Monday, July 13, 2009

Ronstan Challange Day 2 Course Racing

With 2 days of racing already under their belts, the SF Formula fleet lined up for another day of Epic day of racing on the San Francisco city front. The 19 board fleet was joined by 20 kiters for 4 more course races in conditions that ranged from 10-12 knots gusty winds and a strong, flat flood tide in the morning to ridiculous 20-25 knots overpowered conditions in the afternoon.

Preparation was the key to Sunday's racing where the race was won before it even began...on the beach, in fact. With a first possible start at 11:30- a bit earlier than most sailors were used to, most of the fleet was haphazardly rushing to get on the starting line.
I made sure to arrive by 10:15 and had both the 11 and 10 rigged and ready to go.
At the last minute, I decided to take my 11.o as the holes where pretty sketchy on the inside of the course. The flood was ripping as well, adding another dimension to the already challenging conditions. As I sailed the course before the first start, it was obvious that the middle was the way to go as the puffs coming down the city front were less than frequent and certainly not dependable.
In race 1, I lined up on port tack with most of the fleet- getting off the line well to the middle of the Bay. We sailed for eternity- overstanding the layline by what seemed like a mile to over compensate for the flood and light air. Wells and I had a good lead with our 11.0s but Eric was sailing smart and staying in the puffs to keep the pace.
On the 2nd lap of the double windward leeward course, I was in the lead and had to call the layline again with both Eric and Wells putting the heat on from behind. I knew I had one chance as those guys would certainly sail beyond my line to be certain to make the mark.
It looked good but as things lighted up near the mark and the flood pushing my down, I had to tack back and was parked for the next minute watching Wells and Eric sail away.
The rest of the fleet floundered helplessly in the holes near shore armed with only their 10.0's.
I found having the extra power in the 11.0 was enough to get through most of the light stuff and by sailing smart, you could avoid most of the bigger holes.
Race 2 started much the same with the fleet getting off on port tack. I certainly didnt have the best angle upwind off the line but I was able to hold my own- going for speed in the flood tide. Ben looked like he was going to put together an impressive race footing off to the corner but got stuck in a hole and didnt get going again. Up front, it was Wells and I making sure we both overstood the top mark and stayed in the velocity. David got the jump on the last leg and was looking good heading on the finish but things lighted up on the bottom on the course and he had to gybe back for some pressure. Meanwhile I saw it happening and got to the pressure first and rode the puff down to the finish in first.
Sometimes, its all about being in the right place at the right time.

After a planned break on the beach around 1pm, it was still too light for the kiters to race so we headed back out after a 30 minute break. I knew the wind would be coming up. It's San Francisco after all but could I risk the 11.0 for 2 more races in the breeze. Sure enough like clockwork, just moments before I had to decide what to take on the water, the thermal kicked in and the Bay was full of white caps. I knew quite well, the 10.0 was going to be enough so I switched rigs, fueled up and went back out for more racing.
Race 3 kicked off with a squarer line and more of the fleet charging the line on starboard.
Again, I got a good jump and squeezed out hitting the sea wall first and getting a clear lane for the long beat to windward. I held my own but the fleet was charging hard and the top 5 arrived the top mark and got away clean. David and I were in the 2nd pack, back 10-15 seconds but caught an amazing puff driving us almost right down to the mark as the guys ahead got stuck in a light patch and all had to make an extra 2 gybes to get back on course. Eric was deep enough that he got away clean with only 1 gybe and rounded just in front of me at the leeward mark. Back upwind for the 2nd beat to windward, the chop and breeze were starting to come up but this time around the flood wasnt as strong. We kept the same order, with Eric taking the bullet and myself in 2nd while Sylvester snuck into 3rd for a strong showing.
By the time race 4 rolled along, the breeze was well into the mid 20's with some stronger gusts coming down the course. The chop had built from a smooth morning flood tide to a vicious combinations of swell, recreation boat traffic and voodoo chop.
I pulled out everything I had and put it all into the 4th race- nailing the start and leading at every mark to take the final bullet. Upwind, my legs were pumping like pistons, absorbing the chop while trying to keep the sail sheeted in hard with every gust. Downwind was like riding a bucking bronco- flying straight through the chop with my foot firmly planted in the chicken strap- even going as far as putting in in the backside of the leeward strap when things really got ugly. I watched in hidden delight as both Ben and Wells were stuck trying to manhandle their 11.0's in the big breeze. Crad finished strong right behind Eric and 2nd while Sylvester snuck into 4th- never finishing far behind the pack.
With the kiters anxious to get more racing in, John Craig send the formula fleet in while the kiters got 2 more course races in- in prep for their upcoming Worlds next month.
2 bullets and a 2nd and 3rd were consistent enough to take the afternoon win and the w-end overall title for the US Windsurfing NRT.
Overall-very happy with the progress in both light and strong winds.
Although I didnt think I had the best angle or speed in the fleet, but I made what I had work well and got around the course the fastest.
Next up is the US Nationals in the Gorge- starting next Wednesday with most of the SF fleet heading up.


James Douglass said...

Nice job and nice reporting - Good luck at nationals!

LUCAG said...

Hi Steve great report. I sail an F160 and want to copy your double wide chicken strap. Could you post a photo of the deck, directly above the fin, so I can see where you placed the straps relative to the fin bolts. I have found the central location not ideal, and also too far foward, when the front fin bolt is used to hold the back of the strap. Thanks Steve.