Saturday, August 28, 2010

Maintaining control in 25-30k

Its no secret- you're only as strong as your weakest link.
Despite having the best equipment this season, its been my body that's been holding me back this summer. Our local fleet has really stepped it up since the North Americans last month and if you don't nail that last tack on the last beat, you can be assured someone will be there capitalizing on your own weakness.
That's exactly what happened Friday in the latest twilight series.
I had to listen to my body and slow down a bit making sure not to overdo anything I might not be able to undo. The doctors advice was to significantly cut back but with 2 races this week, I just had to just maintain and not over do it.
Race 1 started with a good start off the line and leading around the course.
There were some big gust to deal with but for the most part if you've got your equipment dialed in, it isn't too overwhelming- even in 25-30k and big seas.
I lowered by boom and had good control upwind, not getting stood up at all.
Most of the chop you can absorb with your legs- making sure to keep the sail over the center line of the board upwind and not letting it open up.
It was just on the last tack on the last beat that Besse snuck in there grabbing the bullet form me.
Race 2 started in 25-30k and Al, Besse and I got out to a good lead on course B. Heading downwind after the gybe mark got a bit hairy as Al just about blew up and collided with another yacht starting their sequence at the leeward mark.
I saw it all happening but with just a few board lengths between us there wasnt much I could do but let it unwind. I made the quick call to bear off and narrowly avoided a big collision. In the meantime 2 or 3 board snuck in there and got a decent rounding as I struggled to get back on course and finished 4th.
Race 3 saw Wells eagerly trying to make the windward mark despite understanding it and getting plastered up against Anita Rock. Somehow he made a comeback and squeezed me out for 3rd, again making a faster tack on the last beat. Besse took the bullet!
Race 4 saw some great pre- race tactics between Seth and I as I lured him into the windward spot just above me and drove him right over the line for an ocs. Meanwhile, Tom and David got out to a nice jump and maintained control around the course with great speed.
Race 5 was payback time as Seth was determined to drive me back in the fleet. I hung out near the shore till the last 20 seconds and did a dip start down the line with Seth in hot pursuit. I managed to out run him until the last seconds of the beat when he came down hard on me to windward. We were deeper than usual rounding in 5th and 6th so time for a comeback. I dug deep but the front of the pack had really extended their lead and not much chance.
Sometimes its a race against yourself while the other sailors prove to be obstacles around the course.
Taking 4th place, I think Ive got the series wrapped up with 2 more races to go over the next month so it looks like time for a break.
The radio silence probably means Im laying low and doing my best for a recovery- despite the torture of being off the water.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

2010 Ronstan Bridge to Bridge race

Yesterdays Bridge to Bridge race can be compared to launching yourself full speed down a mountain stacked full moguls- only have the finish line at the bottom of the mountain- 1/2 way across the gravel parking lot!
For 99% of the race, skiffs, kites and formula boards were fully wound in 18-24k and steep ebb chop, screaming downwind across the San Francisco Bay- only to come to a screeching halt 100m from the finish line- set just in front of Treasure Island at the base of the Bay Bridge where the wind becalmed the leaders and a river of ebb tide flowed, making it nearly impossible for nearly half of the fleet to get cross the finish line.
In fact only 33 of this years 57 entrants were able complete the race- but not for lack of skill. It was just that hard of a race.
It all unfolded with the last moves of the game as the skiffs came powered in from the city front and the majority of the kite and board fleet sat in the bubble just west of Treasure Island.

Actually the skiffs had it from the beginning.
All they needed was to avoid disaster and it would be theirs to lose.
And they did exactly that- sweeping the podium with the top 3 positions.
In 4th was local Chip Wasson followed by Steve Sylvester in 5th taking the top board spot- and edging out a pack of boards and kites- all trying to inch their way across the line in the opposing current and light wind.
The chaos even started before the starting gun as sounds of crunching carbon could be heard as 2 skiffs got tangled up in the run to the starting line.
With no protest being heard, per the sailing instructions, everything was going to be settled on the water.
The start was pretty chaotic with kites, skiff and boards all running at different angles and speeds across the line. I made a few quick calls to duck the port tackers (yes- duck the port tackers)in exchange for staying upright and full speed.
There's nothing as slow as being skewed on the front of an Aussie 18's 12' bow sprint.
Port or starboard.
You lose!
I was able to ride some big puffs down the city front before it got too light and gybed back to the outside for pressure. This is where things really heated up and Sylvester and I were still neck and neck. He eventually was able to pull away with better speed on his 60cm kashy, north 9.0 and ML10 as we went past Alcatraz in a a wild array of voodoo chop and swell. I think the difference was just being able to put the hammer down. With a smaller fin in the big chop, you can get more control with less drag.
Even with my back foot fully on the leeward rail in the triple chicken strap, I was barely able to hold on -flying across the backsides of 3-5 swell and chop in 20-25k of breeze. I confess, the 67cm kashy that I was riding was more than enough. Pushing as deep as I could, I plowed right over the top of Soheil- not knowing he was even there until I cleared him. Fortunately just a few seconds of delay but when I gybed to make the layline for the finish line a kiter went down just in front of me - spreading his kite, lines and board in a tangled mess. Another few seconds lost going upwind to clear myself and around the kiter.

