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April Yacht Racing on the Near Horizon

Tiny Boats, Big Bay, Grand Adventure

An astute reader and historian for his yacht club found an article, in the April 10, 1955, issue of the San Francisco Examiner, that says the Bullship started in 1954. That would make this race the 70th anniversary edition. “Back in those days the Bullship was a très chic affair covered in the hoity-toity society pages. The race reportage didn’t mention the noted ecdysiast, Miss Tempest Storm.” According to Bullship racer Jocelyn Nash, Ms. Storm presented the trophies. Another article named Ms. Storm (“or in excruciatingly proper 1950s patois: Mrs. Herb Jeffries”)  as the honorary chairman of this event. Also note that Jim DeWitt placed fifth in the second running.

SF Examiner stories from 1955
A couple of clippings from 1955 editions of the San Francisco Examiner.
© 2024 San Francisco Examiner

Legend has it that the Bullship began as a bet in a San Francisco bar called El Matador (owned by an actual American bullfighter). At the time, the Bullship was nicknamed the El Toro Transpac. Pete Newell won that initial race on April 10, 1954. Charles O’Gara finished last but won his bet with matador/bar owner Barnaby Conrad Jr. Who will win on April 6 this year? One skillful and fortunate sailor will finish first, but all who can complete the crossing are to be congratulated. Learn more and register here.

Bullship Start
The start of the 2018 Bullship in front of the Trident Restaurant. For 70 years, 8-ft El Toro prams have braved the Golden Gate to race from Sausalito to San Francisco.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Updates From the Yacht Racing Association

The YRA will host a preview of the 2024 season on Thursday, April 4, at 7 p.m., via Zoom. “Representatives from each YRA racing series will be on hand to highlight what to expect from this year’s YRA races and answer any questions you might have. This is a great opportunity for new racers to hear what YRA racing is all about, and for all racers to get excited for the year ahead.” The preview is free and open to all. Register here.

The YRA In the Bay Series will begin on April 13 with two races on the Cityfront. Their Shorthanded Sunday Series will kick off on April 21 with The Bay Expedition.

Offshore Racing With the YRA

Island YC confirms that they have canceled their Doublehanded Lightship Race, originally scheduled for April 20. So if you want to race to the Lightbucket this year, the YRA’s Lightship Race on April 27 is your only remaining option. It’s open to fully crewed boats but also has a Shorthanded Division. Entries will close on April 24. “You can sign up for a single Offshore Series race, choose two or three of your favorites, or enter the full nine-race series and be in contention for the Series Championship awards,” says the YRA.

Before you sign up for offshore races, remember that the YRA has a different set of equipment requirements than for in-the-Bay races, so check the 2024 SERs first. The YRA has made an important change to the SERs since we first reported on them. For 2024, SER 3.9 is in effect for all YRA ocean races except for the Lightship Race on April 27 and the Half Moon Bay Race on June 29. “All boats shall have an AIS Transponder, sharing a masthead VHF antenna via a low loss AIS antenna splitter. An acceptable alternative is a dedicated AIS antenna that is a minimum of 0.9 meters long, mounted with its base at least 3 meters above the water, and fed with coax that has a maximum 40% power loss. US Sailing AIS requirement for Coastal is effective January 1, 2024.”

Next Up From the SSS

The Singlehanded Sailing Society encourages those who are not experienced singlehanders to register for a beginner-friendly singlehanded event on April 27, the Sort of Singlehanded South Bay race. “This is a non-counter for the season, and we will do some things different than a typical race,” writes the SSS race chair.

“We aim to give boats an easy way to step into singlehanding by allowing ghost crew. So if you’re worried about having enough hands in an emergency, or even just getting safely docked after the race, bring your normal doublehanded crew out with you. Just don’t let them touch any controls while you are racing, and retire if they do.

“If you are a long-time singlehander but do not want to race your boat, we would love to try to pair you with a new singlehander who would benefit from an experienced person to be their ghost. Please send a short description of your singlehanded racing background to [email protected] as soon as you can so we can match you up. Include what city you are coming from.

“Similarly, if you are a brand-new singlehander and would like an experienced person to come with you, email [email protected] as soon as you can so we can match you up. Be sure to include your sailing background and what city the boat is berthed in. Please send your requests in early for a better chance of getting matched up.

“We’re including an extra practice start sequence for beginner singlehanded racers to get some experience in pre-start and starting.

“We’d like to encourage people to race what they have and not worry about not having a ‘race’ boat, so for this race we’ll offer some cruiser-friendly handicap allowances. You’ll notice extra questions about your boat at registration to reflect that.”

Green Buffalo and Elan
In last year’s version of this race, some boats (such as the Cal 40 Green Buffalo, pictured here with Elizabeth Bishop at the helm and Stephen Quanci in the companionway) raced with a ghost aboard, while the majority went purely singlehanded.
© 2024

The next in-person SSS meeting will be at Oakland YC in Alameda, 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday, April 10. Awards for the Corinthian race will be distributed.

