June 3, 2011

Don’t Ditch the Ditch Run

Sure, the forecast is calling for a 70% chance of rain tomorrow. And, sure, the wind is supposed to reach a whopping 10 knots — from the SE, no less. But those are lousy reasons to miss the 21st Annual Delta Ditch Run, a 67-mile normally downind run from Richmond YC to Stockton Sailing Club. The party at the end is worth the price of admission, even if you have to cut your losses and motor the whole way (just remember to bring some extra gas).

In all honesty, we can’t think of a year when both the Great Vallejo Race and the Ditch Run were duds, but this certainly looks to be the year. Think of it as a way to test out your foul weather gear and prove your mettle as a sailor. Then you can gloat in the faces of those wimps who dropped out before the race even started — like a certain magazine publisher with a new-to-him Olson 30!

Thousands to Escape from Alcatraz

Any time you go out for a sail on San Francisco Bay there are plenty of potential hazards to watch out for. But if you happen to be heading out early this Sunday, June 5, you’ll have an entirely unique set of obstacles to avoid.

The Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon will begin at 7:30 a.m. Sunday with its 2,000 participants from all over the world leaping into the 55-degree Bay waters from the deck of the sternwheeler San Francisco Belle. The 292-ft river boat replica will be stationed somewhere off the southeast side of Alcatraz. As curious as you might be to get a few snapshots of this epic extreme sport, we would strongly urge you to stay well clear of the area.

Triathletes from all over the world will begin the competition Sunday by diving off the lower decks of Hornblower’s San Francisco Belle.

© Latitude 38 Media, LLC

No doubt there will be support boats along the 1.5-mile route to the finish — the beach west of the St. Francis YC — but with a 4.8-knot ebb expected that morning, we wouldn’t be surprised if a few of the international competitors overshot the finish, so please keep your eyes peeled if you’re in the area. By the way, the swim — which makes us shiver just thinking about it — is just a warm-up, so to speak, for the grueling 18-mile bike race and 8-mile run which follow. A Fitness Festival and Expo will take place on the Marina Green all weekend, with all sorts of worthwhile exhibits and displays — including, ironically enough, a beer garden. But hey, why not? After enduring 27.5 miles of exertion, we’re sure that many of these international athletes will be powerfully thirsty!

To Protect and Serve — Or to Spectate?

The reputation of America’s ‘first responders’ took a humiliating kick in the groin at Alameda’s Crown Beach on Memorial Day, after numerous members of the Alameda police and fire departments stood at the edge of San Francisco Bay for approximately one hour as Raymond Zack, a fully-clothed 53-year-old man, slowly committed suicide via exposure in neck-deep water a short distance offshore.

It was left to a young civilian woman — who seemed to have more balls and humanity than the combined members of Alameda police and fire departments — to swim out to the deeply troubled man. Alas, by then it was too late. It was nonetheless left to the young woman to bring Zack’s large, lifeless body to shore, while Alameda’s seemingly impotent first responders continued to look on.

Alameda’s ‘finest’ were quickly pilloried by CNN and other national news agencies, tens of thousands of people who responded to online news stories, to say nothing of humiliated safety and rescue workers around the country.

Alameda Interim Fire Chief Michael D’Orazi — whose lowest paid underlings knock down about $120,000 a year, plus another $10,000 or so in health care, and who make no contribution to their pensions, yet can retire at 3% per year of their highest salary at age 50 — attempted to explain their letting the man die by saying his men could do nothing. Why? 1) Because they hadn’t been properly trained for such a ‘rescue’, and 2) Because police department policy forbade them from interfering with a "crime scene."

Want to watch a man be gently eviscerated by a woman? Check out the video of CNN’s disbelieving Suzanne Malveaux calmly and logically asking the Interim Chief to explain his department’s lack of response. In a horrible choice of words, D’Orazi would later tell reporters, it was "killing his men" that they couldn’t help the man. Right Chief, we can all feel their terrible pain as they stood around and watched as one of the people they had sworn to serve and protect died.

These and other pathetic excuses — such as ‘We could have lost our jobs if we saved his life’, or ‘He might have had a gun’, or ‘There might have been quicksand out there’ — were overwhelmingly met with disgust, disbelief, and derision. Suppose it had been D’Orazi’s daughter out there in the water. Do you think the former president of the Alameda Firefighters Union would have said, "Sorry guys, rules are rules, you can’t go save her, we’re just going to have to stand here and watch my daughter die"?

(By the way, D’Orazi became Interim Chief a few months ago after David Kapler, the previous Chief, resigned after he was observed filling the tank of his BMW convertible from the fire department’s fuel supply. Kapler, who left his previous two positions under the clouds of soliciting contributions from a casino owner and failing to heed guidelines with regard to hiring miniorites and women, is now suing the City of Alameda for lost wages, retirement benefits, emotional distress and attorney’s fees. So you Alameda taxpayers should get ready to bend over and reach deeper into your wallets.)

Make no mistake, if we were running the show, the Interim Chief would be charged and convicted of manslaughter, and every police officer and firefighter who was on the scene would be fired — no pension, no nothing. If the Alameda police and fire departments represent what the United States has become, we’ve become a nation of f–king losers! Fortunately, they absolutely don’t represent most first responders, who across the country have repeatedly demonstrated not just good judgement, but tremendous courage and bravery to save the lives of those they have sworn to protect.

As has become par for the course when a government agency screws up big time, the bungling fire department was quickly rewarded with another $40,000 by the cash-strapped city of Alameda. The money will presumably be used to buy the fire fighters water wings and spine implants.

That’s our opinion. We’d like to know what you think.