Monday, June 10, 2013

Out smarted

They say- if you've got a secret to keep from sailors- put it in the sailing instructions as no one reads them anyway!
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.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sailing smarter

I've been trying to beat one of my arch rivals around the course for the last few years without much success.
He always gets me- even on my home waters.
Today it finally happened.
I was able to best him at his own game by sailing even more efficient than him.

Sometimes it's not about how much sail or board you can hold but how efficiently you can use it.

We had a small mixed fleet of formula boards & kites for the first day of racing at the St.FYC SF Classic. Most of the kite fleet was spent after 16 races over the past 4 days but a handful showed up for more racing.
I rigged both the starboard 167, 64 kashy fin and avanti 10.0 + the mikeslab 89cm board, kashy 61 & avanti 7.7. The San Francisco fleet hasn't always enforced the class rules here of 1 board & 3 sails but would rather progress the sport through trying new ideas.
I had the hybrid board & slalom sail on standby-ready to use if the breeze came up. Sure enough by race 1 it was gusting to 25k & building.
I went out with my starboard 167 & 7.7 but hadn't tried this combo yet but Xavier had been making a similar setup work very well the past few seasons.
Al & Xavier got off the line well but I couldn't quite find 5th gear in the chop. We rounded the top mark in front of the kites and I immediately gybed off with Tom to get back to the middle. Tom went down hard as we approached the leeward mark in some wicked chop while Al & Xavier were able to cross and get the advantage upwind and it stuck in that order to the finish. The avanti 7.7 was easy to handle but the starboard 167 was starting to get overpowered.
I came in and switched to the smaller board and fin and kept the 7.7.
The combo was a dream to sail. I had power, angle and speed and was not overpowered. The breeze was building to 30k while the wind swell was breaking across the bay.
I was able to put the hammer down for longer and sail more efficiently than the rest of the fleet and climbed upwind to get to the windward mark just behind the top kite. Downwind it was a wild ride, an ocean rodeo of sorts with the swell and wind sending the the fleet flying across the bay to the leeward gate. If you could avoid catastrophe- it would be a miracle!
Boards were going down left & right but I was able to keep it together and round ahead at the leeward gate behind the top 2 kites. I split tacks but the 2 kites got me in the end but was the first formula board to finish.
Race 3: same setup but windier. The gusts were coming through in the mid 30s. I was able to get a good jump on the fleet by starting strong but fumbled my 1st tack at the sea wall and let Xavier and Tom gain the advantage on port tack grind to the windward mark. I went below them with speed and rounded just behind Xavier as Tom went down on his tack. Downwind we all charged hard in probably the most trying conditions I've sailed in. My leeward foot was firmly planted in the double chicken strap and the 7.7 was pulling like a freight train. Somehow we all made it to the leeward mark at the same time but Tom left the door open for me to get inside at the rounding and I put the hammer down for the last beat. Partof the advantage of sailing a smaller board and rig are that you are able to make transitions easier and more efficiently.
With 2 kites in front of me I was grinding them down but Adam Vance on a kite board & 7m kite got the bullet as I squeaked by the 2nd kite in the last 30 seconds to the finish line.
That was enough to tie with Adam for the overall lead but after 3 races it was decided it was just to windy to race.
Up next is the 40 mile + long distance race out the gate with 18 gybe marks downwind to Berkeley and then back home.

To give you an idea of how windy it was on Saturday on bay- guys were sailing with 3.7's wound in Berkley where it was 40k+
Windsurfing SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA, BERKELEY, June 8th 2013 from alex d on Vimeo.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Leader of the Pack

I did some guest posting on Sailing Anarchy for the Kite North American Course Racing Championships. Below are the post.

Leader of the Pack-

The final 2 days of the Kite boarding North American North American Championships concluded with the fleets broken into gold, silver and finally a new platinum fleet with the top 10 competitors duking it out among the best of the best for the last 4 races of the series.

 The new format gave competitors a chance to race within a championship regatta but unlike the recent ISAF World Cup events - consistency is rewarded. The platinum fleet carried their first 2 days score into the final round and took 1 throw out after 8 races. Thursday gold and silver fleet races added 4 more races to the mix for each fleet and another throw out and finally 4 more races on the final day with racing for the platinum fleet limited to the top 10 and 1 discard  for a total of 3 discards after 16 races.
That was enough for Johnny Heineken to secure victory in what has become an amazing run over the last few years winning almost all of the events he's entered. Bernie Lake made a huge push with consistent results never outside the top 3 and was rewarded with 2nd place overall in front of Columbian 'Ricki- Bob' Leccesse.

With 37 racers in the silver fleet, it was anyone's game in the top few places but Andrew Wong from Canada- after having made the transition from lasers to kites a few years ago- came out on top just in front of Nico Landauer of Uruguay and local local Kevin Growney of San Francisco taking third.
In the gold fleet, 27 racers took the field and while Wilson Veloso from Paraiba, Brasil had a comfortable cushion going in to the final day- he was challenged by Jhon Mora from West Bay, Grand Cayman who took 2 bullets.  Stefano Rista from Canada and  Alejandro Climent Hernandez from Valencia, Spain rounded out the top group in some amazing gold fleet races where any mistake immediately put you back 10 places in the fleet.

