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When January Ends With a (Three Bridge) Fiasco

As of the registration deadline — Wednesday at midnight — we see 301 boats registered for tomorrow’s Three Bridge Fiasco. That’s not a record, but it’s still a lot of singlehanders and doublehanders to amass on the San Francisco Cityfront all at once.

Moore 24 start
The Moore 24 start in the 2022 Three Bridge Fiasco. Thirty Moore 24s signed up for tomorrow’s edition.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

The organizers at the Singlehanded Sailing Society hosted a skippers’ meeting via Zoom on Wednesday night. Here’s what we learned.

The SSS commodore, Chris Case, opened the meeting. He mentioned that they’re a little short of volunteers to help out on the race deck at Golden Gate Yacht Club. “Come on down; we’d love to put you to work,” he said, inviting last-minute volunteers. They’re also looking for an assistant race officer for the year. “You can learn a lot from Richard,” he said, referring to the SSS race chair.

Richard then shared information specific to the race. “I put more stuff on Jibeset, including a summary of changes from last year.” Among the documents is a list of obstructions with latitude/longitude, a checklist for a better day on the water, and a table of start times based on PHRF (this is a pursuit race). He noted that, “Some people come to this race from Washington state or Southern California.

“Read the race documents; those are the rules,” said Richard. What you heard in the meeting or read in this post are not the official rules that govern the race.


  • Water.
  • Food.
  • Sunscreen.
  • A watch or device that will show GPS-accurate time.
  • Layers for the inevitably changing weather.
  • A seat cushion (it’s a long race, and fiberglass is hard).
  • An anchor (it’s not uncommon to use one in this race).
  • An engine. You need to be able to quickly and safely escape the path of an oncoming ship, if necessary.
  • A quarter. So you can flip it to decide which way to go!

Be sure to check in.

  • The RC plans to be ready to accept check-ins by 8 a.m.
  • Check in at least 10 minutes before your assigned start time.
  • Get close to GGYC before you attempt to check in, and don’t step on your competitors’ check-ins. (Richard advises showing up early.)
  • Check in on VHF 69 if your mainsail number ends in an odd number.
  • Check in on VHF 70 if your mainsail number ends in an even number.
  • Wait for a confirmation response from the race committee.

Three Bridge Fiasco Basics:

  • The start and finish will be between GGYC on the San Francisco Marina and the yellow X buoy.
  • The line is restricted to 50 yards unless you are starting or finishing.
  • The SSS hopes to post watchers 50 yards from each side of the line holding red flags, but that will depend on the number of volunteers available.
  • Start in either direction.
  • Round the three marks in any order/direction.
  • The three marks are:
    • Blackaller Buoy, a yellow cylinder east of the South Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.
    • Yerba Buena/Treasure Island (Bay Bridge).
    • Red Rock, south of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.
  • You’ll be scored in your finish order (in most cases).
Crissy Field in the fog
A pack of TBF racers head toward Blackaller Buoy in the fog in 2023.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Starting Sequence Tips

  • Your Warning is five minutes before your start time. Now you may approach the start line, but don’t cross it yet!
  • Shut off your engine at least four minutes before your assigned start time. (This is your Prep time.)
  • Once you’ve crossed the start line, keep sailing. You can’t clear an OCS (On Course Side) start by restarting.
  • If you’re over early within your five-minute Warning time, the race committee will add 20 minutes to your finish time.
  • There will be no flags or sounds, so make sure you have GPS time to follow.
  • If you’re late for your start, that’s OK. You can start up to 10 minutes after the last assigned start time at 10:46:03. After that you’ll be scored DNS (Did Not Start).
Cal 20 with spinnaker
The green Cal 20 with blue spinnaker flying started the 2021 TBF first.
© 2024 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

Those Pesky Restricted Areas

  • On the Cityfront, don’t sail between the H Beam, Anita Rock or Anita Rock Offset and the beach.
  • Beware hugging the shore on the south side of Yerba Buena Island. There’s a “box” protecting the Coast Guard Station there, demarcated by two white buoys (though one was missing recently).
  • The Richmond Long Wharf, where tankers fuel up, is restricted by a triangle of three marks: Castro Rocks Buoy (CR, a red can), R2QR (another red can), and G3 (a green can). Consider this an “obstruction” — you have the right to call to a competitor for sea room here.

For the out-of-towners, some tips about currents:

  • They’re stronger in the middle, lighter closer to shore.
  • They reverse on shore first.
  • Watch your competitors; they’ll give you a lesson.
  • Study the charts.
  • Know the tides and pay attention to your depth.
  • We’ll be starting on a flood and ending on an ebb.


Kame Richards used to give a briefing at the in-person skippers’ meetings, but he wouldn’t commit himself to predict a preferred course. Chris Case and some of the experienced sailors attending the meeting had the following tips:

  • As a singlehander, avoiding crowds is an advantage. You’ll have better air and more options.
  • Keep that anchor ready. “I’ve only deployed it once, but was glad I had it.”
  • “I had a large jib up and didn’t have a smaller jib ready to go. So I was floundering with a sail change and got passed.”
  • Be patient. “It can take 6-8 hours to sail half the course, then you might sail the rest in an hour and a half.”
  • There are all different kinds of boats. Give a singlehander on a heavy boat some space. It can’t turn on a dime.
  • Be flexible about your course and don’t get caught pinwheeling around a mark in a crowd.
  • Beware the shallow bits (including rocks) around Red Rock.

As the Day Wears on…

  • After 5 p.m. (1700 hours), hail the race committee as you approach the finish line — but not if you’re in a pack and someone else has already hailed.
  • At sunset, remember to turn on your nav lights. If you don’t, you’ll be disqualified.
  • If you finish after dark, light up your sails so that the RC crew knows who you are.
  • If you don’t finish by 7 p.m. (1900 hours), you’ll be scored “DNF” (Did Not Finish).
  • If you retire from the race, or don’t finish by 7, text Richard at (650) 380-0449 with your sail number, boat name and your retirement.
  • He will confirm receipt of your text, but maybe not right away if things are super-busy at the time.

Chris reminded us: “How we get T-shirts has changed.” The SSS has gotten out of the T-shirt business and handed that duty over to Pirate’s Lair. You can order a Three Bridge Fiasco shirt here:

The SSS will keep skippers’ meetings online this year but plans to have an in-person awards meeting for each race. The one for Three Bridge Fiasco will probably be at least three weeks hence, and it may take up to a week for the results to be finalized. As with the race itself, patience is a virtue.

Weather or Not

The SSS briefing did not include a weather prediction. It’s up to each sailor to check the forecast and plan accordingly. Earlier in the week, the prognosticators were calling for a 40% chance of rain on Saturday, but that chance has evaporated. The wind predictions range from north to northeast in the mid- to high single digits. Hopefully there will be enough breeze to overcome the tugging of the full moon on the tides. For some links to weather, tides and currents, see the Local Info section of Latitude 38’s Links page.

Find all the documents, as well as the slide deck from Wednesday’s meeting, at It pays to do your homework!



  1. milly Biller 6 months ago

    This is good and helpful info
    Thanks in advance to the Race Committee !

  2. Christine Weaver 5 months ago

    The SSS will present the awards for the 2024 Three Bridge Fiasco at Richmond Yacht Club (downstairs in the classroom) on Sunday, February 18, at 5 p.m.

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