Friday, June 20, 2014

25 years on the SF Bay Challenge

It all started back in the mid 80's with Berkeley Windsurfing organizing a race from the rocks in from His Lordships restaurant- at the base of the Berkeley marina up to Anita Rock, on the San Francisco city front AND BACK! 

To remind you, windsurfing had just exploded internationally and California was the birthplace and one of the epicenters, hosting events like the windsurfers world championships in 1983, The O'Neill Classic and the Stroh's Pro-Am slalom tour- all drawing hundreds of competitors in what was the biggest largest one design sailing class of its time! 

At the time, windsurf racers routinely sailed upwind with the dagger boards firmly in place beneath their boards. Once around the windward mark, they pulled the dagger out and carried it around their shoulder with a strap- regularly bouncing off the waves and knocking them overboard.

The SF Bay challenge became so successful that it quickly outgrew the capacity of a the one person RC sitting on the rocks raising the start flag and recording the finishes 2-4 hours later.  

Enter- The St. Francis Yacht Club. With additional resources like safety boats, starting boats, race management and and international jury, The St.FYC stepped in to host the regatta. Only now- it would be sailed from the city front down to the Berkeley Pier and back. 

In the late 90's Ronstan became the official sponsor with an official name change to the Ronstan Bay Challenge. 

Sometime in the mid 2000's the kite boards were invited to race with the windsurfing fleet as the new sport was becoming of age. The windsurfers held onto the record for as long as they could- coming close to breaking the 1 hour mark for a 25 mile + tour of the Bay.

This year on a foiling kite board, Joey Pasquali obliterated the record  by 17 minutes with a new pace time of 54 minutes flying 3' above the water the entire race. To say- that foiling kite boarding has changed the sport- would be an understatement. They are absolutely killing it- almost 25 minutes in front of the first formula windsurfer.

A huge thanks to the St.FYC and their crew of volunteers, 35 competitors and Ronstan for their continued support of high performance sailing.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Ronstan challenge.

Omfg what a race!
13-16k at the start & 25-30k at the finish just over an hour later and 20+ miles in the GPS. 
It was indeed a challenge to hang onto the same gear the entire race. My 10.0 was a bit too much as I was doing everything to depower most of the race

I sailed the top of the course and had a good idea of my plan for the race. Immediately gybe after the top mark and get into the flood for the long haul downwind. 

The mixed fleet of foiling kites, kite course boards & formula boards started on starboard & immediately out of the gates the foiling boards were off like a blur.

I had a good start just by crad and we battled the rest if the windward beat with him slowly getting the better of me with the bigger 68cm fin as the wind as at it lowest point of the day.  

I was set up for the breeze to arrive with my 64 Kashy but this was only the opening moves... Crad tacked 1st with Tom following quickly. I waited another 20 seconds as I knew the flood tide was still raging. We all understood and had to double tack and finally when I made the mark I immediately gybed away going for the stronger flood tide in the middle if the bay as Tom and Crad played the city front. This paid off for me as I crossed Crad 2/3 of the way down to Alcatraz. 

Once past Alcatraz things got heavy and I moved into the double chicken every few minutes as to maintain enough energy for the entire race. 
The foil boards were well off in front as Crad & I continued to cross each other while I maintained the slightest of leads blazing downwind through the Berkeley circle.  Going deep downwind past the end of the pier things continued to get rough but the avanti 10.0 was pulling like a truck with great power. I had the outhaul eased with the outhaul in the middle grommet.  
At the leeward mark I rounded just behind Headington on the 1st kite course board and we began the long haul back upwind. Crad was on my hip grinding hard to weather while Heady was just to leeward as we got into some pretty heavy conditions. 
Point Blunt was reading 28-32k as we passed through. 

All I could do to maintain was to pinch and try to keep the board moving as we headed upwind against the flood tide. Crad was able to do it just a bit better than me and slowly ground down my lead. 
The beat was long and painful as I was struggling if find a comfortable position to hike out. As I approached the leeward side if angel island things stated to lighten up so tacked and headed back to the pressure. 

