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June 11, 2021

St. Francis Yacht Club Hosts First Wing Sail Race

“What a great start to a new era of racing at St. Francis Yacht Club,” said Adam Corpuz-Lahne, the club’s new senior sailing director. Thirty-three wing foilers raced a modified slalom course on Friday, June 4.

Wing sailor fleet racing
A surprisingly large wing racing fleet rounds mark A last Friday night.
© 2021 Bryan McDonald

It was the first event for the ‘wingers’, which have been included in the monthly Windsurf Slalom Series hosted by StFYC. The series is now open to windsurfers and wingers, an up-and-coming sport that’s exploded in popularity over the past year. Winging combines the foiling boards developed for kiteboarding with handheld inflatable wings that offer nimble, easy riding with less gear and lots of speed.

The first event in a summer series of four drew competitors young and old, those new to watersports competition and veteran boarders of all types.

“We had at least double the number of anticipated wing racers, and they all seemed to be having a great time out there,” said Corpuz-Lahne. Conditions were typical of San Francisco Bay Cityfront in the summer — 25-30 knots of westerly winds. “From the water level it was visually spectacular to watch. The wings present something the kites don’t, which is rider proximity to the sail.”

Stefaans Viljoen won the night, but the leaderboard mixed it up over five races, including bullets for Kai Mirel, son of the champion windsurfer Al Mirel, young Opti sensation Henry Vare, and longtime boarder and one of the organizers of StFYC’s Thursday night kite racing, Steve Bodner.

Two wing sailors racing
Stefaans Viljoen, in orange, and Billy Ackerman were 1 and 2 last Friday.
© 2021 Bryan McDonald

“What a fun event!” said PRO Ian McClelland, who had been race officer for the once-per-month Friday Windsurf Slaloms for two years prior to the pandemic. “It’s been incredible to have a front-row seat for the evolution of this type of racing. On Friday, we had lots of high-speed action, some pretty good wipeouts, and tight racing. We’ll make some adjustments to the track before our next slalom night, July 16.”

Seth Besse, event organizer, said it’s unclear if this is the first wing race hosted by a yacht club — he is aware of a small slalom race on Maui and another in Italy — but this one drew a much larger crowd, which is likely to grow as word gets out.

Upcoming 2021 Windsurf Slalom Series dates are July 16, August 13 and September 10.

Are South Bay Sailors All Sailing Optimists?

When we say optimists, we’re not talking about the ubiquitous 8-ft sailing pram, but the sunny attitude of South Bay sailors as they head north for the Central Bay. We had a brisk late-morning sail across the Bay from Marin to the City over Memorial Day weekend, made reasonable with a reef in the main and our broad-reaching angle. As we rounded Pier 39 the cool breeze vanished, the air warmed, and the wind calmed down. We were headed south toward the Bay Bridge, behind the wall of quiet — the San Francisco office towers — where it was warm and pleasant. That’s when we crossed paths with a series of optimistic sailors headed north to the Central Bay.

We were sure all of these sailors had done this before, but as they headed north we were sure they were going to have to make a quick adjustment to their sailing apparel, their sail plans, and the seating arrangements. Regardless of what lay ahead, they were all enjoying the flat water and sunshine while they could.

Leopard-40-La-Boheme
All looks pleasant aboard the Leopard 40 La Boheme as they head for the Central Bay.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Islander-30-Solstic
This sunny Islander 30, Solstice, is looking forward to a lovely sail on the Bay.
© 2021 John
Mariner-36-George's-Girl
The reef is in so the Mariner 36 Georgie’s Girl is ready to go.
© 2021 John
Pearson----Sceptre-Long-Beach
Sceptre heads for the clear, sunny but breezy waters of the Central Bay.
© 2021 John

We don’t know how many times we’ve wished we’d reefed earlier, or wished we’d put on our foul weather jacket before that last wave, or in some other way weren’t quite ready when we rounded Point Blunt. It can be part of the adventure of sailing the Bay or it can scare the daylights out of your first-time-sailing friends. But you can always head back to find calmer conditions to prepare for the Bay, take in a reef, put on the foulies, or just sail where the conditions are right for you.

Georgie's-Girl
Georgie’s Girl got her nose out into the Bay and adjusted for the new reality.
© 2021 John

How many times have you left the dock warm and dry and come home cold and wet but still smiling?

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Michelin Wings Its Way to Sustainability with Sailing

While World Ocean Day is just one day (June 8), we’re taking the month of June to share more good news about sailors leading the way toward ocean and planetary sustainability. Foiling and wings are all the rage in yacht racing (see story above), but many other applications are in development. Michelle Slade just sent an article from New Atlas about the new Michelin Wing Sail Mobility Project (WISAMO). As we saw with the Energy Observer, which just sailed through San Francisco Bay, French sailors are experimenting with how to get to a zero-carbon future.

