Monday, May 4, 2009

Into the white...

Sometimes it doesn't blow 15-25k out of the west in San Francisco.
It's rare- but with a clearing wind, the regular thermals shut down and instead we had a southerly 5-14k, oscillating breeze with some ripe tides and plenty of fog for the 2009 Elvstrom-Zellerbach regatta at the StFYC this past w-end.
2 days of tactical light wind racing was the call for the 5 dinghy and board sailing fleets taking part in this w-ends regatta.

David Wells captured some good shots of the dinghy fleets racing before our warning late in the afternoon. With all 6 fleets racing on the same course, it became a crowded affair- as you can see from the photos to follow. David's sailing album can be found here. Interesting enough, the 505 fleet was loaded at the front with Paul Cayard & Howie Hamlin. Check out Pauls' report @
Saturday's light-wind zephyrs left the formula fleet ashore while the Finn, Laser, Laser radials, 29'er's and 505 raced a windward leeward course- starting in the middle of the shipping channel up to a windward mark just in front of the club. Finally around 2:30 Percy and I ventured out with our Hansen 12.4 and North 12.3 rigs to show that it could be done. Sure enough the rest of the fleet was out with their big 11m rigs. Percy and I had a big advantage with our bigger rigs but there was still plenty of holes to get caught in. By lap 2 of 3, I escaped from the rest of the fleet who got stuck at the top mark with no wind but my angles downwind weren't even close to getting any VMG towards the leeward mark. The 12.3 has a lot of grunt- especially off the breeze but was no match for what was coming next. At that point, the RC abandoned the race and the real fight began to get back to shore in the huge ebb and non planning winds. Adam was the only smart one in the group when he figured he'd mount his 10.7 onto his superlight board. At least he was making headway on the way in!

Wells also captured some shot of me on the12.3 practicing before the race.
The complete album can be found here as well as his witty comments.

Sunday's forecast didn't look much better as the shifty offshore, gusty breeze made for another tactical day of racing. The formula fleet was the last to start in the sequence but I watched the previous fleets making better progress upwind by starting on port and taking the first beat with the outgoing ebb tide. We got off a start with most of the fleet on port- heading out with tide. I was climbing well with Wells, Al and Soheil below me to leeward.
At that point, the fog was so thick, it was anybodies guess as to where the lay line was. Al tacked first and was soon out of sight in the fog. Soheil next and finally I flopped over only to realize a minute later that I was well above Crissy field and had to run downwind against the current to get to the top mark.
Never underestimate the outgoing tide- especially in a light breeze!
David disappeared into the white on port tack- only to be seen at the next start.
I was dukin' it out with Percy who sailed a smart 2nd upwind and got the top mark just before me. He carried on starboard a bit too long after the offset mark and I was able to gybe quickly in between the fleet of lasers and 505's and narrowly escaped.

The 12.3 was really trucking off the breeze and I was catching up with Al and Soheil in front of me on the last leg. I gybed just to the inside of Soheil and carried down a nice puff only to run out of room at the finish letting Al finish a few seconds in front of me.

Arnaud Lepart captured most of action in a great sequence of events as we rounded the offset mark- set in the lee of the StFYC and with the medley of other fleets.
The original can be found here. Thank you for the great shots.

Race 2 started with all of the fleet starting on port tack again. In the middle of the bay, the breeze was up to the mid teens and the 12.3 was beginning to be a handful as I struggled to hold it down in the puffs. Soheil was right below me and not giving up and inch on the first beat. Im not sure the sequence of events next but knew I stayed in the lead and got the bullet in race 2.

Now is when I made the biggest mistake and sailed in to switch down to my 10.0. I thought the wind was coming up enough to warrant the decision but upon sailing back out to the course, realized the 10.0 was way to small- especially at the top of the course where wind was almost non existent.
Again we all overstood the top mark with Soheil doing the least damage to himself and rounding first. I was right on his tail but in the reach to the top mark, it got real light as we reached up to stay planning. Al and David realized the only option was to gybe out and come into the reach mark with some speed. Marion was even in there keeping up the pace. David and Al escaped while the rest of us sat parked at the top offset mark. Percy, with just a bit more power and determination than me pumped up onto a plane and got me for 3rd place in the final race of the day.

Arnaud Lepart was there again as the action unfolded at the top mark.
Some great shot- thanks for the wonderful sequence.

It was Al's consistency that won him the regatta. I may have had better speed but he was right there at every step waiting for the top guy to make a mistake. That's the great fun about racing in this fleet- there's not one sailor consistently winning all the time but plenty of people ready to jump and take the lead. After 3 races, it was Al in first, me in 2nd and Percy in 3rd.
Overall, quite happy with my set up early in the season. Saturday I ran the 72-2 xxs kashy with the base 3/4 of the way back in the track and the booms 75% up- although I bumped them up just before the race which added some additional power. Sunday, I ran the 70 xs kashy with the 12.3 on the starboard 160 as the wind looked like it would come up more. In hindsight, I wished I would have stuck with the 72 and 12.3 combo that worked so well before. Now just waiting for the 11.0 to arrive to complete the quiver.

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