Monday, May 7, 2007

spring racing on the city front

Despite a mini heat wave in San Francisco this past weekend (that blocked any chance of a strong westerly developing) - there was just enough wind on Sunday to get 4 races off for the Elvstrom Zellerbach regatta at St. Francis Yacht Club. The Formula fleet sat ashore most of the day Saturday while the other fleets raced in choppy, confused conditions in 4-8 knots of breeze. It was frustrating even to watch the 29ers, lasers and Finns work upwind in a 3 knot flood and holy conditions. Boats would just stop while 20 feet away, others were planning by. We finally hit the course late Saturday afternoon but abandoned racing after 1 lap as most of the fleet wasn't planning.Sunday looked the same as the northerly was evident in the am as the heat was building.
Finally around 2:30 we hit the water for some windward leeward courses. Most of the fleet were on their 11.0's and L7's. Quite a few new north sails on the course this yearwith a few new Hansen sails as well. Seth and I got off the line clean with Percy just behind As we worked our way upwind, it was evident the puffs were the place to be-even if it meant sailing much further to get there. Percy was able to stay planning a bit longer as I fell into a hole near shore and he and Seth rounded the top mark. Meanwhile while double tacking the windward mark in non planning conditions, Al came screaming in from the outside and rounded just in front of me. Off the breeze, I stayed in the middle and caught Al as he gybed early and tried to ride a puff back inside. Rounding the bottom mark, I saw Seth and Percy tacked early and were headed back to the pressure outside. No choice but to follow them back to the breeze. Percy was first to tack but I stayed on port tack for another 30 seconds - overstanding so as to be safe. Just like the previous windward mark rounding, it was Percy who got caught on the inside with no wind. Seth saw this happening and tacked back just enough to round 2nd behind me. Off the breeze though he killed me walking away with to the downwind finish 10 seconds in front of me. Percy was a close 3rd with Al and Soheil in the top 5 as well.
Race 2 - much of the same- stay in the breeze. Seth got out in front while Percy and I had battled it out some more. This time neither of us got caught on the inside. We all overstood- me by too much and let Percy get in front of me on the last windward leg and sneak in for 2nd place. Lesson learned- be smart but don't get too greedy.
Race 3- The breeze was filling in on the inside more so we all started on starboard and rode whatever puff we had up to the shore then worked our way out to the middle of the bay. Percy was able to get a bit better angle as we grinded upwind and was able to close the door on me again and rounded just behind Seth at the top mark. Off the breeze though Percy had an outhaul failure and dropped out of the race. I was able to stay in 2nd with Al and Soheil coming in strong just behind. Soheil had an amazing crash at the finish line where he t- boned a laser. Neither saw each other and fortunately nobody was hurt besides Soheils smashed board. Its always a challenge to race on a course with other fleets. I had the pleasure of rounding the windward mark in a pack of 10 Finns. Watching them all luff up and wait as I dropped my rig at the mark was fun as they had no place to go. Then I got my sail up and was surrounded by 10 finns with no room to accelerate- like being in rush hour traffic in a Porsche.
Race 4- I was going for the start- 100% committed. I had just dove below Seth and was driving down the line with full speed. I could feel Seth just above me. 3-2-1- gun the immediately a call of usa 4 and usa 64 over early. The line was small enough to do a quick gybe and head back out on port. Seth had a bit more speed and by the end of the leg he had several board lengths on me and rounded in front. Mike was able to call the layline perfectly and get me again. As we went back downwind and turned the corner, Mike and I sailed to the inside with a just a few board lengths between us. We got to the shore and tacked. I immediacy realized we were about to enter the restricted area of the H beam just west of the club. I bore down and went below the post while Mike- sailed right through the restricted area. Although he stayed in front of me the rest of the race, I got him in points as there wasn't a throwout with only 4 races. If it were a longer series, I think the best thing to do would be protest.
Despite sailing better than me, Percy beat himself out of the race for 2nd with a broken outhaul and not reading the SI's. Its the small things like that- that hopefully you don't have to learn too many times.
Overall- a decent showing in 2nd place. I still think I can get a bit more speed of the 11.0 with more downhaul. The kashy 70 cm fin felt solid. I could actually hold a lane upwind where as earlier this year, I was struggling to hold any angle.
More photos here and here

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