That was certainly the case for Sunday's long distance race of the SF Classic where the top 4 leading kite boards rounded mark 3 of 14 in the wrong direction despite charging down the slalom course to Berkeley in just over 1 hour.
36 kite and formula windsurfing boards started the race but only 19 finished!
Its the details that count and veteran waterman, Chip Wasson, the only sailor to win the race on both a windsurfer and a kite board made sure he crossed his t's, dotted his i's and rounded the marks in the right direction and finished the race in 108:41!
Saturday's long distance race is actually 2 races rolled into 1 and one of my favorite races of the year. Ive done it about a dozen times, abandoned a few times after breaking down and even won the 2 races back in 2009. Its a 40 mile + grueling long distance race that takes every ounce to finish.
The first part of the race is the San Francisco Classic which takes sailors on a full tour of the Bay with 2 triangles around the red nun outside the golden gate bridge from Crissy field, then a slalom course across the Bay on beam/broad reaches from Anita Rock to Harding Rock to Blossom Rock to Blunt to R4 buoy to R2 buoy to the top of the Berkeley pier, to Olympic circle X buoy and back to the bottom of the Berkeley pier. Crossing the finish line starts the 2nd half of the race- the Ultra Nectar Challenge- which brings sailors back upwind on any course they choose to a finish in front of the St. Francis Yacht Club.
Kite boarders, Johnny Heineken, Bernie Lake, Joey Pasquali and Ty Reed led the charge from the start taking the 36 board fleet of kites and windsurfers out the gate and around the red nun in a flood tide and onward to the 2nd mark stationed just inside the north tower of the golden gate bridge. It was next where they made their fatal mistake rounding the pin end of the starting line to port rather to starboard. This probably gave them an advantage as they didn't have to stay in the light air near shore like the rest of the fleet who puttered around the buoy.
I had chosen the wrong gear for Sundays long distance race thinking the big breeze would be back again after Saturdays salughter house on the Bay with gust to 35k on the city front and beyond 40k in Berkeley circle. My 7.7 and micro formula board were no match for the other guys on formula gear as the holes on the course were often bigger than the gusts.
All in all, I would have been well lit on my bread and butter set up of starboard 167, kashy 64 and Avanti 10.0 but alas you've got to run with what youve got. I tried coming back in to switch once I made my initial run across the starting line before the race but the 5 min gun went off as I was rigging the formula setup. Lesson learned- rig at least 2 sails and be ready to jump on either and go out early to test the course!
I tried to stay in the hunt- rounding the 2nd time around the red nun just behind Wasson and but wasn't able to get through the lulls rounding Anita Rock and shlogged for a the first of many times while the leaders sailed away across the Bay. The pin end and Anita rock rounding were a grave yard for the kites as nearly 1/2 the fleet had their kites fall out of the sky while other parts of the course had 20-25k and steep swell.
You've got the survive the gusts but more importantly get through the lulls!
I contemplated quitting after shlogging for a few more minutes but kept at it after getting some company on the kites. Chris Brown and Tom Gore and I pushed each other from Harding rock onward down the Bay but I again fell into a hole and stopped planning at the top of the pier and watched them sail away.
Adding insult to injury, I had to gybe again on the last reach just to make the finish line on what normally would be a tight reach.
Again- I was looking to quit- getting ready to duck into treasure island and getting a ride back on the chase boats as I looked upwind and saw the golden gate bridge in the far far off distance.
The fleet is pretty spread out at this point and unless you're in a micro battle with someone nearby, it's hard to keep up the pace while beating to windward by yourself. I finally finished in just over 2-1/2 hours almost 30 min behind the leaders but sometimes racing is more about seeing how far you can push yourself vs using others as a yardstick.
Something I continue to learn on the water is that you dont always win but you always try to finish strong!
Xavier grabbed the top formula spot sailing very efficiently on his small rig and formula board just 3 minutes behind Heineken who took the gun and the best time for Ultra Nectar Challenge.
Back at the St. FYC, drinking beers and waiting for the awards while hashing out war stories on the course, it become apparent that the leaders sailed the wrong course and did the sportsmanlike thing and retired form the race. A quick re-tally of the scores made for an interesting end to a spectacular weekend of racing.
Many thanks to the volunteers and race management team at the St.FYC for another great regatta.