April 30 – May 1, 2022
The first mention of a race came in 1925, when PICYA organized a cruise from Berkeley to Vallejo on a Saturday to be followed by a race back on Sunday. This is probably the official origin of the Great Vallejo Race, now reputed to be one of the largest inland regattas in the United States, usually drawing 200+ boats annually. Now under the aegis of the Yacht Racing Association (YRA) and hosted by the Vallejo Yacht Club, the two-day race marks the official opening of the San Francisco Bay racing season.
The race most often starts near the Berkeley Circle on Saturday morning, rounds a single weather mark near Alcatraz, and then heads to Vallejo, usually under spinnaker for the remainder of the race. The challenge is to maintain speed through the shadow of Angel Island, find the best combination of wind and current past the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and East Brother Light Station, and then avoid the mud shoals on the east side of the San Pablo Bay. Depending on the day, the passage can be a challenging breeze (intentional pun), or a miserable drifter, complicated—as always—by the currents, no matter its direction.
As the boats enter Carquinez Strait, they bunch together, making the turn into Mare Island Strait. Because of the topography of Mare Island, as well as the fact that it sits at the mouth of the Napa River, local knowledge (or many years of sailing the race) can make the difference as the yachts maneuver toward the finish line on the Vallejo city waterfront. Winds vary from light to heavy and become exceedingly shifty. By the time they enter the strait, many of the crews are let’s say “over-relaxed” by sun, surf, and suds. This is where the fun really starts! In the mad dash for the finish line, sharp crews can usually pick off several places with close attention to trim, wind, and current. Just be sure to check your charts and keep a close watch on your depth sounder!