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February 28, 2022

Commodore Tompkins Celebrates 90 Sailing Years in Sausalito

Saturday, February 26, was Warwick ‘Commodore’ Tompkins’ 90th birthday, which was celebrated at the Spaulding Marine Center in Sausalito. It was a festive and fitting celebration for a local sailing legend who has built a renowned and respected sailing life that has extended far beyond his home waters of San Francisco Bay. Despite a lifetime sailing from Sausalito, Commodore started out in the Atlantic at two weeks old when his parents brought him aboard the 80-ft LOD, 1896 Elbe River pilot schooner Wander Bird in 1932. He did five transatlantic crossings by the age of 4, when his family sailed Wander Bird around Cape Horn, eventually coming to San Francisco Bay.

Commodore & Nancy Tompkins
Commodore and Nancy Tompkins looked ready to set sail again as they greeted guests.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Commodore Tompkins
The entryway was adorned with a selection from 90 years of sailing photos.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Wander Bird and Commodore became fixtures along the Sausalito waterfront for many decades. When he turned 9 in 1941, World War II arrived, ending Wander Bird‘s cruising days. He then had to make the difficult transition to life ashore. While challenging, his eventual course led him to a flourishing sailing career as he was in demand to join the most prestigious racing programs, deliver boats, rig boats, and build a long résumé of sailing successes.

Spaulding Marine Center
A great crowd of sailors gathered at Spaulding Marine Center.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Kim Dessenberg
Anna and Kim Desenberg, Suzanne Statler, Tom List and Milly Biller were some of many on hand to help Commodore start his 10th decade.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
Commodore Tompkins
One candle for each decade and one for good luck!
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

As Commodore, wearing his favorite birthday shirt, prepared to blow out the candles, he reminded the crowd of the pandemic threat before blowing out the candles with a hair dryer he pulled out from below the bench. Commodore has always kept people safe at sea and ashore.

Commodore has been the foundation of endless successful racing programs, mentored countless future sailors, and cruised the Pacific aboard his fast and elegant Wylie 39, Flashgirl. It’s impossible to capture all the adventures, wisdom and stories from the lives that have been touched by Commodore’s many years on the water and on the waterfront.

Commodore and Nancy Tompkins
The 90th birthday was sealed with a kiss.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

On behalf of the many Latitude 38 writers who have shared his wisdom and many tales, we wish him a happy 90th!


March Issue of Latitude 38 Is Out Tomorrow!

Welcome to the March issue of Latitude 38 — it’s out tomorrow — just in time for the upcoming extended sailing hours. In just a week or so we will gain one extra hour of evening light. This does, of course, mean it will be darker in the morning around wake-up time, but just for a little while. Once the change begins it’s a quick, slippery slope into endless hours of sunshine. So, with that in mind, here’s a quick preview of what’s coming up when the magazine hits the docks tomorrow, March 1.

Fleetwood Lost on Cuban Reef

Jack van Ommen's Fleetwood
The last photo of Fleetwood on the reef.
© 2022 Jack Van Ommen

Jack Van Ommen experienced his third shipwreck in early February 2022. Far from calling it quits, the 84-year-old is taking stock and planning ahead.

Three Bridge Fiasco — Have a Plan

3 bridge fiasco fleet pano
How’s that for a fleet?
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

Want to win the Three Bridge Fiasco? Start with a strategy. That’s what Jim Quanci did on January 29, 2022. We asked him how he accomplished his overall singlehanded victory.

Max Ebb — It’s About Time

Max Ebb chart for race
Tide chart printout, one for every 15 minutes of the race.
© 2022 Max Ebb

“It was the first big race weekend of the year, and I was invited to call tactics on a boat much bigger, faster and newer than my own. Etiquette demanded that I arrive a little before dock time, for this first invite on a new ride, but I was not the only crew waiting at the locked dock gate. Lee Helm was already there.”

