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

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