This year’s revived and reformatted PICYA Lipton Cup turned out just like Lipton’s tagline, Brisk & Refreshing. Nine yacht clubs competed in what turned out to be a battle of the Bays, as, for the first time in the event’s history, the winning club did not come from the shores of San Francisco Bay.
After several years of declining enthusiasm with weak participation, the traditional interclub regatta was reimagined by a group of Bay Area clubs as outlined by Dick Loomis in our May 18th ‘Lectronic Latitude. The St. Francis Yacht Club contributed their fleet of J/22s, handing their boats over to competing clubs to manage these new-to-them boats in what turned out to be a classic summer breeze-up on the Bay. The StFYC/Richmond YC collaboration took on race and after-party management, which included three days of racing: a long-distance race from StFYC to RYC on Friday, a planned short-course seven races on Saturday, and a long-distance race from Richmond to St. Francis on Sunday.
The Friday event took off in a brisk breeze that only got stronger as the boats closed in on the finish line at RYC. Controlling spinnakers and staying upright was a primary challenge with Team Corinthian becoming the first boat (but not the last) to put the mast and crew in the water in a classic tea-bag imitation. Score one for Inverness YC.
Saturday started out pleasantly enough with sunny skies and a steady breeze and nine clubs with a full spectrum of crew ages and gender, with the prospect of seven races appearing more daunting the higher the age. There was a pre-set wind limit of 22 knots for spinnaker use, and the first race got around with everything under control. The building breeze made for more challenging racing, and more tea-bag imitations ensued as boats rolled and swimmers appeared. Finally spinnakers were put away for good with racing continuing under main and jib only, though that didn’t prevent all boats from airing out the keel and spending more time in the water. After just four races the winds were gusting close to 30 and racing was called for the day. Score one for San Francisco YC.
On the third day ye shall rest. After two blustery days the breeze gave the Sunday fleet a break in the race to bring the J/22s home in more moderate wind and fading ebb. Score another one for Inverness YC and a new home for the Lipton Cup on a new body of water: Tomales Bay.
The collaboration between the clubs and the new format plus strong breezes made for a much-needed refresh for the event. Organizer Russ Silvestri said, "It feels like people are starving for community." It appears the clubs have taken a step in the right direction with a revival of interclub rivalry and cross-bay(s) connection. We’ll have more in our July issue but for now, congratulations to the large cast of volunteers and to the winning team, Inverness Yacht Club! See a full list of clubs and results here.
Two days into the wild and crazy Race to Alaska, Russell Brown’s Gougeon 32 PT Watercraft is already looking like the boat to beat. Last year, Brown set the solo record for the 710-mile race from Victoria, BC to Ketchikan, Alaska — 9 days, 6 hours. This year, he’s already won the 40-mile qualifier from Port Townsend to Victoria, which was sailed last Thursday.
First Federal’s Sail Like Girl, a Melges 32 from Bainbridge Island with eight crew, all women, is currently running in second, with Strait to the Pool Room, a Shaw 34 cat with four Canadian crew, running third.
Thirty-one boats answered the starting gun on Saturday for the fourth running of this crazy race whose main rule is "no motor." Anything else goes, so the Le Mans start saw entrants running down the docks at Victoria’s Northwest Marine Center to board keelboats, ultralights, trimarans, catamarans, daysailers, beach cats, rowboats, pedal-powered boats, kayaks, paddle boards (. . . we spotted pretty much everything except a submarine . . .) and start churning some water.
All the sailboats have been fitted with ‘rowing stations’ for the no-wind sections of the race. If you can’t quite picture Olson 30s, a Melges 24 and an old IOR battlewagon being rowed, we offer the following clip:
For those of you who want to track all the teams, go here. The entire r2ak website is a hoot.
The field this year is as eclectic as ever, and except for Brown and his nimble Gougeon cat, Las Vegas oddsmakers would have a hard time assessing the field — assuming they knew or cared about it in the first place, which they most likely don’t. About the only thing you can say with certainty — based on the three previous races — is that sailboats will top the leaderboard, with most taking one to two weeks to get to Ketchikan. In the past, human-powered craft (many of which pull ashore at night to sleep) have taken up to a month. The all-out course record is 3 days and 20 hours, set in 2016 by Team Maddog, a 32-ft cat with three crew.
Whoever arrives first gets $10,000. Second place, a set of steak knives. (We hear they’re really nice steak knives). Everyone else: the satisfaction of completing one of the most unique West Coast boating events ever dreamed up.
On Saturday, a couple aboard a 46-foot sailboat en route from Hawaii to Bellingham, Washington, activated their EPIRB. According to a Coast Guard press release, the husband and wife ran into heavy seas. The boat, Kelaerin, was not leaking, but was awash with frigid seawater. After a helicopter arrived on scene about 180 miles off Grays Harbor, Washington, and lowered a rescue swimmer, the aircrew hoisted the couple aboard "at the request of the vessel owners because of health concerns."
The News Tribune, an outlet based in Washington, included a link to a blog from a sailboat called Kelaerin, which had been cruising the globe for decades and was doublehanded by a husband and wife, but could not confirm if the boats were the same. Based on the video from the Coast Guard rescue and photos from the blog — both of which show a blue-hulled cutter — it does appear, from an informal visual ID, to be the same vessel. A blog posting said after leaving Washington in 1991, the couple was planning to return to Bellingham to complete their circumnavigation.
"A marine information broadcast is being sent out to notify vessel traffic of the adrift sailing vessel," the Coast Guard said in a press release. "The attempted salvage of the vessel will be at the owners’ discretion."
Also on Saturday, a man died in Berkeley after his canoe apparently capsized (Saturday saw gale-force conditions, though it’s not clear how the canoe flipped over). "A bystander on the beach reported seeing an empty canoe floating in the water about 5:30 p.m." according to SF Gate, which quoted a Coast Guard spokesperson. The Coast Guard and Berkeley and Oakland fire departments did a search of the marina, and eventually found an unconscious — and as yet unidentified — man in the water.
The Yacht Racing Association of San Francisco Bay’s series of seminars and socials will continue on Thursday, June 28, when Kame Richards and Seadon Wijsen will facilitate a roundtable discussion on Racing Tactics.
Topics will include:
- Starting line tactics.
- Tactics on the first beat.
- Tactics on the first run.
- Reviews of the 2018 Great Vallejo Race and the OYRA Duxship Race, including skipper input from participating boats and Jibeset tracking data.
- Previews of the upcoming Westpoint Regatta and Encinal Regatta.
Kame Richards is a sailmaker and designer at Pineapple Sails, which he co-founded in 1973. His racing experience covers San Francisco Bay, the California Coast, 12 Hawaii races and 8 Mexico races, as well as races in the Great Lakes, Florida, Texas and Europe. He has cruised in Mexico, New Zealand and Australia. He has a very popular talk on the tidal currents of San Francisco Bay.
Seadon Wijsen grew up sailing in San Francisco Bay out of the Richmond and St. Francis Yacht Club youth programs. He also has an extensive offshore cruising background. He has focused primarily as tactician and project manager for many one designs and big boats. He is a world champion in multiple classes and has won more than a dozen national championships. He has sailed seven races to Hawaii including an overall win in the Pacific Cup and a division win in the Transpac. He’s head of sales on the West Coast for North Sails.