Things were looking good with the guys in front not making the line and falling off a plane. I came planing in making my way through a graveyard of downed kites, trying to body drag their way to the finish! A few pumps and the lucky puff and I might have it but then in an all too sudden anti-climatic finish, I fell off a plane and was faced with a river of current pulling me away from the finish line. It took another few minutes of real struggle to make it across the line.
I had to settle for 17th overall in what was a disappointing finish but sometimes it's more about the race than the finishing order.
That's all part of the game.
Win or Lose.
It keeps me coming back every time!
Yhanks to Jean for the head cam video

Thanks to the St Francis Yacht Club and Ronstan for the excellent race.
Photo credit: Eric Simonson @Pressuredrop.
Be sure to check out the video footage of the race @ the i-deenfoodas site
and the additional surfcity photos @

Monday, August 2, 2010

Friday Nite Racing @ the St. Francis

Friday Night racing at the St Francis Yacht Club is a summer tradition for me over the past 10 years. The fleet size is sometimes up to 20. Sometimes down to 5 or 6. But all the time you can bet its going to be a race against yourself- seeing how fast you can make your transitions, calling the lay-lines and nailing the start.

Sometimes you get it.
Other times its like shooting in the dark.

This past Friday was the latter.
But somehow most of the fleet made even more mistakes than me and I was consistent enough for 2nd behind Besse who took another string of bullets.

Video by US 13 Tom Purcell on the race deck
The conditions weren't ideal with a gusty 10-22k shifty breeze and a building ebb tide kicking up some big chop along the outside of the course but everyone was stuck doing the same course D for 3 out of the 5 races-Thanks RC!
Course D takes sailors upwind around Anita Rock, inside to gybe at B, outside to A and then rounding X to starboard and back upwind to the finish. Plenty of opportunities to gain or lose.

With slow starts, slow transitions and sloppy rounding, I wasn't doing myself any favors yet the NP 9.5. ML10 and 70 kashy still wanted to go fast. I had good upwind and downwind speed to get me back in the game. I tried out the north formula boom for the first time.
Its amazing how much difference it makes the whole rig feel. The body and outline are much narrower than the HPL or NP booms so I had to extend the boom out another 2cm beyond the recommended settings to avoid the sail draping over the boom. The body was much softer and think it should probably work better for the north sails with a shallower draft.
Nonetheless some very cool features with an adjustable tensioned head and quick rigging feature on the back end. The clips are also very ingenious. Rather than the tail end sliding in the front end. The wide tubes slide over the body of the booms and the clips are moved independently.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Full tour of the SF Bay

It was a full tour of the SF Bay today with Soheil, Aurilien, Xavier and Sylvester outside the gate for flat water formula training then down for some windward/leeward training between stfyc and red nun.

Shawn Davis was on the bridge to capture some great shots.

After lap 2 we headed downwind for the fully monty- riding the double chicken through some gnarly SF voodoo chop off Alcatraz and finally down to Treasure Island where Xavier and Sylvester kept going back to Berkeley and the rest us sailed back upwind to Crissy via a long port tack under Alcatraz and over Angel Island right into Richardson Bay where we parked and waited for the breeze to fill back over the Marin headland. A quick minute to take in the view as the fog was just starting to fill in through the golden gate and Sausalito was fully engulfed in the summer sunshine.

A few minutes later near Harding Rock, we were fully lit heading back across the Bay in a full flood tide with the waters full of dolphins.

A very grateful Jerry Day indeed!