Anyone daysailing within the Central Bay Saturday couldn’t help but notice an inordinate number of spectacular schooners traveling in a counter-clockwise loop. Although the fleet was widely spaced apart, this was, in fact, the inaugural running of the Great San Francisco Schooner Race — a glorious day with the strong breeze that these vintage thoroughbreds require.
While we heard no complaints about the race administration, the handicapping system may need a bit of tweaking before next year’s contest, as few schooners finished close to each other despite this being a ‘pursuit’ race, where each competing boat has it’s own start time and, in theory, the fleet finishes en masse. But hey, when has there ever been a race between such a collection of disparate classics when handicapping hasn’t been an issue — or should we say nightmare?
We’ll have a more in-depth report in the October Latitude, but in brief John Collins and John McNeill’s Yankee took top honors among the gaffers, with Ed Witt’s Regulus taking second. And within the Marconi class Paul Kaplan’s Santana squeaked by Peter Heywood’s Elizabeth Muir — the closest finish of the race, as far as we know — with Bob Vespa’s Scorpio taking third. See the website of host San Francisco YC for full results.
After four days of pushed-start lines and crowded leeward gates, Donkey Jack ass-kicked the 36-boat fleet at the St Francis YC-hosted J/105 North Americans with an emphatic heeeee-haaw! Owned by the tripartite Bay Area partnership of Scott Sellers, Rolf Kaiser and Eric Ryan, who divy up helm duties throughout the season, Donkey Jack put on an impressive display of clean starting and upwind boatspeed in the 10-race, no throwout regatta to win going away on Sunday — finishing 23 points clear of Chris Perkins’ Good Timin’.
"Our crew didn’t make a single mistake," said Sellers, the weekend’s designated driver, in crediting Donkey Jack’s crew — including tactician Ted Conrads, Cam Geer, Geoff McDonald, Kaiser and Ryan, all of whom have sailed together on the boat consistently since 2005 — with the win.
"We kept getting faster throughout the regatta," Kaiser said. "We were fast upwind and that pretty much allowed us to extend and sail our own races."
After starting off the regatta with a 3,3,1,2,7, Donkey Jack — named for the alpha donkey in a pack — rocked Saturday’s breezy Circle races with an impressive string of three bullets. They then followed that up Sunday with a 2,1 to seal the deal.
The regatta alternated courses each day between the Berkeley Circle and Alcatraz and with wind in the 15-20-knot range on Thursday, Friday and Sunday and 30-knots on Saturday, there were plenty of close calls at windward marks and leeward gates. And there were a couple that were too close.
In Saturday’s final race, Don Wilson’s Chicago-based Convexity attempted to duck Justin Oberbauer’s Strangelove as the latter sailed on the starboard layline toward the last weather mark rounding of the day. Convexity missed the duck by a few feet, punching a hole in Strangelove that went all the way into the cockpit coaming at the traveler. The boats then locked rigs, with Convexity‘s backstay grabbing Strangelove‘s masthead. Miraculously, the two boats came apart without either rig coming down.
"The initial collision was pretty intense," said Oberbauer who suffered a "big bruise" and soreness after Strangelove‘s torqued wheel flung him onto the traveler. "It was one of the scariest moments I’ve had, seeing a boat coming at you at seven knots. They were pretty flat and totally powered up."
"Right now, the boat is at Svendsen’s and they’re going to go through the whole thing," Oberbauer said, adding that Wilson graciously offered for the Strangelove crew to take Convexity for the following day’s races, but they declined. "They ended up borrowing a boat. I don’t think they realized at the time they offered Convexity to us that there may have been some issues with it. Hopefully we’ll be back in shape for the Big Boat Series and be ready to launch the weekend before to shake everything out."
One potential disaster had a little humor to it when bowman Les Yamamoto got launched off the bow by the spinnaker sheets of Don Wieneke’s Lulu, in Friday’s last race.
"It should have been a textbook rounding," Wieneke said. "The jib was fouled and wouldn’t roll out, then I had to gybe to get around the mark. Once I was forced to gybe, the chute filled because it was no longer shielded by the main."
Wieneke estimated that they had an unhurt Yamamoto back onboard in under 30 seconds, with the whole thing caught on video.
"I’ll take the blame," Wieneke said. "No matter how good your bowman is, the back of the boat can always foul it up. He was looking at us like ‘what are you guys doing back there?’ And we were looking at him like, ‘what are you doing up there?’"
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"We saw this catamaran — made from 1-liter pop bottles, PVC tubing and a Hobie Cat trampoline with an oar as a rudder — at South Beach Harbor on Saturday morning," wrote Timo Bruck in an email. "It was towed out a while later, but never returned. Do you know anything about it?"
Sorry, Timo, we have no clue (though we do have a call in to the owner), but it’s reminiscent of a raft called Junk that’s been drifting across the Pacific in an effort to raise awareness of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Junk is a conglomeration of 15,000 plastic soda bottles, the fuselage of a Cesna 310 and a mess of good intentions that left Long Beach on June 1 bound for Honolulu. Self-described "eco-mariners" Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Joel Paschal are expected to arrive at the Ala Wai sometime Wednesday morning. Check out their blog for details.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is purported to be an enormous — some estimates say twice the size of Texas — raft of, well, junk that’s caught in the North Pacific Gyre. Sensational news reports make it sound as if the Patch is dense enough for a person to walk across but that has yet to be proved. What can’t be denied is that plastic is a growing problem in the world’s oceans that really can no longer be ignored. Several returning Solo TransPac and Pacific Cup boats have reported a disturbing amount of plastic floating around mid-Pacific. "We’re seeing some kind of plastic going by every 30 seconds or so," reported Solo TransPac racer Rob Tryon. "About half of it is fishing related — netting, floats, etc. — but the other half is definitely land-based garbage: bottles, toys, baby dolls." Those kind of firsthand accounts really bring home the need to rethink our ‘disposable’ ways.