red Rock arriving just minutes after slack. Mixed it up with a bunch of the speedsters coming around the other way from Yuerba Buena (including Eight Ball, the eventual overall winner), rode the newly formed ebb South to Berkeley, crept by YB in a now failing wind with the South Bay ebb now on our nose, sailed backwards for a while, caught a big blast of wind under the Western span of the Bay Bridge and ripped on home on that huge ebb.

Finished at 4:44. Not bad, and looking good.

Other firsts in a long time? Navigating a boat at night during the two hour trip back to Richmond after the race, and eating a good pot of stew on board. Brought back memories of many nights like that aboard Scotch Mist (that Dasher built by the father of the guy who won the Three Bridge Fiasco this year. Weird, huh?)

How'd we do? I think we were the only boat in our class to go clockwise and actually finish before the time limit. We were 4th of 19 in our class, 7th of 43 total non-spinnaker class boats, and 123rd of 282 overall starters.

Doublehanding and Oreos. A Fulton-Anderson tradition

02 February 2010

Light Air Doublehanded?

Dean and I used to do that all the time.

3BF report coming soon . . .