The longest running long distance windsurfing race in some of the toughest conditions imaginable!
A 40+ mile distance taking the formula boards and kiters out the golden gate and 8 times across the SF Bay, down to the bottom of the Berkeley pier for the SF Classic and back the the StFYC for the UN Challenge.
Seth Besse dominated both races in the 25 board formula fleet with an elapsed time of 1 hour and 46 minutes while kiters Johnny Heineken and Joey Pasquali each took the upwind and downwind portions of their race respectively but still were well off the pace of the top boards with best elapsed finish time by Chip Wasson in 2 hours and 2 minutes
The wind graph off Angel Island pretty much sums it up.
35k at Point Blunt.
I did not sail to win.
I sailed to survive.
Multiple blow ups on the way downwind and upwind had me thinking about about stopping to retire at Treasure Island at least a few times as that was our designated safe spot- guaranteed for a ride back to SF with the RC.
Each time, however, I was able to dig a bit deeper and hang on a little bit longer.
It was a respectable 5th for me in the SF Classic and just happy to have made it back home across the finish line for the UN Challenge.
Ive sailed in 8 or 9 SF Classics and can say this was one of the windiest and most challenging Ive ever done.
My muscles are still sore thinking about it.
Anyways- here's my recollection of how things staked up.
With a 2pm start- it still looked manageable with 15-20k at the start set just off Crissy field.
I lined up prepared with my fastest set up- NP 9.5 rig, ML10 and 67 kashy fin.
I'd been running the top half of the course the last few days and felt comfortable - even fast but wasn't pushing 100% with my back still recovering from over training a few weeks back.
I got off the start brilliantly on port tack- getting almost up to the bridge only to realize it was a general recall. I high tailed it back and just made the restart- getting a decent position off the line on starboard tack.
I flopped over taking advantage of the shore lift and set up for the long the first of many grinding legs. Ben Bamer was gunning from the start but over stood the top mark while Seth called it perfectly tacking under the bridge and straight out to the red nun buoy set west of the south tower of the golden gate bridge. I lost Xavier here over standing as well but was in the hunt in the top 4 with Wells, and Purcell in hot pursuit towards the next mark- set just inside the north tower. We gybed in a messy stew of vodoo chop, current and boat wake and in no time were off to the presidio shoal buoy set just off the old coast guard station in from Ft. Point.
This can sometimes be where the race is won or lost as there's a huge opportunity for separation as the wind is much lighter set in the lee of Presidio just out from the wind line.
I was able to overtake Xavier as he showed a moment of weakness coming into the mark high as the rest of us put some money in the bank and heated it up as it got lighter
Seth wasnt able to make a break yet but had a good lead as we headed back upwind to the red nun for the 2nd time.
photo credit: seirra photosXavier and I were batteling it out for 3rd grinding upwind as Tom Purcell held his own in 2nd with Well and Bamer not far behind.
Once more out the gate and across to the north tower saw things stay heated up and finally we were off downwind to Anita rock with Seth in first, Tom in 2nd and me holding onto 3rd with Wells and Xavier breathing down my neck.
I let the 2 of the get by me the next leg as Xavier went high Wells went low to Harding rock set across the Bay on the western edge of Angel Island.
As we gybed and made out way down to Blossom rock, things really heated up
The swell below Alcatrez was big and the breeze building to 25k+
I went from running in the double chicken strap to running with my foot in the leeward strap just for control. The next thing I knew I was blind sides by a wave the took my feet out right from under neath me. A quick water start but Wells was able to slip by.
Blossom Rock was a feat to maneuver around with my cams still fully inverted fighting for control as I made a conservative gybe trying not to explode
The next leg was pure hell with no comfortable way around it.
Somewhere between a beam reach and a close reach on a formula board is pretty much the most uncomfortable position you would ever want to piut yourself in. Add 4-6' breaking swell and the wind now gusting above 30k.
I made it around Point Blunt only to encounter more of the same on the way to Blossom Rock set west of Treasure Island.
At that point it was a blur of some of the hairiest sailing I have ever done on the Bay.
Im not sure when Eric went past me as I didnt even see him till we got in.
I tried to reel David in on the way down to R4 and R2 set below Alcatrez and Angel Island but was fighting just for survival. I missed the opportunity to gain more as David extended his lead by sailing well past R2 before gyning and finding some flatter water for better control.
I gybed immediately and stumbled upon the top of the pier.
At that point I was hurting but had enough momentum to keep pushing as Sylvester was now with in striking distance behind me.
I held on the last 2 legs going to the Olympic circle X mark and finally down to the bottom of the pier unable to catch Wells for 4th as top 3 squeezed in a good 2 minutes in front of me. Besse, Eric and Xavier took the honors.
There was a bit of confusion as the finish boat that's normally at the bottom gap in the pier was stationed in the middle of the pier but in any case we were back grinding upwind for the long beat home and the Ultra Nectar Challenge.
With Sylvester hot on my tail and slowly gaining I looked down to see a good patch of sea grass trailing from my fin. A quick back down let Steve get by me but the real test was coming ahead.
Port tack seemed an eternal punishment for all the bad things I had done in my life.
I was getting pounded never able to put the hammer down.
Wave after wave- the board was flying well out of the water across the top of the 4-6 swell.
In hindsight its easy to look back and say- yea another 1" forward on the mast track would have quieted things down. Picking the right direction upwind and staying out of the big stuff would have been another step in the right direction but I was getting all the punishment that was coming to me.
Just as I was making up some distance on Wells in front of me, I got slammed several times and ended up in the eddy behind Alactrez fighting against myself as I got too close to the shore.
50' later it was blowing 25k and I couldn't even get to it.
The fishermen around me must have though I was quite a spectacle, cursing the gods above, uphauling and falling in multiple times in the swirling eddy.
I thought to myself- keep it together and just finish the race.
10 minutes later I made it across the the finish line but well off the pace of the top boards who made the journey in 41 minutes.
Sunday was a blur with my head never in the game for course racing.
Choosing the right sail would have at least got me in the top pack but I struggled with a hangover and being underpowered with the 9.5 rig in what seemed like a mild day of racing in 12-17k.
Besse pulled another string of bullets.
I came ashore and collapsed after 4 races.
1 week to recover before doing it all again for 5 days of racing on the city front for the 2010 US Windsurfing National Championships.