Sunday, June 7, 2015

Keeping pace with the Joneses

The SF Bay Challenge: take the biggest windward leeward course you can fit on the San Francisco Bay and the 2 fastest board sailing classes, add lots of wind & tide and what you get is no less than a spectacular weekend of racing from the city front down to the Berkeley pier and back.

The foil board kite surfers we're going to dominate. No question. That is if they could keep themselves out of trouble.  As for me getting down to Berkeley and back on a foil board. Simply not possible at this point. I'm lucky to make the leeward mark on the foil Kite board but not an endurance race like the Challenge yet.

I rigged avanti 10 & ml89 + 64 Kashy fin for the breeze and flood tide.
Good start with speed 1/2 way down the line. I tacked and rounded closely in 3rd behind Xavier on 9 & Tom in 9.3. The bigger sail was beginning to pay dividends at the top of the course. I even extended the lead past Alcatraz & got going very deep and fast. Ml 89 cm mini formula board has a great range but 10 was becoming all too much in the middle of the course in the steep chop and gust approaching 30k. At the leeward mark, Soheil, Eric and Jean had all made their move as I was in survival mode.
Eric who split tacks and stuck to the north side of Alcatraz challenged Tom and Xavier as they closed in at the finish. At the end it was the foil kites who dominated in just under an hour and the windsurfers in at 1:25 as Stefaans took the line honors with Erika just behind- both on foil boards and foil kites.
In hindsight I'm thinking a 9.3 may be the better high wind formula rig and light air slalom sail that makes the perfect 1 sail quiver for the 89cm board. 
This year it was all about keeping up with the kite foil fleet but I managed to pretty much forget out the windsurfing fleet. Most upgraded to the gaastra sail which has great range and speed + the JP or *167 is standard fare. There's 4 or 5 guys who can win a race in our fleet out of 7. No room for error or lack of keeping up with the Joneses.

Back up wind I was taking a beating. Port tack was straight into 3-4' breaking sets on the Berkeley shoals.  Meanwhile, Johnny Heinekin took himself out from the lead by wrapping his kite in the mast head of an approaching J105 fleet on the Berkeley circle He managed to climb the mast and dislodge his kite from the rigging but was out of the race. Great effort!

I stuck to the city front which was the wrong side as there was no relief from the flood. It took 3 long tacks to get through the city front gap at Alcatraz. On top of that the SW gust were spastic and unreliable as well as swarms of commercial traffic. 

Sunday saw the return of the breeze. I was spent - both figuratively and literally. After 2 course races in the city front the 10.0 was still too much with the gusts approaching 25k+. The top 3 fleet leaders all had 9.3 or 9.0s. Even Jean on the 7.7 and fw board was keeping pace. The 1st race I extended a big lead at the leeward mark but gave it all up upwind as the only the only real way to keep pace with a fw board upwind is by playing the uphaul with your front hand even in the gusts. Easier said than done. It was a race to the corners with long upwind legs and my angle was getting taken advantage of. I had to watch the remaining 2 races from shore as I was cashed out. Totally spent and not dialed into the conditions.


After 3 races, Johnny reappeared at the top of the foil fleet-Interesting enough with the new mikes lab foil with the kick back cant proving once again the Joneses are always evolving at a faster pace than the non Joneses. 
Huge thanks to the St. Francis YC, their volunteers and the competitors who made it through the last race for a great weekend of racing.
Photo credit- Chris Ray

Monday, June 1, 2015

Just when when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

If you would have told me- there would be 35+ windsurfers racing on the SF city front in 2015 I would have laughed at you and told you to get a to kite and join the foiling revolution.

While the San Francisco Bay windsurfing scene provided the roots for the latest kite & foil board racing, whats old is new again. 3 new slalom series are making their debut in SF this summer- proving windsurfing - a sport nearly 50 years old is still alive and well and constantly reinventing itself. This time around, we've learned lessons and are building the fleet from the bottom up with a focus on the B fleet and getting more non racers into the fold.  

Slalom is a quick, easy to understand format with broad reach starts, 3-4 gybe marks and a reaching finish 4 minutes later. Its probably the most exciting windsurfing discipline around- as the fleet comes charging into the 1st mark lit out of their minds, laying down carving gybes. Its a concept even the non racer can understand.  If you can gybe a windsurfer and get back upwind, you can race. No specialized equipment needed for the B fleet but the A fleet is totally open.

It started as a grass roots effort to get more people back into windsurfing racing and ended up surprising us all by the amount of enthusiasm generated. The Crissy Field Slalom Series began as a pipe dream with no RC boat, marks, anchors or even an PRO but with some modern ideas it all worked out. The idea to crowd fund the series came about with no sponsors and none of us wanting to go into debt to make the idea work if competitors bailed at the last minute with no wind. We reached out to the community-asking for small donations and gave racers a discount if they pre registered for the series. Soon enough we had 35 sailors signed up, paid & raised 150% of our goal. The basics were covered to run the series. 4 races are planned, once a month on Saturday afternoons at Crissy Field. With as many sailors registered for the B fleet as the A expect fleet, it was already a success.