More Northern California Regattas

St. Francis YC’s Spring Fest will combine with the Stone Cup on April 6-7. They invite J/105, J/88, Express 37, Express 27, Folkboat, Knarr, Alerion 28, J/22 and Olson 25 classes, plus ORC- and PHRF-rated keelboats, to compete. ORC classes will compete for the Frank Stone Perpetual Trophy (aka Stone Cup).

Sequoia YC’s Spring Regatta will sail three races on the South Bay out of Redwood City on April 6. Their Summer Series will start soon after, on April 13.

Folsom Lake YC will run the Trans-Folsom Regatta on April 6 and the 57th Camellia Cup on April 20.

Berkeley YC will host the Rollo Wheeler Regatta on April 6-7, with buoy racing on Saturday and a pursuit race on Sunday. The event will serve as a benefit for Special Olympics. On Saturday, fleets will sail two races in two groups for the Wheeler Memorial Perpetual Trophy and the City of Berkeley Trophy. The tradition of oysters at the Saturday après-race party will continue. Sign up at

“Join us on April 7 for the Ron Byrne Memorial Estuary Cup, a race with a long tradition at EYC,” writes Brendan McNally, rear commodore of Encinal YC. “Come and enjoy a day of low-key fun racing that starts on the Bay  and finishes at EYC.” Register at

The Bay Area Multihull Association will host the Doublehanded Farallones on April 13. (Monohulls welcome too!) In addition to overall and division prizes, BAMA will award trophies for:

  • First mixed-gender boat on corrected time.
  • First all-female-crewed boat on corrected time.
  • Dennis Madigan Perpetual Trophy for crew member of the first boat with the lowest elapsed time.
  • Pineapple Sails Yacht Club Trophy for the club with top three placing entrants.

Truls Myklebust, commodore of BAMA, advises that the start and finish will be at Golden Gate YC. “The standard offshore equipment requirements for 2024 include an AIS transponder, but since the DHF is the first offshore race where the new requirements apply, we will allow any Jibeset-supported tracker for this year’s race. That includes the cellphone-based Traccar app. So boats can still race this year even if they have not had a chance to install an AIS transponder yet.” For more on the race, see

Richmond YC will run their Big Dinghy Regatta on April 13-14 for non-foiling centerboarders and Wylie Wabbits. The Outside fleets will race both days in the vicinity of Southampton Shoal and Brooks Island; the Inside fleets (on Potrero Reach) will only sail on Saturday.

In Southern California

San Diego’s America’s Schooner Cup Charity Race will thrill sailors and spectators alike on April 6. The race benefits the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. Silver Gate YC hosts. Among the vessels joining the regatta this year are the 100-year-old Quascilla from Ventura and the Downey family’s Lucky Star, which moved to San Diego permanently from Washington. Spectators take note: The race will start (at 11:30 a.m.) and end off a public beach on Shelter Island. The 13-mile course takes the boats out past Point Loma, around three buoys, and back into San Diego Bay.

Quascilla sailing
Quascilla is a 53-ft LOA Marconi schooner designed by Ralph Winslow and built in Seattle in 1924. Her current caretakers, Dirk Langer and Theona Stefanis, restored her in 2019 at the Koehler Kraft yard.
© 2024 Steve Fox

The California Dreamin’ Match Racing Series will conclude on April 6-7. Bruce Stone of StFYC reports that Matt Whitfield of Seattle leads the series, having won the first two stops, at San Diego YC and Balboa YC. The fourth and final stop will be at Long Beach YC in Catalina 37s. “Everyone has recruited a few larger crewmembers for that venue.”

Long Beach YC will host the Ficker Cup on April 19-21. Teams from around the globe will compete in the three-day Grade 2 match-race regatta. The top three Ficker Cup teams will advance to the Congressional Cup, a World Championship event. These back-to-back battles kick off the 2024 season of the World Match Racing Tour (WMRT). The Congressional Cup, expanded to 12 teams, will follow on April 24-28. Both will sail in Catalina 37 keelboats.

San Diego YC will run the Etchells Pacific Coast Championship on April 27-28.

Looking Ahead at the (not-so) Distant Horizon

The regatta is not until June 26-30 (in Marblehead, MA), but the Rose Cup is accepting applications from young sailors now. The Rose Cup is an invitational match-racing regatta open to sailors who have reached their 16th birthday, but not their 21st, during the calendar year in which the event is held. Applications submitted by April 1 will receive preference. Request an invitation here: Applicants provide their top three match- and fleet-racing accomplishments over the past three years, and write briefly about their experience racing on a three- to four-person keelboat. The crews of four must include at least one male and one female and a maximum crew weight of 660 pounds.

But Wait — There’s More!

As usual in these racing previews, we can but barely skim the surface of the deep list of events available to West Coast sailors. For many more, see the Calendar section of Latitude 38 (the April issue came out today, March 29), and the 2024 Northern California Racing Calendar and YRA Schedule. Be sure to check with the individual organizing entities for updates.

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