Once there it was an effort just to keep the board moving through the gusts and chop. 
I had the 10.0 as flat as it would go and pinching just to stay upright in the gusts off point blunt. Crad had kept the pressure on the whole time and never let up a bit. I made a huge effort to grind upwind and give it everything I had but knew my back was the weak link. I tacked back to go to the north side if Alcatraz and thought I called the  layline to the finish but as I made the long beat across the bay I got flooded down and Crad made his final move getting me on the last tack to the finish just in front if the club. I knew I had given it my all and sometime that's all you've got. 

Win or lose it's how you play the game that matters.  I managed 10th overall with the top 8 being foiling kiters. Tom was in hot pursuit just behind us bringing up the top 3 windsurfers while Headington in the course board has a significant set back. 

There's still some pleasure beating the kites- even if it is the course boards.

In the front of the fleet, Joey kept the lead the entire race as Heinekin broke a bridle on his chronno foil kite while Chip took 2nd. Joe set a new course record of 54'- a whopping 17 minuted faster than the previous record.

Finding 5th gear...

As if the previous 30 mile+ day of overpowered racing wasn't enough- the RC decided to do 3 marathon races across the San Francisco Bay for the 2nd day of the Ronstan Challenge.

The course was a start near the St. FYC to a quick upwind mark near the Presidio shoal- across the Bay to a boat stationed at yellow bluff, straight downwind to Harding Rock- then across the bay again to a buoy at Ft. Mason and finally another quick upwind leg to the finish.

Since there was a lot of reaching and the wind was supposed to come up quickly- I went for the smaller ml89 formula board and 60cm kashy fin with my 10m avanti m-2 machine.  Both Mike Percey and I were on the smaller boards while the rest of the fleet was on normal formula boards.

There's a huge advantage with the smaller board when the wind comes up but at the same time- if you get into any lighter winds, it goes right out the back door.
Race 1- Wind- 12-18k.

Soheil sailed a clean race- staying ahead on his JP formula and NP 10.0 while I got stuck in a few holes that put me back in the cheap seats. The Ml 89 lost its edge upwind as the fleet sailed by in the light stuff.
Coming back across the bay on the bottom reach- it felt more like an upwind with the flood tide ripping down at 4k.

Race 2- increasing breeze from 15-20k. This time I made sure to stay in the breeze and really over stood the upwind mark in the flood tide and came in strong leading the pack on the 1st beat across to Yellow Bluff. This time- there was no boat and no mark.
Maybe its just my eyes playing tricks on me, I thought.
I turn back to see the rest of the fleet heading way downwind of me.
I put it in over gear and went to the chicken strap blazing downwind through some nasty swell around Harding Rock getting Percey as he rounded wide. It took me almost the whole leg to get above a mid fleet foiling kiter on the same beat but lost it just like that as it got lighter near Ft. Mason. I tacked as soon as I could cross the mark and Percy continued in the hole.

Back in the lead but not for long.
Soheil made a quick tack after the mark and was closing the distance.
He tacked back but was well short of the finish line.

Never ever underestimate the flood tide.

I had to make the perfect layline call or else...
I tacked and just made it across the pin end a 1/2 board length in front of Soheil who was shooting the line at the boat.

A quick break onshore only to return to the last race were it had picked up significantly- very significantly.
I made a big change to the avanti rig by moving into the inside grommet on the leach. This pulls the leach even more and depowers the sail.

I dropped my sail on the 2 tacks but held it together the rest of the rest of the race in some of the heaviest conditions I've experienced. I crossed the first reach to yellow bluff where I just kept sailing into richardsons bay to find a less chaotic place to gybe. Surely I'd overstood Harding but I was spot on.  Percey went down hard behind me. No on else was in sight. It was a solid 30-35k at Harding when I rounded with 4-6' breakers all around me. I did everything just to keep the board moving while hardly trimmed in at all. The next beat across the bay was  a real leg burner. No easy way around it.

