If you were out cruising the Bay or walking the shoreline last Thursday between 5:30 and 6 p.m., you may have seen an array of kites and foils tearing across the Bay from the Golden Gate to the Bay Bridge. The colors belonged to the fleet of windsurfers, kites, and wings that made up the annual Ronstan Bridge to Bridge Race. Local foiler Paul Heineken sent us the following report of this short but exciting race, hosted by the St Francis Yacht Club (StFYC).
Mike Martin describes this event as “the best race in the world, ever.” Certainly, that description is up for argument, but who could complain about a downwind blast in 20+ knots of breeze between the iconic Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay bridges? What started 25 years ago, on a bet between windsurfers and Aussie 18s as to which craft was faster downwind, has now evolved into a test of the fastest hydrofoils, powered by windsurfers, wings, kites, and this year, electric-powered boats (for demonstration only).
The major challenge of this race is choosing the right size sail, wing, or kite to power the rider, because the wind varies over the course. There is no substitute for a big sail for the downwind flight, if you can hang on to it. And then there’s the problem of sailing back to StFYC after the race.
This year, fog rolled in at the Golden Gate Bridge starting line, which diminished the early breeze for the start of the race at 1730 on August 24. Then it increased to its usual 20 knots in the middle, and as is typical, nearly shut off at the Bay Bridge finish line. While a couple of competitors swam the last few meters across the line, nearly half of the wing fleet never made it. At least this year it wasn’t a kite graveyard — many fewer rescues and RIB Uber rides were required than in past years to get the competitors back to the club.
Results? No new record was set. The winner was kiter Adam Keaton, who sailed the course in 11 minutes and 2 seconds. The 5O5 team of Mike Martin and Adam Lowry cross-trained effectively for the upcoming 5O5 World Championships, coming in fifth and seventh, respectively. The first windsurfer was Max Rosenblad with a time of 16:20, followed by Al Mirel in second. The leading winger was Jacob Rosenberg, with a time of 17:01. Other results include Henry Vare, second, Joey Pasquali in fifth, Erika Heineken in 14th and the first woman, and Dominic Bove, 15th.
The Candela and Navier electric foiling boats, given a one-minute head start, were passed midway by the kites, and then after the finish helped provide Uber rides back to the club for a few competitors. This was a truly unique San Francisco Bay event! Thanks again to Ronstan for supporting this one-of-a-kind event!
See the full results here.
This week’s host, Ryan Foland, is joined by Alli Bell to chat about the rites of passage that come with boat ownership and racing. Alli has sailed four Transpacs and is on the board of the Transpacific Yacht Club, the San Diego Yacht Club, and the Cruising Club of America.
Hear the magic of the Transpac, why things are sometimes miserable before they turn awesome, how to learn the different types of boats and sailing terms, how to prioritize your boat projects, and why your attitude matters more than anything else. This episode covers everything from Transpacs to life lessons.
Here’s a small sample of what you will hear:
- What does B.O.A.T. stand for?
- Do things need to be fairly miserable before they get amazing?
- What is a hockey puck?
- How do you learn boat and sailing terms?
- What yacht clubs is Alli a member of?
- Who was Bill Lapworth?
- What year is Alli’s boat?
- How do you prioritize boat projects?
John Kearney solved the masthead Windex problem on his Express 27 Salty Hotel with help from his neighbor’s boat, Michael Moradzadeh’s Santa Cruz 50 Oaxaca.
Sailors are known as can-do, resourceful people. That’s because sailboats can be a bit complicated and often require on-the-spot fixes crafted from whatever a sailor has at hand. When the Windex at the top of John Kearney’s Express 27 Salty Hotel wasn’t functioning properly, he took advantage of the tall, neighboring mast and the help of crew on the docks to make things right.
Sailors can do a lot with duct tape and the improper use of a winch handle, so we’re rarely surprised by, and always appreciative of, the creative ways they find to solve a problem. It reminds us of the guy who stepped his mast by driving his boat under the Petaluma River bridge and dangling the mast from the bridge with a block and tackle.
What’s been your most creative boat fix?
We learned recently that PlayStation is back! And no, we’re not talking about the Sony console that took over the digital-gaming world back in 1994. We’re talking about the 105-ft catamaran launched in New Zealand in December 1998, to fill adventurer Steve Fossett’s (April 22, 1944–September 3, 2007) ambitions of breaking numerous world sailing records. At a cost of $7 million, PlayStation was built for speed using state-of-the-art materials, construction, and operation. The boat will also be known to some readers as Cheyenne.
Fossett operated Cheyenne for many years throughout the 2000s, chasing records and wins, including Laurent Bourgnon’s 540-mile 24-hour record, set on Primagaz in the Atlantic in 1994; transatlantic records; the Fastnet Race; the Jules Verne Trophy; and the year 2000’s The Race, a historic, no-rules race around the world for unlimited sailing vessels. The original crew included local sailors Peter Hogg and Stan Honey. We kept up with many of the boat’s adventures, such as the addition of extra length in 2000, making her a 125-ft cat; a forestay issue that threatened her 2004 Jules Verne record attempt, by which time she had also been renamed Cheyenne; her dismasting off the coast of Argentina while sailing the Oryx Quest around-the-world race in 2005; and the damage caused by an exploded liferaft canister in 2008. The well-traveled boat even graced the cover of Latitude 38′s June 1999 issue.
In the midst of all her adventures, Cheyenne was repurposed to become a support vessel for Fossett’s attempt to take a submarine almost seven miles below the sea surface, to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. However, Fossett died in a plane crash just weeks before he was to undertake the mission. Cheyenne was later bought by Bay Area sailor Chris Welsh, who wanted to use the boat to support his own environmental and scientific research, which also included submarine deep-diving. After Welsh died in 2021 we lost track of the boat.
We have now learned that Cheyenne has spent the past three and a half years in Japan. She and her crew had arrived in Okinawa for a few weeks of diving (not scuba) before heading back to San Francisco. The crew dispersed for Christmas and then COVID hit, leaving the boat under management in a foreign port. Here we need to thank our friend Bruce Balan of SV Migration for the tip about Cheyenne‘s return to the Bay Area. Konpira Consulting had been looking after the crew’s needs upon their arrival in Japan, and when no one came back, took on the task of looking after the trapped vessel. This month they shared the story, titled “Reuniting a Boat with Her Owner,” on their company website. Here we learned that Cheyenne passed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge in the late hours of August 3 to return to her berth at Sugar Dock in Richmond.
We don’t yet know what the next chapter of this iconic boat’s story entails, but when we find out, we’ll let you know.
Thanks to Chuck Hawley for hooking us up with this video of Playstation’s second transatlantic attempt:
W also found this AP YouTube video about Fossett’s transatlantic attempt aboard PlayStation in 2000. Enjoy!