The second round of San Francisco America’s Cup World Series events, staged here October 3-7, could not have been more action-packed and fun to watch if they’d been choreographed by a Hollywood designer. The big headline, of course, is that Jimmy Spithill’s Oracle Team USA boat came back to win both the match and fleet racing after a heart-stopping nose-dive and capsize during the first fleet race on Saturday.
For decades America’s Cup event promoters have been trying to think of ways to make high-end international yacht racing more appealing to the general public. When the AC World Series concept was developed — with super-fast AC45 cats racing in a series of venues around the world — many within the sailing community thought AC organizers had finally come up with a formula that was ready for prime time. And predictably, eye-popping flips such as Spithill’s were guaranteed to make it onto evening sports reports all over the world — as do dramatic NASCAR wipeouts.
Luckily, Spithill and crew were not badly injured when their bows bit into the choppy Bay during a downwind leg of Saturday’s first fleet race, and despite the fact that they were racing in extremely close quarters, their out-of-control boat was not hit or damaged during the incident.
But let’s roll back the clock a bit and take a look at the full menu of preliminary match races and fleet racing — arguably one of the most exciting four-day periods of in the City’s history for yacht racing fans.
After a battery of match racing quarterfinal races on Thursday and Friday, Saturday’s semifinals pitted Terry Hutchinson’s Artemis White (Sweden) against Spithill’s Oracle Team USA, and in the second race, Dean Barker’s Emirates Team New Zealand vs. Nathan Outteridge’s Artemis Red (Sweden). Despite both Swedish entries having artfully clawed their way to the semis, though, neither advanced to the final.
The first semifinal showed students of match racing a textbook start, with Hutchinson (the only American skipper) maintaining control over leeward rights — and crossing the starting line a second earlier than Spithill — but Spithill hitting the line with more speed, allowing his team to lead around the first turn and hold on for the win. During the second race, Outteridge kept Barker from getting leeward rights during the pre-start, which allowed Artemis to hit the line higher and faster. Later in the race, Outteridge ran out of wind, allowing Barker to overtake him, and eventually take the win.
During the first fleet race Saturday afternoon, Barker exhibited a fabulous, spot-on start which gave him an early, yet fragile, lead over the other 10 boats. Spithill had come in high and fast, and was poised to chase the Kiwi boat closely around the first mark when Oracle Team USA’s leeward bow bit the chop, dug in and over she went in a spectacular ass-over-tea kettle roll. Meanwhile, Barker extended his lead for an easy win by more than 100 yards. Twenty-one-year-old Peter Burling took an impressive second for Team Korea.
By the time the starting gun sounded for the second fleet race on Saturday, Spithill and crew had recovered and were able to compete, but it was Ben Ainslie of JP Morgan BAR who dominated. His boat was neck-and-neck with Hutchinson’s Artemis White going into the first turn, but Ainslie found just enough room to speed around in the lead without fouling his foe. He finished with a huge lead, having come a very long way since August’s races, when he performed like the newcomer he was back then. Late in the race, Spithill went outside, where he found better wind and scrambled his way into second.
Later that same afternoon, the match racing final pitted veteran New Zealander Dean Barker of ETNZ against Oracle Team USA’s Spithill. As with many match races, the outcome was all but decided during the pre-start, when Spithill dove deep to leeward for rights, then pushed Barker up so far he was forced to tack away before the start. Spithill had a half-minute lead at mark one, but Barker and crew were able to whittle that down to 18 seconds by the finish.
As confusing as it sounds, the Super Sunday Fleet Racing final awarded much higher-than-normal points to winners: 40 for first, 25 for second and 20 for third. The idea being that more boats have a chance to come from behind and earn top honors. Going into that final race, Ainsle’s BAR was greatly favored to win (63 points), trailed by Hutchinson’s Artemis White (52), Barker’s ETNZ (47) and Spithill’s Oracle Team USA (39). Amazingly, though, Spithill and crew pulled off a remarkable win, wowing the crowd of thousands both on the water and along the shore. The 40 points they earned tied them with BAR and, having won the final, Spithill and Co. were awarded the tie-breaker (per the rules). See a complete video recap to relive the excitement.
With the ACWS now moving on to Venice, Italy (April 16-21), the stage will soon be set here in the Bay Area to host the big show, the Louis Vuitton Challenge and 34th America’s Cup next July. We can hardly wait!
The Great Pumpkin Regatta really does have something for everyone.
