With a slightly downgraded forecast from Saturday, it looked like the first decision of the day would be what rig for Sunday's 4 course races on the infamous SF city front.
I stood at the sea wall with 20 minutes before the 1st start with both 10.7 and 10.0 rigs ready to go. Without looking at what the rest of the fleet was doing (mistake 1), I choose the 10.0 (mistake 2)- thinking the breeze would be up sooner than later. But as always, you need to choose for whats happening now!
For the 1st 3 races I was really underpowered on the 10.0 in the critical spots and couldnt quite get that extra boost of speed or power when I really needed it but as soon as the breeze came up for the 4th race- I had everything dialed in!
Sunday's first race caught a few of the formula fleet by surprise as the boards were the first to start @ 12:30 and a few were late for the start. I had a few dramas of my own- just getting to the starting line as my upahaul came untied on the way down the the course. A few moments in the water, tying things back together and I finally found myself getting to the line with the sequence already started.
Not realizing the extent of the flood tide, I lined up for a normal run at the line but realized I could only make the pin end. I was doomed from the start as everything was looking the same as yesterday with the boards winning the boat end getting the jump from the start and the inside lift at the seawall after the first tack.
More often the none, the opening moves of the game, play a huge part in winning or loosing a race. Preparation is key. Had I gotten on the water earlier with the proper equipment, these 2 negatives could have been easily turned into something positive. Instead I found myself underpowered and behind a the start. A difficult scenario to overcome- especially having to sail in the leaders bad air the next 2 upwind legs. I tried some more high risk moves towards the end of the race to get a bigger reward but instead almost lost 4th place as Jean was motoring well from behind. CRad withdrew himself as he failed to round the offset mark after getting dunked on his rounding. In situations like this, you take any points you can get! Happy to salvage 4th.
In front, Xavier scored another bullet with Soheil and Al following closely behind.
The next 2 race saw similar conditions on the course with a variable 14-18k and strong flood tide. The 4 other dinghy fleets were now, at any point scattered around the course, making laylines, finding clear air and mark roundings- a more difficult challenge. On top of it all, there were plenty of weeds around the course making the decision to back down and clear your foils another variable in the game.
In general, sticking to shore and out of the stronger flood tide was the way to go upwind (as all the dinghies were tacking at the tide line and working their way up the city front) but as always the formula boards are better off banging a corner to keep their VMG to a maximum. Banging the left corner was not an option with the shore limited things. As it turned out, you had to almost bang the right side in order not to get to the shore too early and miss the port layline. A few people found this out the hard way and some big gains could be made on the final approach at the top of the triangle.
With his 11.0, Eric was able to close the gap on me with securing 2 more 2nds and by the last race we were tied. Xavier again took the bullets in race 6 and 7.
With the wind now in the md 20's and gusting up to 30, it was a different story.
Mental block off.
Everything was set up to work perfecly for the 10.0.
Getting the inside lift off the wall wasn't as critical as lining yourself up for a long port tack beat up the course. I got my lane and was off with CRad and the fleet just behind and to windward.
As we approached the middle of the Bay, and the chop became a more significant factor, I felt myself pulling away with better speed. I was able to keep the hammer down for longer and grunt my way to the windward mark just behind Xavier.
Control was the name of the game here with some wicked swell, voodoo chop, SF ferry traffic, the dinghy fleets and some rec sailors cruising back and forth. I pushed it hard in the double chicken strap matching Xavier line and gybed on his line to the bottom mark. At this point, things were so chaotic, I found myself in far leeward strap- straddling the board with a 4' wide stance going deep right towards the mark.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Xavier go down hard.
I rounded the bottom gate and made my way toward the wall and it wasn't before I tacked till the next boards went around the gate.
I had established myself a good lead and now just needed to protect it.
Upwind things were really hairy in the chop with the gust in the high 20's. I kept things managed well and began the last downwind with still a good lead.
That was until I pearled the front of my board into the back of some wicked chop.
I quickly recovered and was uphauling but again my uphaul knot slipped from the boom and I was back in the water- trying to tie the thing back on. What seemed like eternity, was enough to let Xavier, Chris and Al all pass me until I managed to salvage 4th just in front of Eric and secure 2nd place for the series.
Lucky to say the least but some great lessons learned in this race.
Always protect your lead even if it means sailing more conservatively.
Nothing counts until you cross the finish line!
Not having my equipment prepared is something totally preventable.
Next time, that uphaul is going to be secured with a square knot with 2 stoppers at the end.
A huge congrats to Xavier Ferlet GBR- 451 for taking 6/7 bullets and challenging our fleet.
Its always a real benefit to sail with someone faster than you- keeping you on your toes and making you question everything. Without a doubt, we'll be faster next time!
Also a big shout out to the St. Francis YC and their 20+ volunteers for managing the 65 boat circle with out any incidents.
The best race management out there- thank you
Photos Credit: Eric Simpson