Also in the March issue:

  • Letters: Weird, Weird, Weird, Weird Vibrations; Stranger Things; Size Matters. Smaller Is Better; Hanking on for Dear Life; and many more …
  • Racing Sheet: Hot Soup in San Francisco; Hot Chili in Sausalito; Hot Pizza in Redwood City; and other racing stories.
  • Sightings: SailGP Shootout on San Francisco Bay; Nothin Much in Catalina; The Winds of Change; The Story Behind the Sailagram Photos; and other stories.
  • Changes in Latitudes: Sean Kolk and Kate Schnippering — Mysteries of the Deep; Scott and Ashley take the long, scenic route to Chesapeake Bay; and much more.
  • Loose Lips: Check out February’s Caption Contest(!) winner and top 10 comments.
  • The sailboat owners and buyers’ bible, Classy Classifieds.

If you’ve subscribed to Latitude 38, you should receive your February issue in the mail any minute now. If you haven’t subscribed, you’re missing out. But you can pick up your copy from your favorite distributor.

L38 distributor
Pop in and see the crew at Farallon Electronics for your next issue.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Archives


Join the Great Vallejo Race — Registrations Open Now

The Great Vallejo Race

April 30 – May 1, 2022


The first mention of a race came in 1925, when PICYA organized a cruise from Berkeley to Vallejo on a Saturday to be followed by a race back on Sunday. This is probably the official origin of the Great Vallejo Race, now reputed to be one of the largest inland regattas in the United States, usually drawing 200+ boats annually. Now under the aegis of the Yacht Racing Association (YRA) and hosted by the Vallejo Yacht Club, the two-day race marks the official opening of the San Francisco Bay racing season.

The race most often starts near the Berkeley Circle on Saturday morning, rounds a single weather mark near Alcatraz, and then heads to Vallejo, usually under spinnaker for the remainder of the race. The challenge is to maintain speed through the shadow of Angel Island, find the best combination of wind and current past the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and East Brother Light Station, and then avoid the mud shoals on the east side of the San Pablo Bay. Depending on the day, the passage can be a challenging breeze (intentional pun), or a miserable drifter, complicated—as always—by the currents, no matter its direction.

As the boats enter Carquinez Strait, they bunch together, making the turn into Mare Island Strait. Because of the topography of Mare Island, as well as the fact that it sits at the mouth of the Napa River, local knowledge (or many years of sailing the race) can make the difference as the yachts maneuver toward the finish line on the Vallejo city waterfront. Winds vary from light to heavy and become exceedingly shifty. By the time they enter the strait, many of the crews are let’s say “over-relaxed” by sun, surf, and suds. This is where the fun really starts! In the mad dash for the finish line, sharp crews can usually pick off several places with close attention to trim, wind, and current. Just be sure to check your charts and keep a close watch on your depth sounder!

The Pacific Island of Alameda Features Sailing

Alameda is the Bay Area’s most sailing-centric city, with more slips and yacht clubs than any other municipality, yet this doesn’t guarantee the town council’s recognizing the value of waterfront access. Like many waterfront cities, it continues to displace the maritime businesses that support this rich waterfront heritage with condos featuring the boating ‘lifestyle.’ These condo developments are heavy on views of the Bay but light on facilities to use the Bay; lifestyle developments are heavy on style but short on life. We recognize not all sailors live or vote where they keep their boats, but we do know we all have a role to play in supporting the programs and businesses that will keep sailing accessible, affordable and alive for future generations.

We were recently on the City of Alameda website, noticing the token gesture with their web page featuring a sailing image just below their anchor logo. While Alameda City Hall is in the middle of the island with no water in sight, the image is a small reminder that its most valuable asset is its waterfront. But beyond being able to see the water, having the access and services to enjoy living the sailing lifestyle is what will always keep Alameda an attractive place to live and work.

City of Alameda Waterfront
Is there a commitment to sailing behind the City of Alameda’s lifestyle imagery?
© 2022 City of Alameda

We continue to emphasize that one of the most important functions of all Bay Area waterfront municipalities is to preserve not views of the Bay, but actual access to the Bay. Development pressures continue to push aside the businesses and facilities that are the prime ecosystem for enjoying the Bay. We hope Alameda can find ways to prioritize space on land to access and participate in one of its main attractions — sailing.