As usual, Richmond YC’s Great Pumpkin Regatta falls on the last weekend of October, but it’s not too early to start planning for it now. For one thing, if you register by this Wednesday, October 10, you get a coveted parking pass to the club lot, which fills up during Great Pumpkin. Even the street parking fills up.
Plus, you need to start planning your Halloween costume! This year’s theme is Dead Man’s Party — remember the song by Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo in the 1980s?
Before the costume party on Saturday night, buoy racing will be offered for Alerion 28, Antrim 27, Beneteau 36.7, Cal 20, Express 27, Express 37, Hawkfarm, J/105, J/109, J/20 (since there’s no such beast, they probably meant J/22), J/24, J/29, J/35, any other J boat, Melges 24, Moore 24, Olson 25, Olson 30, Open 5.70, Santana 20, Santana 22, SF Bay 30, TP52, Ultimate 20, Wyliecat 30, Wylie Wabbit, 1D35, 99er, 18-ft skiff, and PHRFclasses. According to the notice of race, "Each class, invited explicitly or not, with five or more boats registered by 5 p.m. on Thursday, October 25, will be given starts with no other classes on the starting line. Each class with three or four boats registered by 5 p.m. on October 25 will be scored as a class. Other boats will be put into PHRF divisions." They usually get in three races on each of three courses.
Sunday’s pursuit race, around Angel and Alcatraz Islands, is open to all classes and boats with PHRF or BAMA certificates, starting with the slowest rated boat at noon. "In the interest of fun and family racing, spinnaker-rated boats sailing without a spinnaker have a 10-second per mile allowance," states the NOR.
Coinciding with the Great Pumpkin Regatta, the Richmond YC Foundation will hold their annual Gear Sale on Friday, October 26, starting at 6 p.m., and on the weekend starting at 9 a.m. You can buy spinnaker sheets, sails, or a whole boat (we’ve bought all of the above at ridiculous prices). They’ll also accept donations of clean, useable, non-toxic boating gear. The Foundation is a California 501(c)(3) charitable corporation. "All proceeds go to Bay Area sailors," says volunteer Dick Loomis.
For more info on all of the above activities, see www.richmondyc.org.
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Clipper Cove — nestled between Yerba Buena Island and Treasure Island — is a favorite anchorage for Bay Area sailors. Though the well-protected cove could easily fit 100 boats, we figured our late arrival on Saturday afternoon — in the midst of the Blue Angels Air Show, no less — would mean all the prime spots close to shore would have been snapped up and we’d be forced to anchor far back in the bay. Imagine our surprise and delight to find all of 15 or so boats hooked up.
It seemed as if every boat berthed in the Bay Area was out on the water watching the show and the America’s Cup racing, so we naturally assumed many would call it a night in Clipper, but more left than arrived. Why more boaters don’t take advantage of Clipper Cove’s delights is a mystery. Yes, entering and exiting absolutely must be done at or near high tide (unless you draw very little) — we saw 10 feet of water at this morning’s high tide — and you need to be aware that the main "channel" is north, toward the pier, but other than that, it’s a terrific place for a weekend respite.
And you just never know who you’ll bump into there. We saw a MacGregor 65 with a Kiwi courtesy flag flying and met up with a young trio planning a trip to South America on a Catalina 27. We even got to spend some time with one of our favorite crazy sailors, Nick Jaffe.
Readers may recall that Nick Jaffe stopped in the Bay a few years ago on his way from England to Australia on his Contessa 26 Constellation. Nick finished that trip, sold Constellation and, having been flabbergasted at the rock-bottom prices on boats in San Francisco, bought a lovely Aries 32 named Harmony. "She really the perfect boat for me right now," Nick says.
When he’s not starring in acclaimed documentaries, Nick runs several businesses Down Under, keeping Harmony on the hard in the Bay Area under the care of any number of friends who keep a watchful eye on her. Though he’s only here for a few weeks, Nick and his brother Ryan plan to thoroughly explore San Francisco Bay during their stay. "I’ll be back next year to take her south," Nick explains. He’ll spend two months going as far as he can before storing her till the following year, when he’ll try to make New Zealand.
But that doesn’t mean he won’t be back to the Bay. "I’ll most likely sell her eventually and come back here to find another boat, as well as see my friends," he says. "I love San Francisco Bay."
With the start of the 19th Annual ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ Baja Ha-Ha three weeks away, all 146 entries can consider themselves lucky that first night of the event coincides with a full moon. Oh baby, that’s going to be sweet! And not just on that night, but the entire 360-mile first leg to Turtle Bay. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that there won’t be much cloud cover or fog.
