Friday, September 1, 2017

2017 Ronstan Bridge to Bridge Race- the unwritten rules

Thursday Aug 31 saw the annual Ronstan bridge to bridge race hosted by the St. Francis Yacht Club with 39 foiling boards, kites, cats & moths. Its an all out drag race from the mouth of the San Francisco Bay under the Golden Gate Bridge downwind to Yerba Buena Island at the foot of the Bay bridge. Anything can happen and it usually does.
Bring what you've got and run it hard is the motto of the race
There's no rules except for some unwritten ones if you want to finish this race.

Rule #1- get to the starting line.
At the last min I switched from the foiling kite to the windsurfer as getting to the starting line was the main priority.  With super sketchy winds at the beach & a 3k flood tide, anything less than a 13m kite wouldn't get you close.
I rigged up my Avanti 9.2 rig on the Mikes Lab 89cm wide board with 59cm kashy fin.  That was enough to get me to the bridge with plenty of time to take a few downwind runs across the start line. A few weren't so lucky- a 40' cat flipped just inside the gate and turtled within a minute & several of the foil kites went down in the lighter breeze outside the gate.
You cant win the race if you cant get to the starting line!

The race started in 10-12 knots and quickly filled in to the low teens as the fleet approached the middle of the bay above Alcatraz. The foiling kites sent it the deepest looking like they might do the whole race in 1 tack. I tried to keep up with the foiling windsurfers but they too were sending it 10 degrees deeper than I could on my xl slalom set up. As the puffs filled in from behind, I was able to catch some but this race would be won a the end.

Rule #2- stay out of trouble.
2 of the foiling windsurfers just in front of me tried to cross each other on the down wind but that's were it ended as carbon, monofilm and bodies collided. Sometimes it just better to duck than to keep yelling starboard. On the foils, boards are traveling faster and decisions are split second. 2 down more, lets see who else I can catch.
On the approach below Alcatraz to the Bay bridge, 2 outbound freighters were splitting the fleet with an extra blue and gold ferry in the mix for additional chop and traffic. 'Stay out of trouble and just keep on the tack that takes you towards the finish line,' I reminded myself. Sure enough I connected a few puffs from behind and was right up there in the mix with Xavier on the foiling windsurfer.

Rule #3- get to the finish line.
The top kite foilers looked like they were just making it across the finish line but for the rest of us, this was still a race.
We sailed through graveyard of downded foil kites 1/4 mile from the finish line as the wind bubbles above Yerba Buena Island leaving most of the kites high and dry. I realized, the only chance is coming in hot from the outside. I gybed back to line myself up for the last move of the game. If I could call it right and catch the final puff, Id go from zero to hero. Chris Radkowski on the F4 foil and windsurfer had the same idea and was coming on strong behind me as the puff carried us down to the finish. Within 10 seconds, Xavier, Chris and I all crossed the finish.  It was a bit anticlimactic slogging across the finish line in 2nd but that still beats not making it across at all.

I'm not positive on the number of finishers but nearly 3/4 of the fleet had to be rescued as the light wind and flood tide proved to be too much. The 11 minute barrier still stands as Johnny Heineken, Daniella Moroz and Joey Pasquali took the line honors on the foiling kite boards & 15m+ kites.

A huge thanks to Ronstan and the St. Francis Yacht Club for continuing the tradition.