Michelin Wisamo
The Michelin WISAMO project envisions inflatable, winged sails to provide sail assist.
© 2021 Michelin

The thousands of containers at the Oakland Terminal sit at the end of a long, plugged-up supply chain. They all arrive by burning very heavy, dirty bunker fuel. They won’t get here with wings alone, but wing-assisted ships could dramatically reduce the climate impact of fossil fuel-burning ships.

Oakland-terminal
Perhaps your back-ordered Peloton is in one of those boxes?
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Michelin says inflatable wings would help decarbonize maritime trade by reducing carbon emissions by 10-20%. The wings are inflatable, so they are automatically retractable without the need of crew members. The WISAMO project is joining many creative wind-power projects that hope to revolutionize low-carbon transportation. While it appears far-fetched at the moment, there’s a growing amount of human energy and capital being invested that will continue surprising us with positive results.

Wing foiling
Not so long ago this type of sailing was unimaginable.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

San Francisco Bay is home to some of the world’s best kite and wing sailors. The 2013 America’s Cup was a stunning transformation, and new forms of kiting and foiling are appearing all the time. Sailors, kiters and wing sailors can sail all day in the breezy Bay Area without burning any fossil fuels. As Tim Henry wrote in 2019, in the Bay Area Jay Gardner of Adventure Cat has been leading the charge by developing the Wind + Wing foil-assisted ferries. One thing that appears common to almost all sailors is respect and reverence for the oceans plus curiosity and ingenuity in how to reliably harness nature’s forces for a sustainable future.

Hawaii: It’s About the Journey, Not the Destination

Hawaii has been on our radar a lot in recent weeks. Sure, it’s a beautiful place and we all want to be there, but this year Hawaii seems to be the destination of choice for people who want to embark upon a journey outside of the ordinary.

First, we heard about Cyril Derreumaux, who left the Bay on a 2,400 nm/70-day solo kayaking journey to Honolulu. Although Cyril’s journey was cut short in heavy weather offshore of Santa Cruz, we expect he will try again. His kayak, Valentine, was located approximately 70 miles offshore and has now been recovered.

The kayak had taken on a lot of water, and much of Derreumaux’s gear had been lost, but the adventurer’s “dream is still very much alive.”
© 2021 Cyril Derreumaux

Then we learned of the two 19-year-olds who spent three weeks sailing to Hawaii aboard their 29-ft sailboat Drifty One. Hawaii’s Star Advertiser reported that Tyler Savage and Bella Siegrist, who left San Diego on May 15, docked at the Ala Wai Boat Harbor in Honolulu at around 9 a.m. on June 5. And although both sailors had prior sailing experience, they said it was incomparable with their voyage across the Pacific.

The couple’s first boat together was a small catamaran that they hired out for income. They then bought a 24-ft boat, which led to the idea of sailing offshore. Siegrist told Stars and Stripes during an interview, “I said to Ty, ‘What if we sail to Hawaii with this boat?’” Savage took the idea onboard, and a YouTube video of a man sailing from San Diego to Hawaii provided the final motivation. “That looked miserable,” Savage said. “But when he arrived, walking on dry land again having done it, it seemed like a really, really good feeling. So, it motivated me and Bella to do it.” Ultimately they decided to upgrade to the 29-ft vessel upon which they completed their crossing.

journey to Hawaii
Underway. The couple met in Germany and both are starting college at the University of Hawaii at Mãnoa this fall.
© 2021 @tycsavage

Finally, we discovered a report in the San Francisco Chronicle about 46-year-old surfer Chris Bertish, who is on a mission to reach Hawaii via a 19-foot-long hydrofoil boat. As a speaker, author and ocean pioneer, Bertish heads the Chris Bertish Foundation, which raises money and awareness for “education, conservation and sustainability” through his adventure projects. This latest adventure, the TransPac Wing Project, will take Bertish on a 2,750-mile voyage, which he expects will take between 50 and 60 days.

Bertish wrote on his Facebook page, “I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate World Oceans Day than starting on my two-month journey across the Pacific! I’m officially off on my journey, and for the next 50-60 days I’ll be wing-foiling over 2,750 miles to be the first person to wing-foil across an ocean, alone and completely unsupported!”
© 2021 Chris Bertish

Bertish launched from Half Moon Bay on Tuesday afternoon. You can learn more about his mission here, and follow his progress here.

Is anyone else planning a “journey with a difference” to Hawaii this year?