Sunday, May 20, 2018

Friday Night racing- blowing the dogs off their chains

To say it was windy would be an understatement: It blew the dogs off their chains on the evening of Friday, May 18, for the first St. Francis Yacht Club Friday Slalom Race Series. Twelve windsurfers braved the conditions, rigging up anywhere between a 5.8 and 8.6 sail for the building ebb and 20-35 knots of breeze.  

An annual series started by StFYC’s Bill Weir and Staff Commodore Jim Kiriakis, it’s been drawing Bay Area windsurfers to the challenges of brisk summer onshores since the 1990s. This year, organizers are trying out a new course with just one mark set halfway between Crissy Field and the StFYC. The fleet starts on port tack just off the beach and immediately heads out to a mark set by the shipping channel. A quick gybe takes them back to the A buoy off StFYC, then back to Mark 1 and finally a screaming reach to the finish by B buoy and the Club. The whole thing takes less than 3 minutes if you can keep your board pointed in the right direction and stay out of trouble.

Race 1 caught a few of the fleet off guard with only 4 finishers. 
I remind myself of the most basic rules- make it to the start and finish line. The rest is arbitrary. 

Race 2. The breeze was filled in solidly to the beach and Soheil Zahedi, Jean Rathle and Nick Mast  quickly charged to a 1-2-3- finish making it look easy. 

Race 3 was an all-out fight to the finish. I was stupidly overpowered and in the leeward back strap to ease the fin pressure on the reach. I made a few conservative gybes and racers fell down around me like dominoes. The last mark saw a pinwheel of four racers stacked up and I came out in the lead going into the finish. I couldn’t turn my head to see where the fleet was, but I knew they were charging below me. One nasty piece of chop sent the nose of my board flying and I eased up: In that split second, I went from first to third with Mast and Zahedi passing me to leeward and grabbing the first two finishes. Lesson learned: Never give up, even an inch

Race 4 I was finally back in the game. Rounding the first mark in the pack, I pushed a bit too hard on the second mark rounding and went for a swim. Water-starting a 7.6 in breaking waves and 30 knots was not as easy as I remember. Vincent Fallourd showed a solid performance with a taking behind Zahedi and Rathle.

Race 5 was the final race of the night with conditions gusting over 30 knots and the building ebb making sedan size voodoo chop around the course. IN addition, the big boat fleet was using the A buoy as their starting mark to cross the Bay

Stay out of trouble, I reminded myself, then pushed as hard as I could, but Rathle and Zahedi walked away with smaller gear and were able to get to throttle up and really send it. We approached Buoy A in a cluster of monstruous ebb, big boats and too-little time for decisions. I sent it below one of the big boats while Jean head above, putting me just in front of him as we ground back up to Mark 1. The big boats were keeping the same line as us, but just another obstacle to get around. We all made it around Buoy A, but Rathle was really able to send it on his tiny bump-and-jump gear and got the final bullet of the night

Stay out of trouble, I remind myself. I push as hard as I can but Jean and Soheil walk away with smaller gear and are able to get to 5th gear and really send it. We approach mark A in all all out clusterfu%* of big ebb, big boats and little time for decisions. I send it below one of the big boats while Jean heads above. I come out just in front of him as we grind back up to mark 1. The big boats are keeping the same line as us but are just another obstacle to get around. We all make it around a buoy but Jean is really able to send it on his tiny bump and jump gear and get the final bullet of the night. 

All in all, more fun than I remember but a lot of work just to stay upright and moving fast. Thanks to all those who joined and thanks to the volunteers who helped make it happen. 

If you're interested in racing, our next Friday night race is Friday June 1st. 
New racers are always welcome and volunteers appreciated. 

Big thanks to Maxim Panchenko for the photos.