I got the bullet in the last race by a few  minutes and took the days racing.

While I probably would have been better off on the smaller sail, Im stoked to have learned about the extra gear with a few small changes in the rig.

The foil kites had their handful for sure getting around the box course in that breeze. Heineken took the top spot followed by Joey and Chip in the top 3.

Thanks to Erin  Loscocco for the photos.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Night Slalom

The St. FYC has put together a new downwind slalom racing format to be run on windy Friday nights in lieu of the normal upwind, downwind courses, the formula boards usually sail.

On Friday, June 13th we had our first slalom race of the season.

10-12 racers on the line-our biggest turn out yet for the year as we usually have 5-6 formula racers for upwind/downwind racing. 
We had 18-22k and 5 back to back races. 
Race 1 was won by Soheil who had the perfect start at Anita rock squeezing out in front of the pack at the 1st gybe mark. Meanwhile Jason, Jean & myself battled for the next positions around the next few marks before I was able to get past them and put the pressure on Soheil on the last leg but he held on strong for the win. 

Race 2- fleet was pushing hard at the start and as a result 4 sailors over early so the win went to CRAD of F4 fins. Sadly my bullet was a bit premature. Still close racing as Jean held the lead till the last mark where I was able to squeeze in and make a better rounding and take the lead. 

Race 3-good start with the fleet in hot pursuit breathing down my neck at every mark. Avanti 7.7 & ml 70cm slalom board pulled out of the holes well to extend a good lead on the last 2 legs as a few sailors went down at the H beam. Jason was able to beat the rest of the pack for 2nd. 

Race 4- still a good breeze on the course and Anita rock still way favored. The RC called Tim and I over early but we charged on thinking we had the perfect start. Despite the bullet, it was Jason who got the win with the clean start and great marking roundings with CRAD in 2nd. 

Race 5- final race of the night. I held back knowing 3 osc's wouldnt be ideal so I came into the 1st mark in the middle of the pack and went down as I stuffed my nose. Meanwhile Jean held on great at every mark with a tight pack of racers looking for any opportunity to get ahead. Each mark rounding had 3-4 sailors overlapped in tight positions and Jean held on for the wind. 

Such as great format as everyone was stoked. 
A huge thanks to the St. Francis YC and their volunteers for making it happen. 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Biting off more than I can chew

I had this grand vision that I'd be kite board racing this season
What I failed to remember was that there's a certain amount of dues that one has to pay- regardless of one's experience...Humbling dues!
While I've paid my dues in windsurfing, this experience is like starting over again.

Sometimes you want to arrive at your destination as quickly as possible, but as I keep trying to remind myself, it's the journey that gets you there.

My goal- the St.FYC Thursday Night Series.
With a local fleet of almost 40 racers and top racers from across the US and World joining the bi-monthly series- this is the place to be if you want to be kite board racing.
Luckily- right in my backyard.

Week 1- Not sure I even ready for the race but I figured it's the best way to push myself and free rescues if needed! I made it quickly downwind in the flood tide to the start and just kept going down wind when things got light and I couldn't relaunch my kite. The safety boat got me somewhere north of Pier 39.
To be fair, I was 1 of almost 20 people who got rescued that night when the wind died and fog came it. I shared the rib rail with Jimmi Spithil on the rescue ride home as the wind knows no boundaries.

Week 2- I was determined to make the start. I timed it so I was about 30 seconds late but didn't account for all the downed kites on the line.  This isnt like windsurfing where you can just weave around people. Lines were everywhere.  I certainly dont know what my lines are doing, nonetheless the guys around me. I  gybe to get out of there ('cause I still cant tack) and make another run at the starting line. Ahh the flood tide again- pushing me downwind. I make another 2 attempts to cross the line in the strong flood only to be denied as the top racers are just about to finish. Luckily I make it back to the beach on my own accord. I call this one a victory. No rescue!

