When foiling, it’s all about the leading edge. The edge of the foil in the water, the edge of the wing in the air, and, in the end, who has the edge on the water. This past weekend St. Francis Yacht Club was on the leading edge, hosting the Spring Wingding & Pacific Coast Wingfoil Championships, the first-ever wingfoil regatta of its kind on San Francisco Bay.
In the end it was the Heineken brother and sister world-champion kiteboard duo, Johnny and Erika Heineken, who had the edge and won overall and in their respective men’s and women’s divisions. They started their careers with kitefoiling before foils came on the scene, yet have stayed on the evolving leading edge ever since. The overall winner and Pacific Coast Champion is Johnny Heineken, who won all 12 races, plus the two championship races.
Sixty wingfoil riders competed in 12 races over three days in perfect conditions on courses situated between the StFYC clubhouse, Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge, adjacent to Crissy Field. Racing commenced with five heats on Friday, followed by a Grom Freestyle Session. (Admittedly, we looked up the word “Grom:” “Grom,” shortened from grommet, is Australian and California slang for a young, often precocious surfer. Now you’re cool again).
Saturday opened with three heats, then the “San Francisco Bay Challenge” — a distance race of approximately 20 nautical miles from the San Francisco Cityfront east to Berkeley and back. That race was also open to Hydrofoil Kites and Formula Windsurfers. The Bay Challenge counted double, and Johnny finished the 20-mile Bay race in just over 43 minutes. On Sunday, competitors were whittled down in three heats to the top 20, who then competed in two final championship races.
Johnny Heineken, representing StFYC, is a former Kiteboarding Course Racing World Champion, 2012 Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, and no stranger to the podium. An exceptional competitor across diverse sailing platforms and a pioneer in the sport of wingfoiling, he was excited to see how racing in a large fleet would play out at this event.
“We were figuring out how it would all work, winging in a big regatta, how to conduct the starts, how to be on the start line at the right time, getting around the course — it went pretty flawlessly,” he said.
Heineken was part of the racing community that developed the sport of kitefoiling on these same waters, and he commented on the similarities in the development experience. “At the top of the fleet were the people who know what they are doing and are used to racing, whether kites or boats. It was reminiscent of the early kitefoil racing days. Those of us who had come from dinghy sailing knew how to start and make tactical decisions. If you had raced kites, you had a huge advantage this weekend. But this was the beginning of something new, and the level of competition will keep getting better.”
Heineken acknowledged the up-and-coming talent in the Under-19 division, who have shown a ton of enthusiasm for the new sport. “It was cool to see a bunch of kids out there, more than we would ever see kiting,” Heineken said. “I’m sure they’ll be giving me a run for my money soon.” In fact, Makani Andrews, Henry Vare and Liam Corralle, who were 1, 2 and 3 in the U19 Division, posted an impressive 5th, 6th and 7th overall. They are not far behind at all.
One of those kids, 15-year-old Makani Andrews, was representing the Kaneohe Yacht Club and Windclub, from Hawaii, and took fifth place overall and first in the Under-19 division. A high school freshman, Andrews has been making waves on the iQ Windsurf Foil scene this past year and took first in class in the 2022 Sears Cup, skippering in the VX One.
“I was really stoked to see something like 60 wingers on the water. When I raced on the Bay last year there were only about 20 of us,” Andrews noted. “The organizers did a good job putting together the courses — it’s hard to run developmental class events because it’s kind of blurry how everything works! It was super-cool racing with the other kids my age who I know through recent wingfoiling clinics.”
Andrews added that he learned a lot from the event, such as evaluating gear and learning about different foils for different conditions. At Spring Wingding, for instance, many riders were on a specific foil designed and built in the Bay Area. “The long-distance race was fun — I put on my biggest wing and used a harness for the first time, so it took a while to tune in to that, but it was a great downwind. That was one of my best races.”
This was also an opportunity for Andrews to learn how to navigate the currents on San Francisco Bay. “In Hawaii we don’t have much current, so learning about the floods and the ebbs on the Bay gave me a lot to think about tactically going through the course.”
All gallery photos: © St. Francis Yacht Club / Salty Brother
Event co-chairs Geoff and Morgan Headington were satisfied that the event went so well, given the unknowns of racing a huge fleet in a new kind of regatta. A light-air forecast for the weekend did not look conducive to competition, and even going into the first race on Friday morning, Geoff Headington had moments of concern due to the strong flood current.
“Fortunately, the wind filled in and racing was fine, and we had great breeze throughout the weekend,” he said. “On Saturday for the distance race, we had a mad downwind rush of 80 watercraft starting at the same time right off Crissy Field. It must have been amazing for spectators to watch us all zigzagging and crossing paths all the way downwind. We had exceptional breeze on Sunday for the finals, in the low 20s and blasting solid across the course.”