Erika Heineken, older sister of Johnny- was the only girl who qualified for the gold fleet and put forth a huge effort racing among the men and finishing 29th overall in a hugely competitive fleet
Full results, photos, videos and interviews here.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Developing the sport

I did some guest posting on Sailing Anarchy for the Kite North American Course Racing Championships. Below are the post.

Developing the sport
By Steve Bodner 

The Kite boarding North American Course Racing Championships continued on the San Francisco Bay with blue skies and mid teens on the race course for the 2nd day of racing. It's a spectacular site seeing a fleet of colorful kites fly across the starting line in perfect unison and then down looping around the windward mark and speeding downwind at over 30 knots. Finishes are directly in front of the beach on 30 second tight reach after 15 min of windward leeward racing.

If there's anything that can change the perception of sailing being an old rich mans sport- this is probably it!

Competitors are young and fit and are constantly developing the face of this changing sport. One success to their class has been drawing sailors from other classes and ease of travel.
Pumped up and spread across the beach- each competitor's 3-4 kites take up a lot of room but packed away- everything fits inside the back or top of your car or easily disguised as golf gear for airline travel. The sailors are as diverse as the sport- with backgrounds from professional match racers, RSX Olympic class windsurfers and surf bums just enjoying the ride.

After 2 days of racing with 8 races for each fleet, the sailors have been divided into gold and silver fleets. Yachtsman of the year, Johnny Heineken remains on top with the slimmest of leads with just 1 point separating himself and 'Ricki- Bob' Leccese from Columbia.

Heineken and Leccese showed some vulnerability on the course yesterday as the rest of the top 5 charged with Adam Koch taking the first bullet in of the day in front of Heineken and Bernie Lake putting together an impressive day with a 2 bullets and 2 2nds - closing the gap on Leccese to within 4 points.

With only 1 throw out carrying through for the qualifying series, there's no room for mistakes as sailors enter the 2nd half of the regatta. 4 more races are planned for each fleet Thursday before the top 10 get to race on Friday in a final medal race to determine the overall winner.

Live streaming starts around 1pm PST from the deck of the St. Francis Yacht Club with go pro mounted quad rc helicopters capturing the view from the starting line and mark roundings.

Huge props to the St.FYC and their impeccable race management team for a superb showing so far. Event sponsors include Live2Kite, RRD, Wind over water, Patagonia, Ultra Nectar and the IKA

Event page with videos, results and photos can be found here

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

wind gods

I did some guest posting on Sailing Anarchy for the Kite North American Course Racing Championships. Below are the post.

Wind Gods by Steve Bodner

Day 1 of the North American Kite boarding Course Racing Championship kicked off on the San Francisco Bay on Tuesday but you wouldn't know it looking at this fleet. It might as well be the World Championships with 74 top ranked international sailors vying for their chance to move through the qualifying rounds and onto the gold fleet and finally into the top 10 for the final days of racing later this week.

8 races were run on the first day of racing in 12-18k of breeze with the each fleet getting off 4 starts on a double windward leeward course finishing with a tight reach just in front of crissy field- where the kiters are staged and an announcer keeps the crowds abreast of all the action.

Local San Francisco favorite and current two time World Champ, Johnny Heineken took form control grabbing the first 2 bullets in the yellow fleet while US sailors Adam Koch and Brian Kendal had to settle for the top 3. In the blue fleet, Riccardo "Ricki- Bob" Leccese from Columbia showed his dominance as well in front of socal's, Bernie Lake and the top European sailor form Poland, Tomek Janiak who rounded out the top group. It's as close as it gets with 12 points separating the top 10 racers after the 1st day of racing. The women are racing with the men in the mixed split fleet and current world women's champion- Erika Heineken leads sitting in 28th place overall in front of Catherine Dufour from France and Nuria Goma from Spain.

The fleet had their share of challenges with a big tangle at the start of the 2nd yellow fleet race (1:55 in the video) and a multitude of obstacles on the course from incoming freighters, commuter ferries, the local fishing trawlers and finally the U.S.S Potomac steaming their way through the middle of the course and splitting the fleet in half! While this might spell trouble for any notice racers, the fleet displayed a huge level of professionalism and the race officials were quick to help detangle lines and get racers safely out of harms way.

There's a huge effort to bring the event to a wider audience with live streaming and commentary from the St. Francis YC race deck, racer interviews, live tweeting from mark roundings and finishes and up the the minute scoring.

You might catch some of the AC72s on the course as well as several members of the AC after-guards have joined the kite racing crowd but unfortunately did not enter the event. Apparently they're training for something bigger later this summer  but with 74 competitors from 18 countries- this might just be the event of the year!

Racing continues on Wednesday June 5th and runs through Friday June 7th.
On June 8-9th, the kiters will join the Formula Windsurfing fleet for the San Francisco Classic and Ultra Nectar Challenge taking riders on a 40 mile + long distance marathon around the Bay.

Stay tuned...