What’s in Store for the Yacht Racing Scene

Weekend Regattas in California

On March 5-6, St. Francis YC will host the second stop in the California Dreamin’ match-racing series. The invitation-only series will conclude at Long Beach YC on March 19-20.

Also on the weekend of the 5th-6th, San Francisco YC will host the BAYS Winter #4 Youth Regatta, and San Diego YC will run the Etchells Pacific Coast Championships.

StFYC will introduce the new ‘No Strings Attached’ Wingfoil Regatta on March 12-13. Amanda Witherell calls it, “Our first regatta dedicated to wingfoiling. (And we think it might be the first wingfoiling regatta in the country.)”

Wingfoiling race
Wingfoiling out of StFYC.
© 2022 Chris Ray

Richmond YC’s Big Daddy Regatta will feature buoy racing on March 12. Party and dance to the tunes of Shark Sandwich on Saturday night. Then chase one another around Angel Island and Alcatraz in a pursuit race on Sunday the 13th.

Big Daddy pursuit start
The start of the Big Daddy pursuit race in 2021.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

The Singlehanded Sailing Society will continue their 2022 season with a third in-the-Bay tour of fixed marks, Round the Rocks on March 19. The SSS offers divisions for singlehanded and doublehanded boats.

Round the Rocks start
Preparing to start the 2021 Round the Rocks Race.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

StFYC will host the Spring Dinghy on March 19-20. They’re inviting the 5O5, C420, RS Feva, RS Tera, ILCA 7, ILCA 6 and ILCA 4 classes. The regatta will serve as the RS Tera Pacific Coast Championship.  Sign up by March 13 to avoid the late-entry fee. The same weekend, RYC will run the Waszp Americas.

On March 25-27, San Diego and Coronado YCs will welcome racers to the San Diego NOOD Regatta (or whatever tortured version of a name they’re calling it this year).

Sausalito YC will run their Jaws pursuit race on Saturday the 26th.

Unless you’re among the rarified few, you can’t race in the most high-profile regatta on San Francisco Bay in March. But you are encouraged to spectate and cheer on those rarified (and immensely talented) few. We’re speaking of the SailGP Season 2 grand finale on March 25-26.

Further into the Future

Digging deeper into the 2022 calendar, we see that registration is open for the Great Vallejo Race on April 30-May 1 and the Rolex Big Boat Series on September 14-18.

Keep scrolling down in your calendar app to June 2023. The Transpacific Yacht Club just announced that the next Transpac from Los Angeles to Honolulu will start on Tuesday, June 27; Thursday, June 29; and Saturday, July 1. But first it’s this year’s Pacific Cup, from San Francisco to Kaneohe, with starts beginning on the Fourth of July, 2022, and ending on July 8.

Early Beer Cans Get Rolling

On March 13, remember to set your alarm to get up at 2 a.m. to set your clocks forward an hour to 3 a.m. (Or reset your clocks before you go to bed and sleep through the night, thus losing only one hour of precious sack time.) With Daylight Saving Time comes beer-can racing. Some groups jump onto the beer-can bandwagon at the earliest opportunity, even before the spring equinox on March 20. These include Santa Cruz, with racing on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and Monterey Peninsula YC on Wednesday nights.

Elyxir with spinnaker
The Ely family’s SC52 Elyxir in a Santa Cruz Wednesday night race last May.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

South of the Border

The Puerto Vallarta Race will start in San Diego on March 10 and sail 1,000 miles to Puerto Vallarta. MEXORC will follow on March 19-23.

Racing for cruisers is the intent of the Regata Internacional Bahía de Banderas (Banderas Bay Regatta) on March 22-26.

Hey Ya in Banderas Bay
Andy Barrow’s Beneteau Oceanis 390 racing in last year’s Banderas Bay Regatta. Andy wrote a great story about the event for the May 2021 issue of Latitude 38.
© 2022 John Pounder

The regatta and events calendar becomes ever more crowded, and you can find many more opportunities to get out on the water in our monthly Calendar (coming out in the March issue of Latitude 38 tomorrow), and the annual YRA Calendar.