In this month’s issue of Latitude 38, we touched on one of Marin County’s many hidden-in-plain-sight sailing gems. We were pleasantly surprised to learn that since the 1970s, San Rafael High School has offered sailing PE. It’s not a club or a racing team; it’s an alternative class where students can earn physical education credit.
We caught up with the class a few weeks ago, after they’d been on their winter hibernation and hadn’t sailed since late fall. It was a warm, sunny spring day with the perfect amount of breeze, meaning not too much and not too little. Coach CJ Healy — who grew up sailing and racing in Ontario, Canada — said she was, well, a little worried that everyone might be rusty after the hiatus. But as everyone started to work their way upwind, she was pleasantly surprised. "All right, they’re doing fine!"
The class was the brainchild of legendary PE teacher Bill Monti, who took advantage of San Rafael High’s proximity to the Canal (rumor has it that olympian John Bertrand was a participant in the program). For the last 15 years, San Rafael Yacht Club has hosted the class. Volunteers built a short, stubby dock that holds racks of old Lasers, as well as a longer dock where the boats rig.
San Rafael High offers several ‘alternative’ PE classes, including hiking and weightlifting. Almost everyone in the class is a sophomore, or about 16 years old. Gisselle Maldonado said that sailing PE is "actually really fun. It’s nice to wake up and go sailing. It’s better than hiking, which I can do anytime. And you get a free period." Some of the students called the class a "zero period," meaning they technically have one less class during the week, though when not sailing on Saturdays, the class meets every Wednesday for a few hours of ‘lecture’. When we visited, each student was preparing a short speech on an aspect of sailing for a future presentation during the midweek class.
Sixteen-year-old Jonah Glickstein was interested in sailing PE because it gave him more time to do homework for his advanced placement classes. "And they made it sound really fun," he said.
The class is also staffed by a few volunteers. San Rafael alumnus and sailor Cameron Tuttle said he stumbled across the program, unaware that it even existed. He’s been volunteering for three seasons, and on the day we visited, was in a Laser leading the flotilla up the Canal. "We’re always kind of adapting," Tuttle said. "During the fall semester, we stay in the turning basin [between Montecito Plaza, Terrapin Landing and SRYC] and set up some marks. During the second semester, we try to take them out and cruise down the Canal as a group."
Also volunteering were John Wilkinson and his daughter Celeste, a former student in the class. Wilkinson — who was driving a Whaler — is the de facto maintenance man for the class. He’s managed to keep the boats afloat with a little fiberglass and epoxy, and lots of love.
"It’s where Lasers go to die," said Tuttle of the ragtag fleet. But the class does well with what they have. That said, if you have any spare Lasers or Laser parts that you’d like to get rid of — or any type of equipment that would be useful to a sailing class — the program is always taking donations. If you’re interested, please let us know.
Dean Barker dominated the 2018 Ficker Cup to win the Grade Two World Sailing regatta and advance to the Congressional Cup, which will start this Wednesday. Also qualifying for the Congo Cup is Johnie Berntsson of Sweden, who finished second in the three-day regatta hosted by Long Beach Yacht Club.
Breeze varied from 6 to 11 knots. Two days of sunshine gave way to a hazy day of competition yesterday, while the Indy cars in the Long Beach Grand Prix droned in the not-too-far distance.
Barker dominated the series. On Friday, he suffered his only loss, to Dave Hood, a staff commodore at LBYC and winner of the recent Long Beach California Dreamin’ stop. "We got him in a tough place to defend himself," explained Hood, "got a good start, and got the right side, which we wanted."
Barker and Berntsson squared off in the finals. Barker thought that the 2005 Congressional Cup event, which he won, “could be one of the last match-racing events I’ve done.” He hasn’t lost his touch, as evidenced by his steady, cool-headed performance, conquering Berntsson one, two, three. Winner of the Crimson Blazer in 2009 and second-place finisher in 2017, Berntsson will be competing in his tenth Congressional Cup.
American Chris Poole took third and Leonard Takahashi of Japan finished fourth. “I’m still trying to figure out how we got into a position to get to race Dean Barker,” said the 19-year-old Takahashi, adding that competing against Barker was “a dream come true. It was truly a humbling experience, and I’m thankful to Dean for giving us a lesson.”
The Ficker Cup was founded in 1980 to honor the legendary Bill Ficker ("Ficker Is Quicker"), who helmed Intrepid to victory in the 1970 America’s Cup and won the Congressional Cup in 1974. It offers world-class match racing action in an equalized fleet of one-design Catalina 37s. Ficker passed away in 2017.
“It’s an honor to win the trophy named after Bill Ficker,” Barker said. “This has been a fantastic opportunity for our American Magic team to go sailing in a competitive environment and get back into the match-racing game. It’s great for the soul to do this kind of racing.” Barker, a Kiwi, is now sailing for the USA. He and tactician Terry Hutchinson are America’s Cup veterans and key players in NYYC’s American Magic campaign to challenge for the Cup in 2021.
The 54th Congressional Cup will run April 18-22 off the Belmont Veterans Memorial Pier, where spectators can listen to commentary and watch the competition. See www.thecongressionalcup.com.
Also concluding on Sunday was the Star Western Hemisphere Championship. Five Brazilians and one San Francisco Bay Area sailor took the podium positions. Hosted by Biscayne Bay YC in Miami, FL, the regatta started on Thursday. Going into yesterday’s races, the teams of Lars Grael and Samuel Gonçalves (BRA) and Paul Cayard and Arthur ‘Tutu’ Lopes (USA/BRA) both had a chance to win the championship. But Cayard and Lopes couldn’t match the consistency of Grael and Gonçalves. Third on the podium were Jorge Zarif and Guilherme De Almeida, making Cayard the only non-Brazilian among the top six sailors. "It was a tough competition with Paul, and in strong winds," said Grael.
We’d never seen it before, but in April’s Sightings, we featured a story about love on the water. Robert Bauman and Claudia Allison sent in the following photo of their track from a carefully plotted Valentine’s Day sail a few years ago.
It got us thinking. Could we start an unofficial competition for different categories of courses that are sailed both manually and — because we live in tech heaven — by inputting a pre-plotted course on your autopilot so that the boat steers its way through the desired design, while the sailors just have to trim the sheets? Why should skywriters have all the fun?
What else might you sail?
We would assume that new rules of the Bay would give the right of way to anyone attempting to sail a complicated line drawing on their chartplotter (we’re talking to you, container ships). And please, no x-rated designs!
Whether because of the high cost of housing, dreams of sailing away, or a close-to-nature, live-lightly ethos, numerous Bay Area residents find themselves fortunate enough to live aboard sailboats in the Bay Area.
On Saturday, April 21, at the Pacific Sail & Power Boat Show in Richmond, Latitude 38 will moderate a panel of Bay Area sailors who are making a sailboat their home. It’s not always easy. There’s walking down a long dock in the rain with your groceries, there are small spaces, and sometimes there’s a home that doesn’t stop moving when you’re trying to sleep. On the other hand, you wake up with the smell of salt air, life is simpler, and, if you get tired of your neighborhood, you can move your ‘house’ with you.
While all five panelists are living aboard, they arrived at this point from different paths. David grew up sailing and has lived aboard three different boats, while Garrett and Audrey have just moved aboard without much of a sailing background. Sonya and Jack have been living aboard for three years and have that ‘sail away’ idea firmly planted in their future plans.
Come to the boat show on Saturday at 2:15 to hear more about living aboard and to ask any questions you may have. Learn more about the speakers here.
If you haven’t already bought tickets, you can save by purchasing an advance ticket online using the Latitude 38 boat show discount code LATITUPBS18.