The 2nd series is more a less a spin off from our existing Friday Night Course Racing at the St. Francis Yacht Club. In lieu of course racing, we're trying slalom races for 4 of the nights. Even before the 1st race, we had more people signed up for the slalom racing, than the regular course racing. The StFYC has been monumental in developing and fostering the sport of windsurfing from the beginning with the Friday Night Windsurfing series, the SF Classic (run since the late 70')  and Bridge to Bridge race, just to name a few.   The 2 series share the same course- utilizing a series of set permanent and set marks from Anita Rock down to the A & B buoys off the StFYC.

The 3rd series is the Rio Vista Grand Slam to be held on July 9-12th on Sherman Island in the delta. Its bound to be a great windy event with slalom, freestyle and speed disciplines.

For the lowdown on the 1st weekend of racing- keep reading....

Week 1-
Organizing 2 events is way more work than I ever imagined. I'm lucky to have Jean and Soheil teamed up for the Crissy Field Slalom Series. Its been 2 months of organizing, fundraising, and developing a plan for the series to start from scratch. A huge shout out to all the sponsors making the series happen as well as the volunteers conning together at the last minute. 
Robbie Dean was hired to be the PRO and he provided the boat, marks, set the course. We got volunteers as beach masters and scorers at the StFYC race deck. Everything was falling into place and I was able to focus on the racing.
I was really worried there for a minute as the B fleets first race day saw them floundering around the 1st mark in very light wind conditions but they all floundering together and came back for more with smiles on their face.
We ran the A fleet back to back while the B fleet got some extra time to get back upwind to beach & starting line and started every 3rd heat.  11 heats were run with the A fleet getting 7 races and the B fleet 4 races as the breeze finally built to 25-30k for the last 2 races making for some very exciting slalom racing .

It's been an a weird wind pattern the last few weeks with the puffs big but the holes even bigger. Normally you rig for the puffs here but this week it was all about the lulls. For the 1st 4 races, I had the ML 89cm wide board and avanti m-2 10.0 rig with 59cm kashy fin and made out extraordinary at the 1st mark rounding where it was lightest and most of the fleet had 70cm wide boards and 8.6 as their biggest rig. Even though we were sailing the lightwind course, there were still streaky winds on the 2 inside gybe marks at the top of the course.
If you've got an advantage- you've got use it.

I scored a 4, 1, 1, 2 putting me close behind Sean Kelly going into the last race before the break. That's when the wind picked up. The 10.0 became more of a handful than it was worth and I struggled to let 2 boards pass me on the final reach to finish as it gusted up to 20k.

We took a quick break and I secured the avanti m-2  7.7, 70cm ml slalom board and 45cm F4 fin for the final 2 races. I was lit as it approached 25k down the course. I had a great start as Sean and I got out to an early lead after the 1st mark. He's got great board handling skills and gybes and never once gave me an opportunity to pass. Another 2nd it would be.
The final race it was solid 25-30k and the chop was building. I sent it with everything I had and nailed the start with just Xavier in front at the 1st rounding. Sean was out as he blew up at the mark just behind me. I pushed and even made for the pass as Xavier made a conservative but wide gybe on mark 2 but he put the hammer down and took the last bullet, nailing the rest of his gybes and having blistering speed to the finish. Another 2nd but that would be enough to secure 2nd for the day. Jason Voss and Jean Rathle were right up there in the mix  looking comfortable in the breeze.  Chip Wasson made his re-appearance on some borrowed gear- making it actually look harder than it is.
I'm glad to see us both struggling in each others native fleets.

On the StFYC Friday night side- I had just enough volunteers 2 hours before the race to pull it off. Still through it didn't go as smooth as planned. Volunteers always seem to vanish and appear at the last minute. Our marks slipped in the flood tide and we had to adjust the fly. I was on RC for the night with JK on the start boat.  We were sharing the city front course with the woodies and the GGYC keel boats and errored on the side of caution calling it after only 3 races when all 3 fleets started to converge. There's nothing worse than a woodie-windsurfer sandwich to ruin your whole weekend.

All in all- a successful 1st weekend racing with 2 events proving their concepts and ultimately bringing a a few more slalom fans into the mix. I couldn't be happier seeing new and old friends at the beach enjoying racing again for the 1st or hundredth time.

Again- a huge thanks to the following for their support: Bluerush Boardsport, 101 Surf Sports, Boarsports California, F4 foils, Westerm Magnetics, Stepstone, Darriau Building and Design, SandyPoint, Aerotech, Ronstan, Ultra Nectar, Streetsailing, Soheil Zaheti IT consulting, North Sails, Fanatic, Alamo Square Seafood Grill, La Ventana Windsports, Sailing Anarchy and sb Design,

More photos here from Daniel Wong
Friday results
Saturday Results

Thanks for Daniel Wong, Christophe Sabineu, Lyrah, James Mazzanti, Stephanie and Olan for the photos