With the event done and dusted for 2023, Headington is excited about being on the leading edge of such a new sport. “It is thrilling. We know we are going somewhere exciting but we’re unsure exactly where,” he said. “We’re in the early stages and I don’t know what the future looks like — whether it’s the Olympics or higher-performance wings and equipment than we have today. This weekend we had freestyle, course racing, and distance racing, so we explored three different areas of the sport. The event could not have played out as perfectly as it did without help from sponsors F-One, Manera, Ozone, Marine Layer, NJS Designs, Ronstan, 101 Surf Sports, Axis, Kite the Bay, Cabrinha, Sunski and Pistil, plus the many volunteers, StFYC staff and race committee.
“The energy in this global community really showed through,” Headington said. “There was a shared spirit of anticipation, which is contagious. We had a lot of people helping out and watching the competition and talking about wanting to take wingfoil lessons, which I think is so cool!”
Wingfoil Overall: 1 – Johnny Heineken; 2 – Joey Pasquali; 3 – John Subranni.
Under-19 Division: 1 – Makani Andrews; 2 – Henry Vare; 3 – Liam Coralle.
Women: 1 – Erika Heineken; 2 – Lily Buden; 3 – Michelle Gabriel.
Masters 35+: 1 – Joey Pasquali; 2 – Kenneth Adgate; 3 – Joshua Waldman.
Grandmasters 45+: 1 – Steve Bodner; 2 – Geoff Headington; 3 – Nils Stolzlechner.
Bay Challenge – Wingfoil: 1 – Johnny Heineken; 2 – Joey Pasquali; 3 – John Subranni.
Bay Challenge – Formula Windsurf: 1 – Xavier Ferlet; 2 – Max Rosenblad; 3 – Al Mirel.
Bay Challenge – Hydrofoil Kite: 1 – Neil Marcellini; 2 – Mike Martin; 3 – Vladimir Mezhibovsky.
In 2023, St. Francis Yacht Club will continue to host monthly Wingfoil & Windsurf Course Slalom Racing and Friday Night Foil Series from May through September. More information at https://www.stfyc.com/racing
Do you know the sailing legacy of David Crosby? Ever wanted to see the Panama Canal in person? We’ve got you covered with both of these stories, thanks to John Arndt and Vikki Fennell.
In this week’s Good Jibes, host Monica Grant reads two articles from the March 2023 issue of Latitude 38. In “David Crosby — Harmony at Sea,” hear about the rock legend’s sailing legacy. In “The Route Less Traveled,” follow Vikki Fennell’s story of her family’s cruise in Panama.
This episode covers everything from rock ‘n’ roll to the Panama Canal. Here’s a small sample of what you will hear in this episode:
- What was David Crosby known for as a sailor?
- How did his music overlap with his sailing?
- Where did he find Mayan?
- What were his adventures in the Channel Islands?
- How is the Panama Canal in person?
- Where should you explore in Panama?
- What is reminiscent of the French Quarter?
- Where does the Panama Canal rank in the Seven Engineering Wonders of the World?
This episode is brought to you by SailGP. Don’t miss the SailGP Season 3 Grand Final in San Francisco on May 6–7, 2023.
Get tickets at https://sailgp.com/races/season-3/united-states-sail-grand-prix-san-francisco/overview/.
Slip Owners and Liveaboards — Looking for Reliable, Robust, High-Speed Internet? Invite Etheric Networks aboard! Our high-speed fixed wireless base stations and private Bay Area fiber ring offer the reliability, redundancy, and resiliency needed to keep you online, no matter where you call home
The South Bay’s Shoreline Lake, playground for sailors, kayakers and picnickers alike, has regained its full public access after the completion of extensive restoration work. A comprehensive environmental renovation project undertook to retain the lake’s beauty and tranquility while ensuring continued public access to outdoor recreation options and waterfront amenities. The work took place over winter to help reduce the impact to wildlife and visitor access.
“The Improvements Project [City of Mountain View’s Lake Improvements Project] took into account the sensitive nature of this locale, as well as our patrons’ needs, and we are very happy with the outcome,” says Christina Ferrari, president of Silicon Shores Corporation (which operates the Shoreline Lake facilities). “Besides retaining the beauty and tranquility of this sanctuary, the work ensured that we could continue providing the type of recreation that benefits locals and area workers.”
A press release issued by Shoreline Lake said, “The reopening offers locals and area workers — who have missed their weekday break from the surrounding urban hustle and bustle — a much needed respite, and opportunity to enjoy Spring activities, on- and off-the-water, at this nature preserve within the heart of Silicon Valley.”