Some members of the Ha-Ha fleet are going to be doubly lucky in that the pre-opening of the new Intrepid Landing Marina on Shelter Island is going to allow them low prices on what might well be San Diego’s most convenient berthing. For example, San Diego Marine Exchange (chandlery) is less than 100 yards away, as is the fuel dock, Rig Works Rigging, Driscoll’s Boat Yard, and the Brigantine and Fiddler’s Green, the latter two being popular restaurants with sailors. And it’s only two blocks to the West Marine Superstore where the Ha-Ha Kick-Off Party will be held, as well as Downwind Marine, sailmakers, canvas shops, and the San Diego YC.
Because the marina — which has twelve 36-ft berths, eight 48-ft berths, and 340 feet of side-tie space — won’t officially open until just after the Ha-Ha, and because manager Mike Benedict wants to kick Intrepid Landing off with some good publicity — he’s offering one-time rates of about 75 cents/ft/week or $1/ft per night. The weekly rate is 25% less than the San Diego Police Dock, which is at the end of Shelter Island and 30 minute walk from anywhere. Once Intrepid Landing becomes fully operational, we expect that the berths will be snapped up quickly. As a result, we don’t imagine there will be much — if any — room for next year’s Ha-Ha boats.
While the electrical work is being completed this week and early next at Intrepid Landing, one Ha-Ha boat has already moved in — Taj, Peter Brown’s beautiful Grainger 48 catamaran from Port Townsend, WA. There’s some Bay Area history here. Back in the ’80s, Brown raced the Olson 30 Gold Rush in the Singlehanded TransPac. Halfway across, he had an epiphany and decided to give up law to cruise the world. So he flew to France, bought a Wauquiez Pretorian 35 and set sail. When he got to South Africa in the early ’90s, he sold his monohull and bought a 40-ft catamaran. We bumped into Peter at St. Barth, and he gave us our first-ever ride on a catamaran. Until just last week at Intrepid Landing, we hadn’t seen him since. Brown went back to the law, but now, at age 67, can’t wait to wrap up some cases and get cruising again.
More Bay Area connections: It turns Dan Newland, who for many years raced out of San Francisco Bay and did things like win the Singlehanded TransPac before moving to the Pacific Northwest, crewed for Peter coming down the coast on Taj. Newland, who is still married to Linda Weber Newland, who not only did her own Singlehanded TransPac, but singlehanded a boat from San Francisco to Japan, apparently was smitten with the way Taj sailed and how comfortable she was at sea. Who knows, Dan might get cat fever, too.
A couple who have sailed cats most of their lives, but are about to go cruising on a new-to-them monohull in the Ha-Ha are our slip neighbors Bruce and Laura Masterson of St. John in the U.S. Virgins. Ages ago the couple bought the 60-ft Spronk catamaran Jolly Mon and did 45-person daycharters out of St. John, during which time they met future Latitude Managing Editor Andy Turpin and his wife Julie, who were then living in the islands. The Mastersons later bought a Privilege 48 cat and did crewed term charters in the islands. Now that their kids are gone, it’s time for Bruce and Laura to sail for themselves. Primarily because of economic reasons, the couple decided to go with a monohull, and picked up a nearly-new looking Davidson 44 in Marina del Rey they’ve since christened Pacific Hwy. Despite being one of the largest 44-footers we can recall, the Davidson 44s are fast boats. Anyway, after the Ha-Ha and a few months in Mexico, the Mastersons are headed across the Pacific.
If you’re interested in having your boat join Taj at Intrepid Landing prior to the Ha-Ha, contact manager Mike Benedict at (619) 226-2500 or via email. By the way, Mike’s office is located in Driscoll’s Boat Yard, just a short distance from the new marina. So if you need a quick haul out prior to the Ha-Ha, Mike will be happy to put you in touch with Chuck Driscoll for your hauling needs.
Here are the latest Ha-Ha entries — sign up now to get your name added:
140. Queen Melody / Catalina 36 / Ping Lis / Brisbane
141. Someday / Hunter 35.5 / Don McNeil / Channel Island
142. Magic / Kelly-Peterson 44 / Terry & Marian Benjamin / San Diego
143. Sweet Cherri / Columbia 36 / Joshua & Julia Siudyla / Alameda
144. Corinna / Allied Princess 36 / Christopher & Christine Jette / San Francisco
145. Happy Trails / True North 34 / Edward Trzebiatowski / San Francisco
146. Moontide / Lagoon 47 / Bill Lilly & Judy Lang / Newport Beach