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Dishing on the Delta Ditch Run

As noted in a Lectronic Latitude on June 13, the 100-ish-boat fleet in June 11’s Delta Ditch Run “enjoyed” some big, gusty breeze on their course from Richmond to Stockton. This led to some moments of excitement and some great photos and videos.

Wylie Wabbit Capsizes, Wins Anyway

The young sailors in the Wabbit video above, Marcos McGee and Drake Jensen, not only recovered from this round-down/capsize/MOB/round-up, but went on to win their division, Light 2, and a new perpetual trophy. Stockton Sailing Club introduced the stunning new trophy this year in memory of John Walker. Johnny co-founded the Delta Ditch Run in 1991 with Richmond Yacht Club’s Frank Dukat. The trophy features a half-hull model of a Hobie 33, Johnny’s boat, and goes to the top finisher from SSC.

Marcos McGee with trophy
SSC member Marcos McGee’s name and that of his boat, Just a Hare, will be added to the trophy’s plaques, which go back to the first DDR in 1991.
© 2022 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Diggin’ the Ditch in the Moore 24 Fleet

Ian Sprenger, a new Moore 24 owner from Ventura, raced the DDR as a pit stop on his move to Gig Harbor, WA. He’d loaded his truck for the move. He put in his Moore, Skosh, #73, just for the race, then continued on. “What a road warrior!” commented fleetmate Sydney Moore. Mike Geer posted this video from the ‘road’.

Pete Spaulding and Daniel Roberts sailed the winning Moore 24, Flying Circus. They report on their race:

“It was a long, hot, sunny day out there on the Delta, but we were determined not to let the heat get to us and kept thinking about those ice cold rum cocktails ready for us in Stockton. After a quick catch-up with friends on the dock and a few delicious burritos at RYC, we wandered out to the starting line in a light breeze. We weren’t sure which end to start but we knew the western end of the line and staying in the deeper water could pay off early. However, in the end we decided to start with the larger pack at the boat [eastern] end. This strategy looked good for about 30 minutes. Then we noticed the Penguin, Lowly Worm, Firefly and a few others stayed west of the Brothers out in the deep channel happily doing at least a knot faster.

“The fleet started to fan out between the main channel and the windward shore, but the lead boats in the channel kept their pace and made it to Carquinez Bridge, Penguin first and Lowly Worm second. We were lucky to be in third after getting out into the deep channel about halfway to the bridge.

“As the fleet entered the river, the wind began to increase. The initial pecking order was set. Penguin and Lowly Worm had a large lead — maybe 2-3 minutes at times — far enough in the distance that we had to squint to distinguish them from all the other Ditch racers ahead. As we came through the Benicia Bridge, Firefly was closing the distance to us, and we had a great battle as we ran down toward Port Chicago. Firefly ended up passing us. As we approached Pittsburg, Penguin and Lowly Worm seemed to either run out of wind or get slowed by an eddy — we couldn’t tell from our perspective.

“The top four boats compressed between Pittsburg and Antioch and were evenly spread across the river. In the narrow channel north of West Island, we were very lucky to connect some puffs and separate from the pack. We reached the Antioch Bridge in first place.

“The wind continued to build, probably 14-16 knots at this point. We blasted down toward Mark #19, enjoying the ride, but realized we had to get the kite down. The puffs were increasing in velocity as we reached north, and we had some fun dodging barges and a few larger Ditch racers. It was a great feeling to get the kite back up and have fun ripping downwind again.”

Crew of Flying Circus in the river
Pete Spaulding and Daniel Roberts had a great day.
© 2022 Flying Circus

“All was going well until we reached the turn south — this section can be tricky to hold the kite. We were determined to give it a go, as the Express 27s ahead were somewhat successful. We were hit with a few huge puffs and carried them down, but quickly realized we needed to maintain a higher angle. The next puff hit, we flogged, and the kite was instantly split in two. Luckily the starboard luff tape remained intact. Daniel raced to the foredeck, got the kite down, plugged in the backup — which was thankfully packed and ready to go — and we were back under a new kite in just a few minutes. Our lead had been reduced a bit, but we began to think again about those frosty drinks at the bar.”

Moore 24 #11
This photo of Flying Circus was taken from Windmill Cove, about three miles shy of the finish in Stockton.
© 2022 Slackwater SF

“The rest of the race was fairly relaxed. We sailed past a Melges 24 with no main up (and a few other limping boats with various damage) — later finding out they’d cut a day marker a bit close and split their main in half. We cruised into the finish line happy, sunburned, exhausted and ready to get off the boat and hear everyone’s stories from the day.”

Melges 24 at day marker
A Melges 24 mishap.
© 2022 Hank Colberg

For many more photos, see galleries posted by Slackwater SF and norcalsailing.com. There are probably lots more; feel free to submit links to photos and videos of the Delta Ditch Run in the comments section below.

We’ll have more in the July issue of Latitude 38, coming out a week from today on July 1.

2 Comments

  1. Peter Hine 7 months ago

    I have raced the Delta Ditch Run for about 25 years on my boats (Coronado 25 and Catalina 27), or as crew on other boats. In fact, unbeknownst to me, my name is on the Johnny Walker Trophy as the first SSC boat for one year. Then, I broke my hip in 2017, which ended my sailing career. But, not willing to give up everything nautical I knew, I went over to the “dark side” and bought a trawler, which I have taken from Stockton to the Bay and to Bodega/Tomales Bays or Monterey almost every year since then.
    We have also acted as USCG required escort vessel for the DDR three times, including 2022. The Coast Guard requires that the DDR have an escort vessel in case a commercial vessel coming to/from the Port of Stockton encounters becalmed racers who can’t get out of their way. (IDK how the escort is supposed to be available to 100+ boats spread over miles of water, but WTH, it is a good excuse to make the trip.) With so many vessels coming to the Delta from the Bay Area without local knowledge, most of what we do ends up towing boats off boats who go aground.
    Anyway, we had no incidents until we saw a trimaran (name withheld) stuck on Middle Ground off Port Chicago. We never heard a call for assistance, but figured we would probably get one, so we headed towards him. However, when my depth alarm went off at an indicated 5ft (1-2 ft on the chart) we turned back to the channel. Being a trimaran drawing under 2ft, he got off OK. And, not having had outside assistance, he continued racing.
    Then about light 17A just east of the Antioch Bridge we did hear a VHF call from a boat who had run aground. My blood pressure increased, and we got all my lines ready. I had done a towing job on my trawler twice before, once towing Stan Derrick’s Hunter 34 which had suffered engine failure, from the ocean off Bolinas back to Stockton. Stan and Vincent Wortham (both of whom were crew on one or the other vessel on the Bolinas tow) were crew on this trip, so while anxious, I was confident we could do this job. We had a little confusion while we decided whether to pull him out from the bow or the stern, and, not knowing he still had an anchor down, after getting him off, wondering why he hadn’t continued on. Thank you to my crew: Stan, Vincent, Jeanette and Cathy! All’s well that ends well!
    I am sorry I can’t be racing anymore, but still happy to be a part of the DDR, and I thank the Race Committee, and volunteers of both Richmond YC and Stockton Sailing Club for putting on a perfect race for what is now 31 years!

  2. Christine Weaver 7 months ago

    Peter, thank you for escorting the fleet, and for your tale from the day.

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