Part of the the restoration work and facility upgrades included dock replacement and erosion work by the City, and also addressed some needed “cosmetic TLC” for the Shoreline Lake facilities. The project has resulted in rejuvenated facilities, which means The Boathouse and American Bistro are now able to ramp up outdoor activities including sailing and sailing classes, kayaking, SUP boarding, and windsurfing as well as land-based activities such as hiking and cycling.
If you get down to the lake for some sailing, send us some pics!
Get ready and fasten your seat belts, as the Mubadala SailGP flying sailboat circus is upon us once again. Three teams are preparing for a shootout for the final two podium spots: The Aussies, who are two-time champions, have already clinched one of the three slots for the million-dollar finale on San Francisco Bay!
Two titles are on the line as SailGP Season 3 comes to a climactic close. The San Francisco Grand Final is the last of the 11-event series, which started in May last year in Bermuda.
Racing will be held on May 6 and 7, but practices take place in the days before. The San Francisco Cityfront will be treated to a dazzling display off Crissy Field and Marina Green, with the F50 foiling catamarans polishing the carbon and shaking off the cobwebs as they take to the water and run through the course.
Of course, we have the battle on the Bay, but the Impact League championship, aimed at reducing the overall carbon footprint and accelerating inclusivity, is also on the line. Last year’s winner, New Zealand, along with Denmark and Canada, all have a chance to win the coveted geo-prize.
As carefully as SailGP counts carbon credits in a well-intentioned plan to reduce our footprints on this planet, Mother Nature has certainly thrown the series some weather-related curveballs this season, with a lightning strike that struck the Kiwis in Singapore, followed by a micro-tornado hitting the tech base in Sydney shortly after racing on Day 1. It sent the Canadians’ brand-new boat into their pop-up compound and obliterated the wingsails of several other teams.
“I’m really proud of how all the teams have embraced the Impact League and changed their behavior,” said Fiona Morgan, Global Director of Purpose and Impact. “When we first introduced the concept, I think people were worried it would take away from performance and be a distraction, but it’s been the opposite and a big opportunity for all involved.”
SailGP’s Season 3 has been a whirlwind on and off the water. The globe-trotting spectacle has seen frenetic, heart-pounding action among the nine teams, with thrilling finishes, collisions, and speed records that seem to fall every week.
Tom Slingsby and Team Australia are on top of the leaderboard … again, with 84 points, and have already clinched a spot in the podium final.
Team New Zealand, with 73 points, were flying high all season until the lightning strike and “gremlins” cost them precious points in Sydney. They are currently in second place, but the French, who have been impressive all season, are breathing down their necks with 69 points, and Emirates Team Great Britain sits at 68, waiting to pounce on any “hiccup” that happens in front of them.
Unfortunately for Team USA, Season 3 has been a roller coaster of highs and lows. The podium consistency that rewarded them last season has eluded them, as crew rotation due to different issues and injuries has taken its toll. Aside from an event victory in Saint-Tropez, France — a weekend when speed records were shattered — it has been a year to forget for Jimmy Spithill. But that can all change with a win here in San Francisco.
Team USA skipper and CEO Spithill, who also “moonlights” as one of the twin helmsmen on Luna Rossa’s AC75, explained, “When I look back, we’ve had broken legs, sickness, conflicts in schedules, but as a professional sports team, you have to be ready for that and the only way to be ready is to have depth in your roster.
“We just need to string together some consistent races and get ready to come out firing in San Francisco. Who knows what could happen? Things can change really quickly!”
Joining Hans Henken and Cooper Dressler on the roster in Christchurch, and onboard for San Francisco, is multihull specialist and recent Tulane University graduate Cam Farrah, from Destin, Florida. Cam’s inclusion should make St Francis Yacht Club staff commodore and historian Kimball Livingston quite happy — having a “Green Wave” kindred spirit off the club’s race deck and on the water foiling fast.
“It is a dream come true to represent the USA on one of the coolest boats in the world, especially coming from a foiling-catamaran sailor background,” Farrah said. “I’ve grown up racing multihulls along the Gulf Coast, but I sail everything from Viper 640s to 420s. My goal is to represent the USA at the Olympics on a Nacra 17, and I am working my butt off to get there.”
Reflecting on the season overall, wing trimmer Paul Campbell-James said, “Sure, it’s a knife in the side and we finished last season in third overall and now we sit here in seventh place. But we’ve used this year well to develop the crew and we’re well set for next year.
“Next up is the United States. and for sure, we’re going to use San Francisco to try and make sure we get a win on home soil.”
Plus, California won’t have to wait long. SailGP just announced that Los Angeles would host a Sail Grand Prix on July 22–23 this year.
Tickets for grandstand seating are available here.
Two days of racing for every kind of racer. Don’t miss out on the fun, sign up today at www.vyc.org/the-great-vallejo-race.