Sometimes speed alone is enough to get you across the finish line in first.
Other times, you find yourself tripping over your own 2 feet.
That was the case for Saturday's long distance race- from a start set just off the St. Francis down to the Berkeley pier and back.
The fleet of 20 formula boards and 20 kiters had a 3 knot flood tide to pull them along on the down winder to Berkeley but fought the same opposing flood tide on the return trip.
As I headed out to check out the course 20 minutes before the start, I saw some decent puffs coming down the Bay but the inside was still unreliable- either hit or miss.
Photo credit: Shawn Davis
I decided it would be better to start on port and get out to some steady breeze in the middle of the Bay. That worked best and C-RAd, Mike Z and myself port tacked the rest of the fleet and made our way up the first beat. Mike Z put the pressure on immediately and squeezed me off forcing me to duck and go for speed. As we rounded the windward mark, it was Mike Z, CRad and myself off in the front of with a commanding lead. I was the first the break off and gybe as the middle of the Bay was looking lighter. I found a nice ribbon of breeze and some favorable current along the city front but was weaving my way in and out of commercial and recreational boat traffic and stuffed my nose and went down on the gybe back. A quick recovery and I found myself matched up with Mike Z for the lead again. Downwind Mike Z was able to push deeper but I had more speed. With every puff I was able to make some ground in the smooth flood tide as we blazed downwind towards the Berkeley Pier. Once we hit voodoo chop, I knew it was time to gybe but with my sail bagged out to the max from the smooth water we just came through, I knew I would have my hands full. I tucked the 10.0 in and made a good transition but the powerful sail just slipped right out form my hands as I popped it over to the new tack.
Wells took the opportunity to jump into 2nd as we made last deep reach to the bottom mark- set deep- just to the north of the gap in the Pier.
Back up wind, Mike Z and Wells had a good 30 second jump on me but both had different strategies for the next leg. Wells went for speed, not angle while Mike Z went for angle (but of course kept his speed!) I took the route in between them in what I though would yield the best VMG. As we made our way up towards the eastern tip of Angel Island, I made some real progress with great speed and caught Wells on the first tack. A few more tacks and we made our way up towards Point Blunt where the wind was really howling as it accelerated around and down the towering hills of Angel island. 25-30k with stood up chop directly on the bow of the board made for some survival sailing. I was keeping the pace, evening gaining on Mike Z with speed but I decided to split tacks from him and head back to what I thought might be some back eddies on the coast of Angel Island. Immediately after tacking, I realized I was too far up the coast for any flood relief and was forced to sail in the opposing tide as Mike Z made his way over towards Alcatraz in less tide, immediately putting some distance on me.
In hindsight, I should have stayed with him, knowing I had better speed but got greedy.
If there's one rule to remember in sailing, it's to always stay between your competitors and the next mark.
As I made my way back across the middle of the Bay on starboard tack, Mike Z had a good lead on me and covered for final beat. Meanwhile, out of nowhere, Ben Bamer pulled a horizon job banging the Angel Island corner and had a commanding lead to finish in 1 hour and 16 minutes. Mike Z was next just under a minute behind while I held onto 3rd with the rest of the fleet pushing hard and making up ground on the last leg.
Sunday's schedule is for more course racing on the city front.
Report and photos to follow.