Week 3-another big flood tide, light breeze and fog. This is the curse of  Thursday Night. I choose the 11.0 for the first race and made the start and floundered in the light breeze near the top if the course.  Going upwind is still a challenge especially on starboard tack. After realizing I want going to make the top mark I hightailed it down to the starting line again to make the 2nd start- a bit late but 2 starts for the evening! I'll take the small victories when I can. 

Week 4 -new windsurfing gear arrived last week so no time on the kite board. I set my goal for making the windward mark despite the raging flood tide and light wind on the inside of the course. I get off the starting line and make the long haul on port tack upwind. The leaders are far gone but there's one another newbie just in front of me. I try to chase him down but we both get stuck up in the corner with no wind. I gybe again and go out to the middle of the bay for more wind. I finally make it around the windward mark and begin to head downwind as I hear Johnny Heineken take the bullet of race 1. My kite goes down in the light wind and I spend the next few minutes trying to relaunch and use most of my energy. Making it around 1 mark and back to the beach on my own accord is victory enough for tonight.

One leg at a time, Im going to conquer this course. Next weeks goal is to make it around the downwind mark.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Twilight series

Friday night racing may 30.5 races in 18-24k. Ebb switching to flood on inside.
Looked windy before the race so I rigged ml89 & new 7.7 avanti with borrowed 57cm f4 from from Crad.
1 practice lap and I knew it was too light for that set up to be competitive. I came in and rigged 10.0 avanti and switched to Kashy 64 and just made 1st start but a few seconds late in 2nd row. Boom wasn't extended far enough so it was a handful in the gust and as a result wasn't able to put the hammer down.
The new m2 avanti has 3 horizontal grommets at the clew which take advantage of pulling the leach from different vectors and de powering the sail but as it was only my 2nd time on the sail & I still haven't got the settings dialed in yet but can feel a big difference when laced through the inside or outside grommets.
Crad extended on his lead from the start and got the first bullet of the evening on his np9.5 and 167 with Tom & Eric close behind and me in 4th.

2nd race.
Quick relacing if the booms to inside grommet for more control and sail felt better.  Off the line good but had to give up a bit upwind as I had sail really flat in gust.
Maybe more batten pressure is needed or better finessing of the board and fin upwind. The ml89 is tricky. You need to sail it incredible efficient to stay in the groove but once there it pays dividends!

Tom and Eric called the layline well in the ebb as I overstood. Downwind at buoy A there was lots off voodoo chop and Tom went down hard on the jp board  & Maui sails just in front of me. The ML 89 really excels in these conditions as I was able to sail right over chop and around Tom.
Eric's got a good handle on making his kit work on the breeze despite being a few years old and kept the pace getting the bullet in race 2 with me just behind & Crad pushing hard for 3rd.
Jean had his best race as he's been sailing the course on his slalom gear and pulled off a 4th!
Race 3 - Course B. Good angle. speed & control off the line & up the 1st beat as I eased the outhaul and opened up the sail and was able to maintain my lane. M. I called the layline well and stayed in control the whole race for the bullet. Wind was 20-25 and kit was starting to shine. Key to sailing the smaller board is to keep it in 5th gear all the time.
Tom squeaked into 2nd just in front of Eric to round out the top group.

Race 4. Again a tight race between Eric Tom and I but I gave up a few small battles that cost me some key places upwind & had to take some sterns. I may be better off on the 167 or jp board  but the smaller board is way more comfortable especially in the wound conditions we sail on the SF city front.
It was course C again and Jean on his new loft sails made an impressive push as he gybed right through me and powered by me on the reaching leg but went down hard at x as he tried to gybe and face planted!
Eric got the bullet while Tom and I were just behind.
Final race. Flood tide beginning to build at start line. I gave up some upwind as Tom squeezed me off but held on waiting for him to make a mistake on course B during the first few gybes but he sailed perfectly to take the last bullet if the evening with Eric in hot pursuit for 3rd.

Just 2 points separating the top 3 after 5 races with Eric on top and me just edging out Tom for the tiebreaker.